Every good Southern Baptist Christian girl knows what VBS is…right? It’s the summer “camp” of baptist churches. It’s the way to keep the kids occupied for a couple of hours during the long days of summer.
Most importantly, it’s the largest evangelical outreach for most churches with a large numbers of kids giving their hearts to Christ and then impacting their families through that decision.
It’s also become a huge themed party of sorts, almost like a theatrical performance for the church to put on.
Since I’ve been in church my entire life, it’s an easy guess for me to say, I’ve been involved in Vacation Bible School for over 45 years, either as a student or a teacher. And this year, I’ll confess…I’m burned out on the themes!
My memories of the times I was the student at VBS are many and wonderful. There weren’t decorations, themes, or matching T-shirts. We played games, ate cookies, did arts & crafts, and studied the bible. We sang songs, lined up to march into church, following the American & Christian flags, and said our pledges and memory verses. We came home tired, sweaty, and happy.
As a teacher, I probably started teaching about the time themes were promoted in a huge way. I spent weeks before the VBS week, painting and cutting out cardboard to resemble…jungles, pyramids, castles, rocket ships, club houses and boats. I collected empty paper towel and toilet paper rolls to build telescopes, binoculars, or music sticks. To be honest, I kept a craft supply closet so I was ready for whatever VBS theme was thrown at us. The “WOW” factor was what we were going for and we did everything to make it happen.
Then the publishers made it easier by providing all the decorations, all the crafts…anything we might need….for a “price”. I watched our budget for VBS go from $500 to over $2000 for a small church.
People stopped spending so much time in preparing for the focus of VBS and more time just decorating for the theme of VBS.
Let’s face it, if you’ve been a teacher in church, in the children’s area, for any amount of time, you probably know all the stories by heart….what’s to prepare? It’s more of a review of the story for you.
Take for example this week…during our VBS. I found out last week what the bible stories would be and that I would be teaching them. Day 1…basically, the story of Creation…got it….done it many times. Day 2….Adam & Eve sinned……got it…done it, many, many times.
Then I was asked how to do one of the art projects.
That, suddenly, became my focus. I spent hours working out all the kinks so that I could show the teacher how to do it quickly for the kids.
My focus shifted from the main focus to the theme. It quickly became more important. Just like that, I forgot…I’m supposed to be more concerned that the kids understand that Jesus died for their sins and rose again than I am on how to do a craft project.
I’m not saying that the themes are bad, we need the structure, the guidance that the themes provide. However, as teachers, let’s not make the theme more important than the focus…reaching children for Christ.
Don’t spend all your energy in building the “WOW” factor, that you don’t spend time in your own bible study and prayer time prior to the event. Spend time learning the material so that it is second nature to you. Spend time learning how to convey the message to the appropriate age of the kids you are teaching. Spend time getting to know the kids and their parents.
Yesterday, I kept “rehearsing” how to present the plan of salvation to 9 & 10 year olds. I had to change how I worded things so that they would understand, I had to speak their language and not use too many “churchy” words. And I had to be able to do this…present this life changing focus…in less 15 minutes.
The most important part of VBS, and I only got 15 minutes a night.
I think that is what got me burned out on VBS.
No matter what area of VBS you are involved in, don’t let the theme become more important than the focus.
Thankfully, God can take the little seeds we have dropped in the children’s hearts and use them as a stepping stone for them to dig deeper into knowing who God is and seeking Jesus as their Savior.
I was 9 years old when I gave my heart to Christ. It didn’t mean that everything has gone perfect in my life, it has meant that I have a peace and joy that circumstances can not take away. And yes, it means that when this body dies, I will live on forever in Heaven with God. The years here on earth are short. My days with Him will be eternal.
Oh, and in case you are trying to figure out that craft project….here’s a very bad video I created to show how to make art with Sharpie pens and ceramic tiles.