Yesterday it was crocodiles, fireflies, a burning bush and real lizards sometimes staying in their containers. Today I am dealing with crocodiles, plagues and a Pharaoh. Tomorrow it is crocodiles, spoon-billed birds and Passover. Active, excited children are everywhere. Welcome to my week at Vacation Bible School.
Vacation Bible School brings to mind old images of marching around the church with flagpoles and a big Bible, of popsicle stick crafts, songs, Bible stories, and red juice and cookies. Once upon a time at our church VBS was scheduled from 9 to noon and it was two weeks long; or was that two long weeks? In the ’70s, we shortened the VBS to end on Wednesday of the second week with a Parents’ Program that evening. In the ’80s and ’90s, we changed to an evening format, Sunday night through Sunday night. Since the late 1990s, we have offered Bible School Sunday through Friday evenings. Every year VBS is very much the same, yet every year it is completely different. Young lives are impacted, memories of God and church are made, and the workers discover moments of joy and energy, even as their bodies grow tired and weary.
In one classroom, the boys and girls are lost in a dark swamp, being watched by a big crocodile and learning how to trust God. “Fear Not!” is the watchword. In another room, we gather at the fishing dock to sing songs of faith and memorize the Scripture and theme of the day. Elsewhere, the Bible story is acted out with all of the boys and girls participating in the stories of God’s power over fear, Pharaoh, plagues and seeming impassible situations. The crafts are missions related to be given to other boys and girls, as well as theme-related keepsakes. Each night the children are involved in a multimedia presentation of the day’s Bible story.
There will always be a place for something like Vacation Bible School, yet the trend seems to be that fewer churches are providing the VBS experience. Some churches are exploring alternative formats like 3-day schools, or 5 Sunday evenings. Others are replacing VBS with sports camps and enrichment programs. Part of the issue is the cost of materials, part is the availability of workers, and part is the full schedules that boys and girls have in the summertime.
The overall goal is to assist in the spiritual formation of young lives, and the spiritual transformation of families and communities. And we always learn a lot from the children.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. And let’s experience the love and power of God together. See you later, alligator.