Last Sunday night, our church did something I don’t think I have ever seen a church do. With Vacation Bible School coming up, our pastors had several people who work with VBS give testimonies about how they first got involved with it, what they do, how God has used it, etc. It was sweet to hear those with a heart for this ministry talk about it and share their experiences.
I admit that for many years I had become discouraged about VBS, not in our church, but in general. For so many it seemed like an utterly exhausting week of getting as many kids in as possible to make as many decisions as possible and then never seeing the great majority of them again. I wondered if it was even doing more harm than good if a lot of kids were making some kind of spiritual profession without careful counseling. My husband believes that children don’t make deliberately fake professions, and I agree, but I think some can be confused and go through the motions and be pronounced “saved” when they have very little idea of what was involved. I’ve heard adults tell of being led through a prayer without any instruction as children, about singing “Come Into My Heart, Lord Jesus” with other children and a teacher and being told they were now Christians, of following other kids with a teacher into a room where they thought there were going to be snacks, only to be led in prayer to receive Christ. If you ask almost any child in a church setting if they want Jesus to be their Savior, they’re likely to say yes, but they need to know what that means. Of course, we’re to have faith like children, and there are many facets to salvation they won’t understand until they’re more mature, but they do need more than that question.
But I like the emphasis of our VBS leaders of planting and watering seeds, and I appreciate that they take time to talk with each child who says he or she wants to become a Christian to make sure they understand as much as possible.
I especially appreciate it because I was one of those kids. I did not grow up in a Christian family, but my parents were happy for us kids to go to Sunday School and VBS. They did want us to know something about God and basic morality and were glad for some free activities to send restless children to during the long summer. I have only a few specific memories of times at VBS, but I know all those seeds that were planted and then watered later came to fruition when I believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as my own Savior as a teenager. One of my specific memories is that one church used the hymn “Fairest Lord Jesus” every year, at least in its closing ceremony, if not every night (I can’t remember). That hymn has always had a soft spot in my heart since that time, proof that you don’t necessarily need something cute and catchy to minister to children. You mainly just need truth and love.
That was another thing that struck me in the testimonies last Sunday night: the warmth and caring of those who spoke. In fact, I was kind of depressed about it afterward. 🙂 Those who have read here for a while know that I constantly need to battle being too self-absorbed and often pray to be more loving. I pondered this for a long time afterward, and while I do need to let examples like this spur me on to be more like them, I was also reminded that there are different kinds of caring and loving, and God was using me to show love and care in other ways, like keeping in touch with an older couple who can’t come to church due to physical issues.
I also appreciated the testimonies for their example of service to my youngest son, who was with me and hasn’t really gotten involved in an area of ministry yet. It showed him not only the heart of ministry, but that there can be different avenues of it, from the leader and teachers to the helpers and snack people, even to a lady who couldn’t come every night but dropped in to help where needed one evening and came just in time to help with a specific need. He especially commented on the “snack lady’s” testimony, of taking time to talk to and listen to and show love to the kids and finding extra food for those who had come hungry.
I like that there is a church-wide emphasis on VBS in our church. Not everyone can be directly involved. For us, with Jim’s mom in our home and needing full-time care, we’re limited in how much we can do in the evenings. I’m at the age where being out every night of the week would do me in anyway, but even if I wanted to go, I wouldn’t feel right leaving Jim home alone every night to care for his mom after working 10+ hours a day. Not that he couldn’t do it, but it is more helpful if both of us do it, and it can be depressing to do so alone for long periods. Also, I’ve written before about finally realizing, after several years of working in children’s ministries, mainly when my own were young, that that wasn’t my niche, and the way it completely changed my perspective of ministry. But I was glad for opportunities to donate items and snacks for the week. I didn’t get in on the work days and set-up, but I encourage you to do so in your church, especially if you’re not feeling a part of things at church. Those kinds of activities are where you really get to know people and develop relationships.
But one thing we can all do is pray. If you attend a Bible-preaching church that has VBS, pray for grace and help and strength for the workers. Pray for wisdom and love as they deal with children. Pray for open hearts and understanding on the part of the children. Pray that “that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified” (2 Thessalonians 3:1). Pray that things would go smoothly, that the children would listen, that there would be little misbehavior and distractions so that message can get through. Pray for health (the lady in charge of food for our VBS went into the hospital this weekend. 😦 ) Pray that God’s will be done in every heart.