‘The Main Goal Is to Plant Seeds of Faith in Our Children’
Seasoned teachers who have experience with vacation Bible schools share the best insights for Christian families this summer
Vacation Bible school season is well underway across the country — and countless children worldwide are poised to experience their very first introduction to Jesus.
Typically a week-long Christian day camp-like experience, vacation Bible school (VBS) usually takes place in the summer in America. Churches of nearly every denomination participate.
A recent funny video by comedian John Crist, titled “Honest VBS Volunteer,” has been making the rounds lately on social media.
And in it, Crist pokes some fun — and lays out some home truths (in a humorous way) about the realities of VBS for kids and volunteers.
Though Crist’s video is all in fun, it does highlight some of the rewards of VBS volunteering, along with the challenges.
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In describing what VBS entails, Crist jokes, “It’s pretty much like five hours of unsupervised time at the park except everything now has to have a spiritual tie-in.” He goes on to kid about tree-climbing in an activity called “Zacchaeus looking for the Lord” instead, and how games of “Simon Says” are renamed “Jesus Says.”
Greta Mueller is a VBS volunteer who has worked with preschoolers and kindergarteners at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Altoona, Iowa, for 22 years. Mueller knows a thing or two about ensuring the success of a VBS program.
“The main goal is to plant seeds of faith in children who might not have heard about Jesus and what He has done for them. For those who believe, it is a week of high-intensity fun and renewal in the love of Jesus,” Mueller told LifeZette.
She also offers some sage advice for volunteers in the program and for the parents of first-timers.
For very young children, she suggests parents ensure their older toddlers are accustomed to being away from their parents. To promote a fun, happy experience rather than a traumatic one, the very young should have experienced preschool or nonfamily babysitters prior to being left at vacation Bible school with people they do not know.
Resident children’s ministry and expert Laura Bowling from Concordia Supply’s Vacation Bible School agreed with Mueller’s suggestions about preparing youngsters.
Bowling added that parents should ensure attendees are well-rested and well-fed before heading to VBS for a few hours of fun with friends. She emphasized the importance of letting first-timers know what they can expect from the experience — songs, skits, Bible stories, games, crafts, snacks — and having a pickup and drop-off plan.
“Teachers need the love of Jesus in their lives most of all — and a love for teaching children,” said Mueller.
Bowling, too, included teaching children about God’s love for them as the primary goal of any VBS program. Bowling listed forging community connections and evangelistic outreach as additional aims of these programs.
“We have people who take the week off from work so they can help. We have children who have grown up in the program and now take time during the summer to come and volunteer.”
The most difficult aspect of teaching this, Mueller said, does not occur during VBS at all. “The most challenging experience happens every year when I have to let those children go at the end of the program and not know if the seeds that were planted took root.”
“I know that is in the realm of the Holy Spirit,” she added.
For Mueller and Bowling, one particularly meaningful aspect of this unique camp experience involves the intergenerational connections it fosters within the church family. “We have people who take the week off from work so they can help. We have children who have grown up in the program and now take time during the summer to come and volunteer. We are family.”
Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to LifeZette.