Vacation Bible School

“Vacation Bible School” at our church reached its conclusion yesterday evening, the culmination of a long and sweaty week.

Hot Dogs, Soda Pop, and The Gospel.

The theme was Mega Sports Camp with four different sports for the youth (ages 5 to 12) to choose: Basketball, Cheerleading, Football, and Soccer.

It was my privilege to assist with the Football and to teach a few of the Bible Studies that interspersed our schedule.

Gaelynn chose to focus on Basketball, while Israel decided on Football. Candace rotated around a bit behind the scenes, also lending a hand with the Cheerleading group.

I thoroughly enjoyed working beside C.R. Evans, my old Junior High Coach/Algebra Teacher, and observing his interactions with my son. Watching “Coach” adjust my son’s hand-off technique and footwork, in addition to hearing his numerous aphorisms extolling old-school fundamentals, was a sublime pleasure that will stay with me for a long time.
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Having not grown up within the general culture of mainstream Evangelicalism, I never attended “VBS” so much of it is relatively unfamiliar ground with me.

That said…  it seems to be yet another ancillary manifestation of Finney-esque revivalism, whereupon the Gospel is presented as a singular experiential occurrence; merely a procession of consequentialism and “good manners” works-righteousness. An obsolete remnant of a dying era, much like an “altar call” of endless pipe-organ choruses or the weepy repentances of wild-eyed tent revivals.

I can understand the mind behind such an approach, and I would never be opposed to local assemblies reaching outward into the surrounding community, but I cannot help but feel as though churches are too focused at clinging desperately to bygone means of presenting the timeless message of the Gospel to a culture of shifting sands.

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5 thoughts on “Vacation Bible School

  1. I’ve never thought of VBS as promoting “a procession of consequentialism and ‘good manners’ works-righteousness”, at least not at the ones I’ve gone to or been involved with.

    The point of VBS is to open up to the community and to provide a point of contact with the community that hopefully will be followed up on for further outreach and evangelism. Whether or not such an outreach will prove successful will depend, to a great deal, on whether or not the church follows up on any openings that it may facilitate. This, of course, is the same problem as with formulaic altar calls; it becomes ineffective if it is not followed through with further fellowship and mentoring.

  2. Yes, I agree John, and that’s my point.

    It is far too often in my experience that churches make a cursory effort towards outreach, awaiting the community to simply “fall in line” after their children have received an exceedingly watered-down and sometimes faulty teaching.

    Once the minimal amount of effort is expended, then the leadership shrugs their shoulders as if to say: “Well, we’ve done all we could.”

    I’m all about letting the Spirit draw who He will, but how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard and how are they to hear if the Word is not preached?

  3. Hopefully, then, the leadership would promote having the members following up on any positive relationships that may have been gained. I know that is probably not what happens normally, but it can be a positive witness if done right, I believe (and I know you haven’t said anything to the contrary).

    Since you’ve participated in this VBS program and your children also attended, and since you seem somewhat dissatisfied or uneasy with the results, perhaps I could ask a couple of questions: First, you mentioned that you taught a few of the Bible studies; do you think that the gospel message that you yourself presented to the children was watered down and/or faulty? And second, did you or your children form any relationships that you or they should (or are) following up on?

  4. No, it hasn’t happened normally. To be as charitable as possible, this church has been woefully lacking in the “follow-up” for a while now. I am part of a small but stalwart contingent laboring to reverse this trend.

    To answer your other questions…

    No, I took a rather aggressive tack during my time of teaching in order to present the Gospel plainly and without compromise. While I didn’t drown the youth in overwrought systematic theology or needless jargon, I didn’t treat them as imbeciles who could not understand Sin and Grace. Granted, I didn’t have anyone “walk the aisle” but I had a lot of excellent questions and thoughtful silences.

    Yes, I am grateful for the experience of this past VBS inasmuch as I was able to renew former relationships with numerous people I knew long ago and am in the process of ministering to each in accordance with the need… especially those with children. There are a lot of single-moms here.

    Moreover, I hope my entry didn’t come off as being overly negative or backbiting. It wasn’t so much our VBS in particular that I had a problem with… in fact, I was impressed by the serious of the teaching that took place.

    However, it is my sincere hope that we do not rest upon the laurels of this small success but seek to “press the arrow deeper” in being the local ekklesia.

  5. That (a lack of follow-up) is probably true of a lot of churches, unfortunately. It can even be difficult to find leaders willing to put the effort in to programs such as these, much less follow them up. I know that the leaders of the VBS programs generally pour a lot of effort into them, and that it can take months of preparation. I am thankful for their effort, but I do agree with you that our efforts as a church community must continue beyond the last day of the program…

    At any rate, it is good to hear that there are those in your church who are working to change the trend. And it is also good to hear that you were able to make an impact and renew some of your old relationships. I pray that your relationships (old and new) will be further strengthened and that your work with those around you will be blessed continually.

    As to whether your post was overly negative or not; it may just be that I was misinterpreting or putting too much weight on a few of the statements. I apologize if I have, and I hope that I have not been overly critical of it. I always appreciate what you have to say and I look forward to your next post.

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