Thursday, August 14, 2008

VBS Leadership

The summer is almost over and so are most VBS programs. Now it’s time to evaluate. How did your week go? Do you feel you were effective in sharing the wonderful stories about Jesus with the children? Do you think you want to teach in VBS again next year?

Here’s a question you won’t find on your evaluation sheet. How was your relationship with your VBS director?

I hope your VBS director was wonderful – organized, warm, supportive, godly, open to new ideas but willing to make the tough decisions. I hope your VBS director had a firm grasp of what was important – sharing the gospel message with children your church hasn’t been able to otherwise reach. I hope your VBS director had a good balance of fun activities that were solidly linked to Bible based concepts.

Yet, let’s face it, VBS directors, like VBS workers, are human like the rest of us and have their foibles too. And sometimes, people are asked to be leaders who, shall we say, just aren’t quite ready for that leadership position. I know, we’re Christians, and we have a distinct distaste for sounding critical. The truth is, some of you out there may not have had the best of experiences with VBS this year. Because of an inept director. Perhaps your director was a procrastinator, who got your material to you virtually last minute and didn’t publicize the program until the day before. Maybe your director was bossy and closed minded to any ideas but his/her own. Maybe you disagreed with his choice of a mission or you thought there was too much emphasis on fun and games rather than the Bible message. Finally, maybe you squirmed with the content of the curriculum.

I understand. I’ve been there. And it’s tough. VBS is exhausting enough without the struggle of working under less than ideal circumstances. How can you do your best when you feel like the program is in shambles around you?

Life is always like that, though. We’ll never have perfect conditions in which we work. We’ll always need to do our best under the current circumstances. So how can you do your best when the rest is not the best?

1. Focus on your job. My job for the week of VBS was to be the storyteller. My job was not the missions or the games or anything else. I could have wasted a lot of energy thinking about the rest of the program. Instead I channeled my energy into being the best story teller I could be.

2. Focus on the children. VBS is about relationships. Kids won’t remember the stories you told but they’ll remember you. This was a stretch for me because I’m not good at small talk and I’m terrible at remembering names. But each day, I arrived at VBS early and hung around the kids, talking to them. I think it paid off. Ever since VBS, kids will see me in the store or on the street and greet me. Last night I had a group of five children surrounding me, talking to me and petting my dog. God was giving me more opportunities to reach out to these kids.

3. Focus on what is right. Your primary job is to teach the Word of God. You may need to buck the system if it runs counter to the gospel message. I was told to serve snack while I told the Bible stories. I value the Word of God too much to relegate it to a movie theatre mentality. So I told my story first, then served snack. Later in the week, I overheard the director telling a teacher that that was my practice. She was supporting me in my decision.

4. Focus on gentleness: Pray for the director. Greet her warmly each day. Ask how her day is going. Ask how you can help. Be encouraging and tell her about the parts that are going well. Speak well of him to others. Directing is a tough job. There may be extenuating circumstances for a lack of disorganization. A bossy attitude may be a cover up for a lot of insecurities. Your director is learning to direct just as you are learning to be a better VBS worker. Give ‘em some slack.

5. Focus on the bigger picture: If there truly is a problem with the director, take your concerns to the right people. Do not gossip about it with other workers. Don’t decide “I just won’t help next year.” Have the courage to take the issues to your church leadership such as the Christian education director, elders or pastor. If they do nothing, then continue to be supportive and to work hard, doing your job. Keep praying. God knows the situation and He will resolve it in His timeframe.

I think of the faithful people in the Bible who lived and worked under inept leadership. Remember Obadiah, the servant of King Ahab? Ahab was as bad a leader as they get, but Obadiah remained faithful to the Lord, even hiding the prophets of God from Ahab’s wrath (I Kings 18). I hope a church program is never that bad for you but the message from Obadiah is clear. Don’t give up. Just because one leader does not serve well does not give you an escape clause. You keep being faithful. You keep praying. You keep doing the job God has given you to do.

“”Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord because you know labor in the Lord is not in vain (I Corinthians 15:58).”

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