E-pistle July 25

Why VBS Matters

Vacation Bible School has got to be one of the most familiar, participated in, and long- running programs in the church.  Adult members of all ages remember their own VBS experiences and many have helped lead countless sessions of this summer staple. 

I told you last week that 15% or more of American churches have held their last VBS in the past decade, the old program falling victim to our busy life-styles and glitzy competition from all sorts of summer camps and seminars for our on-their-way-to-unimagined-success kids. 

VBS remains a strong program at LPC, and I pray that it remains strong as it swims against the cultural currents.  So, why does VBS matter?

First of all, it matters despite what we know to be true.  Kay tells us that 115 children filled our building and our program this year.  And what we know to be true is that not all of them wanted to be here, not all those wonderful craft projects made it home, and some parents won't so much as ask their kids about the day; they're just happy to have part of their summer daycare problem solved.  We know that and a whole lot more. 

You may be aware of the great popularity of what some are calling "the new atheists" led by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and others.  Or the advocates of a "new Christianity" such as Elaine Pagels, just up the road at Princeton University.  I am surprised to see how many of these academically credentialed and intellectually self-satisfied experts root their rejection of faith and the Faith in childhood experiences and perceptions.  They tell stories of finding hurt, confusion, legalism and few listening ears in the church.  As much as we may want to tell them to just grow up, we need to hear their stories.  We need to realize just how important every Sunday School class, every VBS song and, especially, every adult contact in the church is to the faith development of our children. 

And that's why VBS matters.  That four-year old who is feeling very anxious about being left by Mom, that fifth grader who thinks she's ready for youth group or who'd rather be at the mall, that third grader who says loudly that the crafts and songs are dumb – they're all paying attention.  They're waiting to be understood, loved and sometimes lovingly told to sing the song or make the craft project.  And, likewise, all those kids who look forward to VBS as the best week of the summer need to be reminded why.  It's probably not because of that cool craft or catchy song.  It's probably because they encounter the love of Jesus in teachers, song leaders, crafts helpers, snack givers and game coordinators. 

It's been a great week, a really good week.  But in the end, why does VBS matter?  Because Jesus said, "Let the children come to me and do not hinder them."