Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail
This time of the year congregations are planning and preparing for another Vacation Bible School. When and why was this summer tradition started? It seems that even those who aren’t “church goers” still share childhood memories with those of us in the religious world. Across America kids will soon be drinking kool-aid and making Noah’s ark out of Popsicle sticks. They’ll also make memories that will stick with them for their whole lives.
The Hazy History
As much as this week means to many of us, one might assume the history to be well documented. However, who started the first VBS and when— is still debated. Some claim it all began in 1870, while others place the date closer to the 1920s. So the “when”’proves to be a little fuzzy, but the “why” seems constant. A thread that can be traced through many a VBS origin story is the reason it’s done. It was always designed with our children’s spiritual growth in mind. The goal was always to provide them wholesome entertainment while at the same time, introducing them to God and the Bible.
So with that in mind…
Here are 3 reasons why VBS is a worth the effort:
- Youthful brains need this week. Studies done by Psych INFO, ERIC, MEDLINE, and Google Scholar as well as the University of Virginia library, all seem to agree that kids from 12-18 years old are the most impressionable. Meaning, the things they are taught and their experiences in these years will often impact their worldview for the rest of their lives. Any program within the church that’s geared towards teaching young people about Jesus can only have a positive influence on them. That window is relatively short so it’s crucial that parents do all they can to set them up for spiritual success.
- Church families need this week. VBS takes a lot of work and it’s the kind of work that brings the church together. It’s mainly about the kids, but it’s not all about the kids. This is a time where members have an opportunity to bond and grow closer through the planning and preparation. Work days, crafts, skits, staff/teacher curriculum, decorating, T-shirt’s, and advertising all take teamwork. Team work is good work for good teams.
- Adults need this week. The happiest among us are typically the children. With all of that work, the sweat, tears, and time that’s shoveled into this event— the payoff is the sound of an auditorium filled with energy and excitement. It’s good for adults to spend a week listening to the sound of voices singing loudly and unashamed. It’s good for the teachers and the chaperones to act and look a little ridiculous. There’s value in letting kids see us trade the khakis and neckties for face paint and costumes because it will send a message. To be a christian doesn’t mean to be serious, stoic, or stern— all the time. Those of us who have been members of the church for sometime know this to be true, but children who’s parents don’t think or speak highly of Christianity now have a chance to experience something to the contrary.
While there might be mixed feelings about VBS within the church, there’s no denying it’s potential to effectively introduce Jesus to the young and young at heart.