Today, I am sitting poolside while I work. It is an amazingly gorgeous day. Adults are sitting at tables under the mulberry tree, there is one man still swimming laps, and there are kids laughing and giggling while they splash in the pool. I haven’t had anything to do with the pool this year, but adults have put a ton of work into the pool, cleaning, maintaining, and upgrading furniture and other things. The place I hang out is a non-profit. All the work done is volunteer work. The place is like a lot of congregations, the age of the members is getting on. Sometimes it is difficult to get things accomplished. I know that some of the people who have put a lot of effort in will not see the end of the season.
A couple of weeks ago, I heard a pastor complain about how much work it took to do Vacation Bible School. He said, “We put all this work into it, and we see no results!” I didn’t have a chance to have a conversation with him, but I thought, “What are your expectations?” Did he expect that the families who brought their kids to VBS would instantly show up in worship weekly? Did he expect that the families would automatically start tithing? Did he expect that all the energy expended would lower the average age of his congregation because they would join en-mass?
This is what I do know about VBS ministry:
- It plants the seeds of faith for those who have minimal contact with Christianity and congregational life. I’ve lead VBS many, many years. What it does is affirm to children that church is a safe place, and when they are in trouble, the people who are in the building are trustworthy. The families might show up for the final Sunday closing, and may never darken the doors of the church again, but they have had a positive experience of church.
- It is not just a ministry for children. Sometimes, moms and/or dads who are being parents, just need a couple of hours to themselves to run errands, or even take a nap! This is ministry folks, and it says good things about the church–caring for children and adults at the same time.
- It is a ministry to adults too. When you teach something, you have to study it before you can teach it. So all the volunteers need to do all the work before they present it to the kids, whether it is working in the kitchen, or teaching a class, or leading recreation, or, well, you name it. The adults learn as well.
- One week of VBS is about the same time and learning as half a year of Sunday school. Who can shrug that off? I can’t.
VBS is like planting a garden. One has to be patient, plant the seeds, wait for them to germinate and sprout before they will bear fruit. I encourage everyone to do this ministry with joy, realizing that you may never see the end results, but that you have the faith of a farmer.