Another amazing VBS

Center aisle with Elijah

This pretty much says it all. Me, the teens, the adults, and my grandson Elijah in the center aisle, celebrating and proclaiming Jesus, the light of the world!

OK, so this year’s vacation bible school (VBS) is in the can. Finito. Done. I’ve recovered, begun writing several dozen thank-you notes and decided to recount a few lessons I’ve learned from this summer’s program. (For the record we used Group Publishing’s Cave Quest program this year, following Jesus, the light of the world.)

1. The person in charge works hard. It is a big job. I don’t remember ever being at the top of the organizational chart for VBS before. Each year I work closely with the coordinator(s), but this year I got to sit in the driver’s seat. Even though I had an amazing team of station leaders and crew leaders, it takes a lot of time and energy to pull everyone and everything together. The thanks and praise I’ve given to every previous was well-deserved. Now I really appreciate all you did!

2. You cannot begin planning too soon. This time we didn’t start planning our July program until February. I’m going to set the wheels in motion for next summer this August. You need all the time you can get to dream, recruit, plan, collect and publicize.

3. Twenty percent of those who pre-register will not attend. But their places will be taken by walk-in registrants. Twenty years of VBS history proves this to be accurate in our context.

4. When it’s all over, give away or throw away all the old stuff that will not be useable in a year. I know it will kill you, but I threw away and repurchased so many dried up markers and so much dried up glue and paint. Don’t box it up and put it on a shelf. Give it to your Sunday School or Preschool program.

5. The ones who have the most fun (besides me) are the teenagers. I use teens for my crew leaders, shepherding five younger children from station to station for music, stories, crafts, games, videos and snacks. Though they are not technically students, they ask to come, enthusiastically participate and generate so much energy for the week. They definitely provide adrenalin for our program.

6. Good photographers are gold. I had two this year, and both were outstanding. They catch the moments, the personalities, the joys and the wonder of all the people there, both young and old. When someone asks, “So how was VBS?” you need to show them the pictures. They are priceless. (Thank you Sharain and Angel!)

7. If your gut tells you that the kids will not like a snack, you are probably right. Group does a great job of creatively integrating meaningful snacks into the program, but no one bats a thousand. This year, every snack was a winner but one — the tortillas with lettuce, carrots and ranch dressing. I had a feeling it wouldn’t go over well. My instincts were correct. The kids looked at me and said, “Where’s the snack?” Last year we tossed an awful lot of sunflower seeds. This year: lettuce and carrots. Trust your gut.

8. Many of your attenders will already be churched. VBS is not necessarily a feeder program for attendance at Sunday morning worship. Church-attending families seek out these programs and sometimes bring along an un-churched friend. But I would say that 80% indicate a church home. And that’s OK. We all need to hear the gospel, even those who are life-long, committed believers. And when our kids bring it home, we listen, and we marvel again in the grace of God.

9. My registration desk crew is on the front lines of meaningful conversation with parents and grandparents and kids. They do not just sign the kids in and out safely, but they get to know the families, their joys and their sorrows. You help us make powerful and lasting connections in the community. Great job!

10. VBS is all about the fellowship, both new and renewed connections. Everyone who comes to spends five days in a row in this ministry forms a special bond, much like a summer mission trip or a youth gathering. We were there. We saw what God could do. And we can’t wait to do it again!

In summary, VBS is worth every ounce of effort invested in this week. It’s like nothing else we do. There is no other time in the year when we sing and dance and laugh and jump around like this week in our church’s year. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.




Top ten ministry moments– #4: Fiesta!

fiestaI have so many Vacation Bible School memories that it is hard to pick out a favorite. But the one that always comes to mind is the one where we formed dance lines and sang, ‘Cha-cha-cha-cha-cha-cha-cha-cha-cha-cha-cha-cha-cha-cha-cha-Fiesta!” The theme was something from the southwest and with our hands on the shouldes of the person in front of us, we sang and danced to that song throughout the week.

If there is one thing that our church has done well over the years, it is Vacation Bible School. We may not have the biggest or even the best, but our program generated the most energy for our congregation of anything we do during the year. We would have one hundred children and sixty staff working during the week to bring the good news of Jesus to kids from age 3 to 11. A theme song and word would define the week for us, and it’s hard not to forget the shouts of “Viva!”

Vacation Bible School has always been provided a spark to our congregation, involved more members than any other event, and connected with the community in dynamic ways each year. I am indebted to the many who have made our program happen each year, and privileged to be a part of the week each summer. We had so much fun preparing the artwork, performing the dramas, eating the snacks and singing the songs!

A trip to Alpha Pregnancy Center

Today’s guest post was contributed by my grandson Elijah David Kendall.

My mom took me to the Alpha Pregnancy Center in Palm Coast, FL today. I have to confess, I dozed off during the ride over, even though it was only a few minutes from my house. I awoke to the bright afternoon sun when my grandpa lifted me out of my mom’s car. Who would have suspected that such a wonderful place would be tucked in behind some storage units and a strip mall!

When grandpa pushed a call button and announced our arrival, a very nice lady welcomed us at the door. I knew in a moment this was a place where moms and babies were VIPs. The walls were covered with baby pictures and I saw piles of blankets for babies. There were so excited that we had brought with us a car load of diapers and baby wipes that were donated during last week’s Vacation Bible School. I met a very nice woman named Jessica in the reception area, and then Martha, the director, came around the corner and greeted us. I recognized her voice, for she had come to speak at our church few months ago before my birthday. But it was even better to see her in person. She was so happy to see me, too.

Diapers and wipers collected at this year's VBS

A car load of diapers and wipers collected at this year’s VBS

Martha gave us a tour of their building. I got to see the counseling area, a classroom filled with resources, and a room filled with baby clothes. So many people had donated so much for babies that hadn’t even been born yet! I felt pretty important and very, very loved. Do you know that people from my church fill up baby bottles with change to help moms take care of their babies? Someday I’m gong to do that, too. Over sixty moms come in every month for support, encouragement and direction.

After our tour, grandpa talked with Martha about Child Evangelism Fellowship and the Good News Clubs. I wanted to say, “Sign me up!” but I think I’m a little too young. So I just politely listened. Afterwards, we went to Panera to hang out. Mom and Grandpa had some iced coffee and a snack. At first, I was a little grumpy because they didn’t order anything for me. But it turns out Mom had a snack for me, so I felt better. In fact, I felt so good, I even smiled for a few pictures.

I am so glad I got to go to Alpha today. I think everyone should go there at least once. I know I’m a little prejudiced, but I think babies are pretty important. Jesus did, too. As soon as I figure out how to fold my hands, I’ll be praying for moms and babies, too, thanking God for the gift of life!

Elijah is two months old and lives in Ormond Beach, FL.