Looking at VBS in a New Way

Has this ever happened to you? A family you’ve never seen before shows up at your summer VBS or midweek after-school program. They fill out the registration form as fast as possible, avoid meaningful conversation, wave bye and they’re outa there. Pickup is equally fast. Score points for efficiency, I suppose, but I can’t help but think there’s some avoidance going on.

The scene is repeated in churches everywhere. Parents – many desperate for some “me time” or free daycare or maybe getting grandma and grandpa off their backs – see VBS as an “out”.

All of that can be horribly discouraging if your mission is to reach young families in your own backyard.

But let’s try and see this from God’s point of view. If “using us for free daycare” allows us to plant some seeds of faith in kids – many of whom are naturally hungry for God – what’s the harm? We put our trust in the gardening instructions in 1 Corinthians 3:6 – “I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it but it was God who made it grow.” We pray that whatever gets planted in those kids comes to life in the home and somehow the parents get evangelized by their kids. Or maybe those lackadaisical parents will start to care, hang around, and see what’s going on. That’s the dream for most churches.

In my travels this summer, I heard the story of parents who came to Christ through the VBS program at Grace West Hill Presbyterian Church. It’s a powerful witness, which you can read in the latest issue of Renewal News.

Ever since I first heard this story back in August and invited the author to share it in our publication, it keeps popping back in my head. I wonder if this could this be the future of church renewal?

Consider the evidence.

Our after-school program is now into its fourth season at my little church. We’ve seen 130 children come through our doors – and that’s in a church which averages 35-40 for Sunday worship – and some of those kids have given their hearts to the Lord at various times. The most powerful prayer requests come from kids from families I know have absolutely no church experience. It’s awesome to see.

At the local ministerial VBS, we typically see 40-50 kids. This year: 81. We were blown away.

Is there something similar happening in your own church community? We’d love to hear about it.

Taking a cue from the VBS leaders at Grace West Hill, I am starting to pray for the parents of each kid in our after-school program. Their names are on the registration form. We’ve had two Wednesdays so far this season and both times, some moms have stayed with their cling-on kids. Thank God for cling-ons. Which means mom heard the gospel. This hardly ever happened in the past.

I’m going to prayerfully invite the Holy Spirit to show us ways of keeping parents on the scene. But I will do so humbly – any effort from human hands will fail or possibly backfire.

VBS kits for summer 2019 are now on sale – just search them out – ranging from $100 to $250. Or do it yourself. But just do it. It takes a bit of work and a handful of volunteers, but the demand is clearly out there. Young families will arrive on your doorsteps and all you have to do is pray. The Holy Spirit will do the rest.