This week my congregation is deeply involved in Vacation Bible School. We have ninety-one energized kids dancing, singing, playing, and teasing their way through the day. I’ve been leading the opening and closing, singing with the kids, dressing up in costume, and engaging them with large group games. I’m deeply blessed to have a wonderful crew in the church who take this on year after year to make it a great event.
It’s been a few years since I’ve been deeply involved in VBS. In my last congregation I had no responsibilities for the program. VBS fell under the duties of my talented associate and we had strong a creative leaders who also worked hard to make the week successful. Being more involved this year, I’ve been learning as we’ve been doing. Here are five things I’ve learned or remembered while interacting with the kids.
1. Volunteers are key to a successful VBS week. No program in the church can be done successfully without the talents of many. A congregation that effectively builds a team to work with their children in this important ministry will find the week to be life-giving for all involved. One person needs to be at the center of this group, coordinating and communicating in the weeks leading up to the event. This person needs to be organized and fully in the know about how all the parts of the week fit together. S/he should read the curriculum carefully, work with leaders in each module to make sure that key themes for the day are at the center of all that is done. This person needs to be a person who understands children and exhibits a strong faith. S/he sets the tone of the team and communicates what will be considered important in the week.
2. Organization makes a huge difference. This isn’t a secret. The more organized a group is, the better able it is to carry out its mission. Communication is at the middle of every successful organization. Again, the central leader of the group makes all the difference. S/he is uniquely positioned to foster communication and make sure that all areas are properly organized. Schedules are important to create and communicate. it is important that every leader and volunteer understands what his/her role is.
3. Only people who love kids should be in contact with VBS participants. Kids know when they are loved. They quickly pick up on those who don’t. Children will follow leaders who confidently and lovingly direct them in their activities. Volunteers working with children need to be able to show compassion, enjoy a good tease, and not grow tired of high energy. Not everybody in the congregation should be involved with children. Some do not have the personality or the patience to get on their knees and listen to what is important to kids. Those who don’t have these skills should be encouraged to serve in the kitchen or use their gifts in another area of the congregation.
4. It is important to have men and older boys involved. Kids need guys to look up to. Too often the church overlooks this important factor and doesn’t recognize that younger and older men bring important gifts to VBS and other children’s programming. Both boys and girls need guys around them. Men interact with differently than women. When men are involved, it gives a strong witness to the importance of faith for both men and women.
5. The gospel needs to be at the center of everything that is done. It is easy to get caught up in the activities of VBS. Focusing on getting the activity done, can cause leaders to forget that the speaking of the gospel needs to be central to everything that is done. VBS is all about living and sharing the love of God with children. At the center of this love is the love God shows through Jesus. Every leader needs to be challenged to learn the key gospel phrases associated with each day so that they can speak them repeatedly.
Working with children is fun. It requires high energy and a lot of work. It will tire those who do it every day. The rewards, though, are enormous. Children have huge hearts and they love to love. The payoffs, though are big. A well-run VBS program will help children grow in their faith. They will learn about the love of God through what they experience.
The photo of the boy with the star is by Trinity Orthodox Church. It is used by permission under Creative Commons (CC by-SA 2.0) license.