Every church should periodically evaluate their programs. The line, “But we’ve always done it this way” isn’t a good enough reason to keep the program. I firmly believe that if a program isn’t meeting the needs of the congregation and isn’t effective in reaching the surrounding community, it should be dropped.
On the other hand, I’ve known churches who want to drop programs just because they’ve been around for so long. That’s not a good enough reason either. There’s good reason that we still do some programs and traditions in the church. VBS is one of those good ideas. Why?
1. VBS is an evangelistic tool. VBS was started to reach out to kids who couldn’t be reached for a regular Sunday morning program. Also, because VBS gives the staff more time to include more fun activities, VBS can be a great exciting draw.
Some wonder at the effectiveness of VBS as an evangelistic tool because some kids leapfrog from one program to the next all summer long. Some churches feel used as a free babysitting service. Don’t worry about this. You do your best to present God’s truth. You never know when something might click with a child. I think of my friend Susan who was one of those kids. She came from a dysfunctional family whose drunken father chased them through the house with a butcher knife. One summer, Susan heard at one of the many VBS’s she attended the verse, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” The next time her father came after her, she repeated that verse to herself and she realized there was a God who would take care of her. Today Susan serves with her husband in a para-church organization that translates theological books into other languages.
If VBS is indeed an evangelistic tool, then we need to work hard to use that tool. Don’t be satisfied with publicizing VBS to your own church kids. Use every available resource – newspaper, radio, flyers, word-of-mouth – to get the word out about VBS. Start early so families can plan ahead. In today’s society, your VBS program has stiff competition. Don’t let that stop you; instead, rise to the challenge! Then, don’t forget follow-up. Get the names and addresses of your visitors and send them a postcard, telling them you are glad they came. Give those names to your children’s director or your pastor so follow-up calls can be made. On the last day of your program, send home a letter with each child, detailing your other church programs. Use VBS contacts to help your other church programs grow.
2. VBS is a discipleship tool. VBS is a great time to train new teachers and incorporate new volunteers. People will be willing to serve for one week as a VBS teacher before they are willing to serve indefinitely as a Sunday School teacher. It’s also hard for new people to break into a children’s program. VBS is a fantastic way to get your newer members involved, to show them that they can teach. Also, it’s a place where people can discover how they can use their gifts and talents for the Lord. Not every one feels qualified to teach. However, they might be terrific in crafts or leading recreation. As they do the thing they love, suddenly they find that teaching children about Jesus is exciting.
My daughter Christine wasn’t interested in teaching, but she was willing to help the VBS song leader two years ago. By Thursday of that week, MaryBeth, our lead song leader,had totally lost her voice. With a poise and a finesse even her mom didn’t know she had, Christine calmly took over leading the music and decided she loved it and did it by herself the following year. The next year, she was my assistant as the Bible Storyteller. This year, she is talking about becoming a camp counselor at a Christian camp for 5th and 6th graders.
So, if VBS is a discipleship tool, use that tool effectively. Every single year, think outside the box of your regular volunteers. Pair the new volunteers with veterans so the veterans can mentor the newbies. Provide each staff worker with a staff devotion from your curriculum or write your own. Use this as a time to help both your children and your volunteers grow in their faith and service to Jesus.
Next time, I’ll share more reasons why your church should hold a VBS program this summer.