The Blessings of Vacation Bible SchoolPosted: June 21, 2015
The Blessings of Vacation Bible School
SLIDE 7: VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL 2015
Vacation Bible School 2015 has come to a close. During VBS we often have as much meaningful contact with some of the children attending than we have in half a year of Sunday school. Also Vacation Bible School is sometimes our first contact with a child. For instance, I remember the first time I met Evan was years ago at VBS. So Vacation Bible School is very important in the spiritual formation of children. I can still remember clearly in my own childhood green Kool Aid, graham crackers and singing a hundred verses of “We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder.” Do any of you have memories of Vacation Bible School? Summer Church Camp and Vacation Bible School are important opportunities for sharing faith with children. Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
SLIDE 8: VBS HAPPENS IN THE SUMMER
The first blessing of VBS is that it happens in the summer. During the school year children are so busy with school activities and sports leagues, football, soccer, basketball, baseball, softball, gymnastics, swimming, and social activities that even intrude upon Sunday mornings, it is hard for the church to claim enough of a child’s attention to make an impression on his or her life. In the summer life slows down a little bit, not much but a little, so for at least a couple of mornings or three evenings in a week we can teach the children some songs, read scripture, and have recreation and crafts organized around a religious theme. Also with a longer time period to work with Vacation Bible School lessons can sometimes become more creative and dramatic, employing skits and puppets, rope swings and water slides – activities that are truly memorable in the life of a child.
SLIDE 9: MANY ADULTS PARTICIPATE
The second blessing of Vacation Bible School is that many, many adults participate. Often our children’s ministry gets tucked off in a room or a Sunday school wing, and the majority of the congregation can lose touch with the children. During Vacation Bible School many adults are brought in as craft volunteers, recreation supervisors, snack servers, meal preparers, story tellers, teachers and helpers. Some Bible Schools end up involving more adults from the congregation than there are children. Also, clergy have an opportunity to participate in Vacation Bible School in a way that often isn’t possible with Sunday school. Children have an opportunity to experience the Pastor in shorts and sneakers. Adult involvement is a testimony to the children that they are loved and cared for by their congregation, especially when older adults, who are not their parents take a role in nurturing them.
SLIDE 10: UNLESS YOU BECOME LIKE CHILDREN
The third blessing of Vacation Bible School is that Adults need Bible School as much as the children. Adult spirituality tends to become over intellectualized, stuffy, and pompous. As Jesus said, “Unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” We need the simplicity and faith of our first song this morning. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast. It is not proud, it is not rude. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” A little conga beat might loosen some of us up too! We’re too stuck in the mud of our own religiosity, and some upbeat music that helps us get up and move our bodies can also move our spirits.
SLIDE 11: FULL OF WONDER
A fourth blessing of Vacation Bible School is that the activities for the kids can catch us unawares, and remind us that God’s world and the gift of life are awesome — full of wonder! I have been especially impressed with VBS curriculums that have included science labs as part of their program. We need to communicate that science is not the enemy of faith and a natural curiosity about God’s world is good. Watching the fireflies come out on a summer evening and sitting in the cool of the day treasuring the sunset can fill us with awe and wonder. Unless we change and become like children we will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
SLIDE 12: KID’S ENERGY RUBS OFF ON ADULTS
A fifth blessing of Vacation Bible School is the opportunity to allow some of the energy and faith of children to rub off onto adults. Now I am truly exhausted at the end of VBS, however, the enthusiasm and joy of children is inspiring. Everyone needs to take some time to play like a child in order to be renewed in spirit. Go down a waterslide. Swing on a rope swing. Play tag. Run, skip and jump just for the joy of it.
SLIDE 13: FAITH OF A CHILD
As for the faith of a child I will repeat a story from 42 years ago, I now fully appreciate again. It was the pre-school class. The teacher asked the children to form a circle and each child was supposed to offer a prayer of thanksgiving.
The first little girl prayed, “I thank God for the flowers.”
The next little girl prayed, “I thank God for my Mommy.”
Finally, it was the turn of a little boy, who prayed with such complete intensity and sincerity, “I thank God I didn’t pee in my pants today.”
SLIDE 14: TRUST GOD EVERYTHING WILL BE ALRIGHT
The faith of children can remind us that even in old age if we will just trust God, everything will be alright. Even in death everything will be alright, because we are all part of the silent memory of God.
SLIDE 15: MUSIC THAT MAKES US WANT TO MOVE
The sixth blessing of Vacation Bible School is the music. Now I don’t want to be too critical of formal worship. After all that is what most of our people like. But sometimes the tunes and the tempos of many of the songs of the past are just a little stiff. There was a time when we thought worship was supposed to quiet, dignified, sit still be quiet kind of stiff. The music of VBS invites us to get up and move, wiggle, tap our feet, sing out loud, laugh, hold hands with our neighbors. “Every move I make I make in you, you make me move – Jesus. Every breath I take I breathe in you. Every step I take, I take in you. You are my way Jesus. Every breath I take I breathe in you. Waves of mercy, waves of grace, everywhere I look I see your face. Your love has captured me. Oh my God this love how can it be?”
SLIDE 16: RELEASED TO DANCE WITH THE WIND OF THE SPIRIT
The music of VBS makes our feet want to dance, makes our hearts beat a little faster, and moves our spirits. We adults need Vacation Bible School as much as the kids, maybe more. We also need quiet time, reflection, Tatsiana’s beautifully contemplative music, and we need to learn to dance in the spirit, even if we can’t quite move that way anymore. For one day when we are released from this life, we will be free to dance with the wind of the spirit. In the words of the poet Rumi:
SLIDE 17: ALL RETURNING TO YOU, OH GOD!
I leap across the mountaintops, madly singing the song of all songs I float through the ether, intoxicated, thrilled I think only of your love, your calling to me And I dance the thousand dances of love, all returning to you, oh God!
SLIDE 18: NAKED IS FREEDOM!
These are the blessings of Vacation Bible School that free us from all pretense and stuffiness. For one day when we return to our creator in death, we will be freed from the façade of the ego to melt naked into God. For the spirit blows where it wills, we hear the sound of it, but we cannot capture or contain it. And this is not a frightening prospect, if we have become like children again – precious much beloved children of God. I remember a long time ago we were trying to get Elizabeth, Damian and John ready for bath time, and the next thing we knew we had three naked children running through the house yelling: “Naked is freedom, naked is freedom.” Those joyful children spoke more truth than they knew, for when our egos are stripped from our spirits we will finally know that naked is indeed freedom, when we come home to God.