Summer outreach has been said to be one of the most important events for children’s ministry every year. Some call it Bible Camp, camp, backyard Bible club and many call it VBS–Vacation Bible School.
No matter what your church calls it, Vacation Bible School changes lives! Vacation Bible School impacts the lives of everyone involved and is an awesome way to bring unchurched families to your church.
Each summer, members of your church step up and volunteer to be leaders for your summer outreach. They build wonderful sets, collect paper towel rolls, put on costumes and help transform your church into a place where children and families learn the message of Jesus Christ. They become leaders who lead from the heart and change the lives of kids. These leaders share the love of bringing kids to a growing relationship with Jesus. And sometimes, leaders never realize the life-changing impact they have had on kids.
Here are a few stories of changed lives.
She is the calm in the midst of the storm, smiling and outwardly serene but her eyes are everywhere making sure her volunteers have what they need, that each child who comes in the door has a name tag and finds his or her group leader. At her church, she’s the VBS director and she explains she’s been doing this job for more than 15 years. VBS is important because it is a chance to plant the seed, she explains. Though we may never see the results, we know they’re there.
Each year she emphasizes to the VBS staff that their job is to love the kids, and she and the other directors will take care of the rest. You don’t know what that day will mean to a kid you meet, she says with quiet authority.
She gets especially animated when talking about the crafts. To her, crafts are vital. They are the only tangible you really can hold onto after VBS is over, she explains. She makes that comment softly, almost wistfully, as though remembering something.
Her passion and commitment for VBS go back a long way. She was one of those kids who didn’t get to go to church, but whose parents allowed her to go to VBS. That’s how she learned about God. She knows that VBS changes lives because it changed hers. And she now works to spread that life-changing love to all the kids who attend VBS at her church, a church that this year stepped out to test a new VBS program for Standard Publishing.
As a teacher, as a director, as a church–or even a publishing company–many of us take VBS seriously, because it has proven over and over again to successfully introduce families in our community to Jesus Christ.
Everybody loves it when kids invite their friends to VBS. That’s how it’s supposed to work. Teachers encourage the friends to come back the next day so they’ll have the maximum amount of time to pour God’s love into their lives. When you have just five days, you don’t want to miss a minute. So, as a teacher who leads with excellence and teaches from the heart, you feel a bit like you’ve failed somehow when a student comes one day and you never see them again. Disappointed, you conclude you must not have made much of an impression on those one-day-only kids. But don’t be too sure.
Her mom wouldn’t let her go to church. When one of the neighbors invited her to attend VBS one day, her mom grudgingly agreed she could go … but just for one day. At the close of that day, she left with eyes shining, fists full of crafts and papers. The teacher hoped she’d be back, but they never saw her again. The teacher’s name is long lost, and she can’t remember any of the songs now, but she remembers that day. What she remembers is how much she liked the music, how fun it was, and that she heard and believed that day that Jesus is really the Son of God. That one day ignited a spark that burned into her heart a hunger for God and the truth of His love.
Much later as a young adult she was invited to church again. Her friends were surprised when she not only agreed to attend but quickly made a commitment to Christ as though this was something she had been waiting to do. Now active in a church in the Pacific Northwest, her eyes still light up when she talks about that one day in VBS, because she knows even when it’s only for one day, VBS can change a life.
Last week his mom told me he’s narrowed down the choices and has in mind the school where he hopes to pursue his doctoral work in theology. Currently, in his second year of seminary on a full academic scholarship, he sees God leading him to a ministry of teaching at a Christian college.
He grew up just blocks away from a great community church, but he didn’t know it. His parents had been raised in another tradition, but the family didn’t attend church anywhere. As he and his sister wound their way through the final grades of elementary school, trouble was brewing at home and his parents were considering divorce. When summer came that year, one of his sister’s friends invited her to VBS. That was OK with the parents, and the church turned out to be the one nearby that they saw every day when they turned the corner by the stoplight. So he came to VBS, too.
Neither he nor his sister remember too many details from that week of VBS, but they do remember how exciting it was and how the message of God’s love was irresistible. By the time the week was over they knew they wanted to keep attending that church.
The tensions at home were continuing, however, and one day his mom finally confided in a neighbor that she was considering leaving her husband. The neighbor suggested she talk to a minister she knew from a nearby church. In desperation, the mom did. It was that same church the family had been introduced to through VBS. That was more than 15 years ago. All four members of the family have become Christians, and the parents have stayed married. Both daughter and son have a strong Christian witness, and the son is now ordained into ministry and well on his way toward teaching. God had a powerful touch on everyone in this family, and it all started with VBS.
God used those VBS leaders’ hearts to lead and teach with excellence and plant a seed that hopefully will grow and influence lives like the stories above. One may never know the impact they have on a child or the lives of families. It has been said that the children of families who do not go to church, but are allowed to go to a VBS program, have unforgettable memories of programs they attended. Those memories are made because there are volunteer leaders who step forward.
There are people who question how effective VBS is and believe there are better ways to use the time and money invested in such a program. Perhaps they have never heard or experienced the stories of changed lives. The people who have heard and seen firsthand the lives and hearts of children and families impacted and changed by VBS know just how important it is. That’s why they dedicate a week of their life to their church’s outreach program. They look forward with great anticipation each year of opening a child’s heart.
Whether one is teaching children, teens, or adults … or jumping around acting goofy on stage … remember it is all worth it! Taking the gospel message to children, whether for a day, a week or a whole summer, is why volunteers work in children’s ministry. The children who come each summer may not remember the names of those volunteers, but they will remember the time their leaders took to help them with crafts or fix them a snack or even teach them a song to help them understand who Jesus is. Remember, Jesus is the one who can take that one day and change a life forever.
That’s what being a VBS leader is all about! Changing lives … forever.
Special thanks to Joni Sullivan Baker, Buoyancy PR, for compiling the VBS stories.