Sunday, August 24, 2014

Summer Fun at Vacation Bible School

 As a kid, I loved going to Vacation Bible School. Even as a four-year-old, I could tell the day’s structure was perfect to educate a youngster. Children, teachers, helpers, and leaders gathered in the sanctuary to begin the session with prayer, music, and a chance to plunk coins noisily into a metal offering plate. At that age, I didn’t appreciate the time grown-up leaders spent organizing classes, activities, and snacks.

Back then, it seemed like everything just happened. It never occurred to me our music teacher not only had to play the piano, he or she had to keep track of what songs students had sung  the past few years of VBS and select new ones.

 As we marched into crafts, I never stopped to think that our teacher had to come up with age appropriate and inexpensive projects for at least four classes. That individual also had to make sure the activities weren’t repeats of past years and that they were difficult enough to challenge older youngsters but easy enough that little ones didn’t end up with glue and cotton balls in their hair and up their noses.

Those who taught Bible stories didn’t have to worry so much about repeating the story as they did about what a three-year-old can do compared to a fifth grader. Ten-year-olds can interact with the actual lesson much better than those little ones! Questions big kids ask usually have something to do with the message. That isn’t necessarily true in the toddler session where stories of cats, dogs, bugs, and other subjects can derail the teacher’s original topic.

Our recreation coaches made similar adjustments. What engages a big kid is usually different from what entertains a tyke. If a little one can’t pull the trigger on the squirt gun, the water games won’t be fun. Twenty minutes take forever if activities don’t match interests and abilities. When they do, times zips by.

With all this play and studying, participants needed an energy boost—just the job for the snack committee. After townspeople donate goodies, the kitchen crew manages those twenty-minute shifts with military precision. They prepare, serve, and clean while navigating around energetic little ones.   

Just as they did when I was a kid, church communities still unite each summer to offer local children a chance to learn about God while having a glorious time. To get momentum going, someone volunteers to organize the whole shebang. This person usually manages a home and day job in addition to picking VBS curriculum, finding helpers, ordering materials, and setting dates. Remember, this event takes place in the summer so that means coordinators work around vacations, fairs, and ball games.

In modern times as well as the past, little ones entertain and inspire grandparents, parents, and neighbors with energetic songs and memorized Bible verses in the final program. That short presentation lasts about as long as it takes to eat Thanksgiving dinner and reminds VBS staff that their jobs are important. Like that famed holiday dinner, VBS requires hours of planning and effort before everyone enjoys the outcome.

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