For some, this is church.

IMG_8027Right after our Vacation Bible School a couple of months ago, I had a revelation. Sorry, nothing supernatural, just some clarity about people and church and people who go to church and people who don’t hardly ever go to church.

Here it is: “church” means different things to different people. Let me tell you what I mean.

I had an amazingly easy time recruiting volunteers for Vacation Bible School this year. In fact, I had people coming to me asking to help out. I actually had more help than I needed, but I found something for everyone to do. In fact, I believe we actually had more leaders than children come this year. This is church

They came faithfully every night, they took their jobs seriously, they worked hard and did a great job and even stayed after to help clean up. The thing is, a decent number of my volunteers don’t even come to church very much if at all. A few times a year at best.

Then it hit me. Vacation Bible School is church to some people! Continue reading

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┬ámany 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.




VBS Energy

It’s been a week now since we finished up the annual Vacation Bible School at our church. As I reflect on those five nights, (we do a Sunday through Thursday evening program), I am once again impressed by the ministry energy and momentum generated by this effort.

This event pulls together nearly 100 volunteers from within and some from outside of our congregation, if you count the directors, station leaders, crew leaders, teachers, bakers, clerical help and donors. Those involved include most of our middle and high school youth along with young adults, parents, grandparents and seniors. Some who attended as children now serve in leadership. It is arguably the best fellowship and outreach we do all year, with the majority of children coming from outside of our congregation. Some in attendance deliberately vacation with grandparents the week of our VBS so they can attend!

The afterglow lasts for weeks. Old friendships are renewed and new ones forged. The songs play over and over in our heads. I can still hear the echoes of this year’s drums. Photo galleries and video clips flood Facebook pages. And rather than being exhausted when the week is over, we are energized. Before its over, we are already talking about next year. It is a week when we are at our best!

If only we could replicate this form of revival a few more times a year. In the fall, perhaps, as a new school year begins. Or after Christmas, when the busy holidays are past. I’m not sure what it would look like, but I know it would be very positive for our ministry.

I remember reading something in Henry Blackaby’s book Experiencing God about seeing where God is at work and then joining Him there. This is definitely one of those places to jump on board! I don’t know what it is about VBS week, but it is a rich blessing for us every single year.