by Sheryl Haystead
The following story is provided by our INCM/CPC Partner Gospel Light. Sheryl will also be a breakout presenter at CPC ’10.
Each summer, one very specialized team is called to step in when and where they are needed. Here’s the team history: as early as the 1860s, wise people began enriching kids’ summer vacations with a chance to learn God’s Word. In the 1890s, Eliza Hawes devised strategies to head off summer boredom and give greater meaning to the lives of kids in the slums of New York City. Her program offered music, Bible stories, games, nature study, crafts-and lasted six weeks! (Can you imagine?)
The idea spread and by the early 20th century, many churches held summer programs that attracted the attention of wise moms and their children. Vacation Bible School soon became a much-anticipated and long-savored summer event filled with eternal impact. (Many adults today can recall exactly at which VBS the good news of Jesus Christ changed their lives forever!)
In a changing world, summer vacations have shortened. Wise moms often work. But the power of Vacation Bible School lingers like the tantalizing scent of honeysuckle on the summer air. It calls forth thousands of highly-specialized teams, often made up largely of these wise moms of a new generation. These dedicated team members have even been known to take vacation time from work or use their weekends and evenings to focus their skills and expertise on one event: VBS.
VBS teams pray, prepare, plan, purchase and promote. They catch the spirit of fun and excitement early so they can spread it effectively! They recruit, decorate, post, announce and step into place at a moment’s notice, whether it’s to lead a funny song or to guide a seeking child to Jesus. God leads these willing volunteers into a grand adventure. The result? Through considerable challenges, the teams not only bless the kids of their own church families but also effectively shine the love of Jesus into their communities-with a summer event that is fun, focused and do-able!
Here are reasons to call in your own VBS team now!
VBS is unique! Yes, kids are living in a new world of entertainment and media connections. But the attraction of a face-to-face relationship with a caring member of your VBS team has a unique appeal. Your VBS team will have the opportunity of a lifetime to personally connect with and build relationships with the children of your church and your community. Who knows which children will hear the call of Jesus this summer and become His followers? The VBS team is at the ready to be the hands and face of Jesus and lead children to Him.
VBS is fun! VBS is an event that can take kids (and the volunteers) anywhere. From a safari to a county fair to the beach, there is a VBS course theme to appeal to every taste! VBS is designed to deliver God’s powerful eternal message in a way kids can understand, and to do that with a high level of kid appeal. A VBS team that provides a kid-friendly, interactive and involving program sends the message, “We think YOU are important. You matter to us and to Jesus.”
VBS is focused. Kids learn best when they are fully involved. Because VBS is focused on one specific theme and set of ideas for only a limited time, the VBS team can step in to prepare a learning environment like no other. The environment is enhanced by theme-related activities, music, games, snacks, and crafts that all reinforce the spiritual concepts being taught. It’s a kind of total immersion learning where kids can think about, sing about, play games about and talk about one set of Bible truths so that they understand them better. The fun is not only extreme but also creates an understanding of the most important information kids will ever learn, and it does so in a variety of ways, helping every kid to learn in the style that best helps him or her!
VBS is do-able. You may not yet have a VBS team yet for this year’s VBS. But you can start now! Remember what a well-trained team does: They focus all their expertise on the event at hand. They arrive at the scene, prepared with a plan. They follow directions to accomplish what may look to be impossible, remembering that the outcome of this event doesn’t rest on human shoulders! Rather, it is ultimately a place where VBS team members have the opportunity to stretch, grow and learn for themselves that God is indeed able to do abundantly more than we can ask or imagine!
Begin by inviting God to be the leader for your VBS team. Let prayer take you to Him for direction, strength and a sense of humor that will make VBS the unique, fun, focused and do-able event that tells kids, “Jesus loves you. We love you. This is the best way we know to show you how much we care!”
As you begin, make sure you have all of the life-saving equipment your team will need. First, make it a priority to establish a prayer base for your VBS. Be bold in asking others to pray. Involve a team of people who otherwise may not be part of VBS-perhaps seniors in your church or existing prayer groups or prayer chains. Consider this team as your vanguard of volunteers-people who will go before you, committing to pray daily or weekly for the various elements of VBS. Invite them to pray from the moment planning begins until the final follow-up is completed. The group need not be large-only faithful. Two or three committed prayer supporters will make an incredible difference. Keep them informed of your goals, the names of your VBS team as they are added, and tasks and special needs as they arise. You can also keep VBS before your church staff or prayer in their weekly meetings. Well-timed notes with progress reports and answers to prayer already received will do much to build the sense that VBS is a whole-church effort, not just “something for the kids.”
Second, don’t try to do everything yourself! This is an important survival tool-especially if you are a first-time director. Look for several individuals in your church who will enjoy working together as a team, who can be depended on to plan and carry out their responsibilities and who have a desire for children to know Jesus. They may be people who are already active in your children’s ministry, or they may be people who would be willing to commit to this short-term ministry. Then get together to brainstorm, dream, plan and pray together. Keep in mind the strengths and weaknesses of your church and the needs of your community. Don’t be afraid to aim high! Ask God what He wants you to do to lead children to Jesus this summer!
With God as your leader and your life-saving equipment in place, your VBS team will become heroes. Their names may never be inscribed on a memorial stone but their impact will be felt not only into the lives of their own children but also into the lives of countless other children who have never before been inside a church-especially one that is decorated to look like a fun-filled place of adventure!
Sheryl Haystead has been a leader in children’s ministry for over 25 years. She has a solid understanding of real-life ministry because of her contact with children’s pastors throughout the United States and because she is a committed Sunday school teacher in her own church. As Senior Managing Editor at Gospel Light, Sheryl has written a wide variety of popular children’s ministry resources. Sheryl and her husband, Wes, live in California. Sheryl believes that it’s never too soon (or too late!) to nurture children in the faith. Sheryl is leading three workshops at CPC ’10: (1) Training That Works, (2) Nurturing Babies and Toddlers in the Faith and (3) VBS Director Power Boost.