By Sarah Van Horn
What does it take to change a life? Change a church? Change a community? As Christians, we tend to think big, planning big events for big people with big spiritual impact. Try thinking smaller.
Starting with the Smallest People
Start with the smallest people in your church. Most people who accept Christ do so as children, but with fewer families embracing the church, fewer children are getting the opportunity to learn about Jesus.
Of all the ministries, evangelistic outreaches, and programs you’re involved in, how much is specifically targeted to kids who don’t go to church? If you can change that young life now, his choices will be different as a teenager, college student, and adult. The ripple effect of a Spirit-filled life goes further than we can imagine.
Vacation Bible School programs are one of the most effective ways churches around the world are reaching unchurched kids. The impact can be substantial whether the VBS is attended by thousands of kids or just a few.
“I was 12 when I attended my first VBS. It was in my friend Janet’s backyard, and her older sister was the teacher. It was also the first time I heard the gospel presented—and it was then that I accepted Christ as my Savior.” (Ava Pennington, Christian author and Bible teacher)
Ava’s VBS experience wasn’t in a large church auditorium with hundreds of other kids. One young girl wanted to reach kids in her community and gathered them in her own backyard. It was small, but the life change was very big. Because of that week of VBS, Ava Pennington has written books that share the truths of God with thousands of kids.
Reaching Kids, Reaching Parents
A church in Southwest Ohio that averages nearly 1,000 kids at VBS each year estimates that anywhere between one-third and one-half of the children who attend VBS don’t go to the church on a regular basis. VBS, then, provides a foundation upon which a child’s faith can begin and grow, sometimes years or decades later. Although these young ones may be the primary target of life change, the impact is usually felt by more than just the kids.
One Cincinnati family is a great example of the impact VBS can have on an entire household. The parents had gone to church as children, but as adults were completely disconnected from both the church and a relationship with the Lord.
However, like many young parents of children, they felt a responsibility to expose their kids to something “religious.” VBS was an easy, non-threatening way to do it. They brought their kids to VBS and offered to help during the week if needed. Their offer to help was accepted and after getting involved in VBS that week, they stayed at the church and became fully connected members. That one “non-threatening” step into something “religious” completely transformed the family, not to mention the countless people that family is now impacting.
Impacting the Church
What about the church itself? From uniting several generations around a single outreach to helping people discover their gifts, what happens within a church that conducts a VBS can be nothing short of amazing.
Robin Davis, VBS Director at Christ’s Church at Mason, recounts her experience the first time she volunteered to help with VBS. “I was a young mom and was asked to help organize our church’s VBS kick-off event. As I started making plans and interacting with the kids, I realized God had given me a gift and passion for teaching children. Stepping into that role set me on the path for how I would use my God-given gifts in children’s ministry from then to now.”
Not only can it help adults find their calling, VBS can unite a church, big or small, around a ministry and outreach event. “The first time I directed VBS, I was looking for volunteers. I had been told not to bother asking the members of a particular Sunday school class because they were older and were ‘done helping’ with things like this,” recounts a veteran VBS director. “I ignored the advice, and the members of that class happily got involved, becoming some of my best volunteers that year and all the years since.”
Unlike many areas of ministry that require long-term commitments, VBS is often conducted over a single week during the summer, keeping the commitment shorter. Many adults, older and younger, are more willing to give their time and step out of their daily routines for a short-term volunteer position, making it a perfect fit for busy parents, grandparents, and even high school students. It can effectively pull the entire church together for one purpose, getting people of all ages involved in serving at the church.
Anyone Can Help!
We know God created both introverts and extroverts. Thanks to their love of interacting with people, the extroverts are commonly the most involved volunteers within a church. VBS offers an excellent opportunity to get the quieter personalities involved in serving too. Because not every volunteer is leading music or teaching Bible stories to kids, there are many places for faithful, servant-hearted introverts who may enjoy preparing snacks, prepping crafts, or running sound equipment. For some, these first steps into ministry may begin a life of devoted service within the church.
The Vacation Bible School experience can transform a life just as it can transform a church and a community. Imagine the lives you can change this summer by teaching just one child who never comes to church about Jesus. It may be just a week of summer fun to some, but it’s a chance for all to meet or serve the Savior.
Sara Van Horn is the Marketing Communications Manager for Standard Publishing in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Anyone Can Be Involved in VBS
Let’s face it: teaching the two year olds at VBS isn’t for everyone. Some of us are born teachers; others aren’t. But the key to a successful VBS is having as many church members involved as possible. Here are some ways just about anyone can be involved.
1. Invite your friends, neighbors, coworkers, and even strangers at the store to bring their kids to VBS.
2. Pray each night of VBS. You can even pick a particular class and pray for the teacher and each student in the class.
3. Greet parents as they drop their kids off. The more positive connections families make at the church, the more likely they are to come back on Sunday.
4. Prepare for the week. Mowing the grass, cleaning the building, and gathering the needed supplies help make a positive impression and create a smooth VBS week.
5. Work behind the scenes. Help prepare the snacks, run the soundboard, or organize materials for crafts.