Mr. Vedder was my VBS crew leader when I was eleven. He seemed super old—except when he smiled. He had a smile that seemed to break his whole face open, and light shone through! He had a loud, hearty laugh, and his laugh made me laugh too.
I don’t remember all of what we learned at VBS, but I remember he had little toys for the opening. He would ask each of us a question about ourselves or about the lesson from the previous day. The toy wasn’t anything special, and his questions weren’t skillfully thought out or delivered, but Mr. Vedder clearly loved God and loved us because God clearly loved us. We knew it and we felt it in how he treated us at VBS and how we experienced the week.
After VBS ended, I was so surprised to get a card from him inviting me to a VBS “reunion” at the McDonald’s near church in two weeks. That Sunday afternoon, he bought all of us fries and shakes, and we laughed and talked together. It lasted a couple hours, and he invited us to come to church and Sunday School. Mr. Vedder had asked to be our regular teacher. Of course, we all said we would come! For that summer and into the fall, church was a more regular part of my life. I learned more about Jesus, and we delved into God’s Word together.
Fast forward thirty-five years. Mr. Vedder has passed away and most of that VBS group has moved to places near and far, but I am in a Facebook Messenger chat with many of the people I experienced VBS with so many summers ago. One person is a pastor, one is a DCE, several volunteer in their churches, and most are active members.
Why Purposeful Experiences Matter
In many churches around the United States, preparations are being made for the “most wonderful time of the year.” Nope, not Christmas. (Can you imagine planning for that right now?) It’s Vacation Bible School! VBS is a busy week chock full of fun and new ideas, not to mention new faces and crafts and games. The average VBS director or team spends hundreds of hours in the planning stages for this incredible ministry week. As you are likely in planning mode, I want to pose a thought: What if you could strategically create experiences during VBS so that the impact outlasted the week? What if new faces (and familiar faces too) were able to catch sight of Jesus during VBS and grow in trust and love for Him beyond the week?
When you are asking leaders to serve at VBS, consider painting a picture for them of the eternal importance of this week—one that lasts far longer than the five or so days. What I am proposing is intentionally setting up volunteers to speak God’s love into kids’ hearts. This can happen by accident, but wouldn’t it be more impactful to make it happen on purpose?
How to Set Leaders Up for Success
Empower your leaders by helping them understand how the work they do during VBS can bless the kids for life. Here are ways to give them ownership over building communities with the kids:
- Share how your life has been changed by God working through others, and ask them to tell you (and the kids) their own stories.
- Equip them with silly toys or candy to encourage a welcoming church environment and lively conversations with kids.
- Ask them to set aside more time than just a week to serve the kids. Paint a picture of what this could look like in a real-life setting.
Your volunteers need not have theological degrees to share God’s love. They need only be willing to share the faith that has been given to them as a gift. So go out and encourage your leaders to share that gift with the kids. Who knows what impact God will make from their service?
Get leaders onboard with simple volunteer training videos.
Whether you’re using CPH’s 2019 Miraculous Mission program or a different one, the lessons can be applied to any VBS.