It’s time for red Kool-Aid, snacks, and playing kickball in the parking lot. No, it’s not a deacons’ meeting. We’re in the middle of Vacation Bible School with this year’s theme “Avalanche Ranch.” This is one of my favorite time of the year, and I always enjoy seeing the churchhouse filled with decorations and church members wearing cowboy costumes and shouting “yeehah!” every time they hear the phrase “God is with us!”
Vacation Bible School keeps me grounded.
I’m very glad we are able to enjoy VBS at University Heights this year, as many churches opt to schedule the event early in the summer to catch workers before they leave town. It’s a reasoned approach, but I for one am grateful that my kids are meeting other children their age around the Bible, crafts, and missions. I am thankful, too, that this week comes after the CBF General Assembly and American Baptist Convention Centennial celebration. While enjoying my time in Washington D.C. , I was looking forward to returning to Springfield. After all, the local church really is the headquarters for mission. VBS reminds me of what the church should be about, primarily as it pertains to sharing the gospel with all people and especially children.
VBS is the church’s best tool in reaching children for Christ. More children make professions of faith during this time and baptisms occur frequently as a result of a church’s commitment to making this week special. I am overwhelmed at the way our church has turned out in support of this effort, and it really is a time when the entire staff pools our time and energies to minister to children. It really is true, that a person stands the tallest when he stoops to help a child.
Children, by and large, don’t have a clue about denominational problems, or denominations for that matter. Good for them. They are excellent receivers, though, and Jesus said we need to model the way they do this in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Whenever I am discouraged by the current state of affairs in Baptist life, I look to the children. They are not only the future of the church, they ARE the church just like the rest of those who believe in Christ. VBS brings that into focus for me, and the wonder of a child coming to faith in Christ by simple faith never gets too familiar. There is that wonder, awe, and excitement of welcoming someone into the family of God.
So, this week I’m singing and listening to the voices of our children. They are learning about eternal matters, even if they don’t realize it. With all the church’s problems and shortcomings, it’s good to stop and notice when something positive is going on. We’re not a perfect church for sure, I can look in the mirror and be reminded of that. But, it’s encouraging to find at least one thing that we’re doing right. Telling a child about Jesus is the ultimate expression of our ministry and mission.
Those denominational and church problems, while significant in their place, pale in comparison to this moment. It’s easy to get overwhelmed in a tidal wave of meetings, budgets, hospital visits, and counseling sessions. The simplicity of our work comes through during VBS, and I am reminded once again that at it’s very core our mission is still telling people about Jesus. Whenever feeling overwhelmed with the “burden of ministry,” I can look to the children and remember why I ever got into this business in the first place. VBS helps keep me centered on Jesus, and for this I am grateful.