Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It's VBS Time!

"Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'" - Matthew 19:13-14

You've got to love Vacation Bible School, right? I mean, seriously, who doesn't count down the days all year long until the kick off of VBS? I know that my family certainly does! Whether your church calls it Vacation Bible School, Community Bible School, a Backyard Bible Club, or you've come up with your own clever catchphrase, young and old alike all scream for Bible school...(or was that ice cream?)...

Or, do they? Depending on your context (Northeastern U.S., the South, Midwestern U.S., etc.), your church's VBS outreach may be a huge success, or it might more accurately be a moderate success topped off with a huge, week-long headache. We all know that, in general, church attendance is down in the U.S. The schedules of your typical American family are literally spilling over from overcrowdedness. It's seems that many people are choosing to allow the MOST important thing in life (i.e., devotion to and love for God) to fall by the wayside in favor of more time for chasing the Almighty Dollar, spending time at the beach, or simply to "rest" (translation: avoid church people, waste time on the computer, etc., etc.) at home.

Now, I'm not naive to the reality that the statistical "success" of many VBS programs is actually the result of churched families shuffling their kids from one church to the next. However, let me say, in my opinion, for the record: That is not a bad thing at all! What is more precious and wonderful than hearing your child's excitement over the fact that they get to attend another VBS program? Besides, the best form of advertisement for VBS is our children inviting their friends, right? My daughter, Gabbie, was literally jumping up and down yesterday morning because she knew it was the first day of Bible school. I still have vivid memories from VBS as a small child. God uses these outreaches in untold ways to draw children's hearts closer to Him. We should all be so thankful that God is longsuffering with us and still saves souls! Add to this the reality that the overwhelming majority of people (approximately 85%) who accept Christ as their Savior do so before the age of 14. Doesn't this make our efforts for things like VBS all the more important?

But here's the deal, we certainly do need to have a vision for reaching new children and families with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I'm not sure how many years churches have been holding summer outreaches like VBS, but just think about all the people (perhaps even yourself) who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior through something like VBS. It's truly amazing! There are people in our neighborhoods who need to accept Christ. The tragedy for many churches is that their annual VBS programs may be the only time when their members actually do outreach. How sad is that?

I praise God for any endeavor that leads local churches and their members into their community as a witness for Jesus. In fact, I would be in favor of VBS every week...(okay, so perhaps that would be going a little overboard)...

One of our first outreaches at New Beginnings in the summer of 2008 was a Backyard Bible Club styled VBS that we called Camp Koinonia. Last year we changed the name to Camp Hidden Treasure (since even the elders at the church were having a hard time pronouncing Koinonia...my bad!). Now, keep in mind the fact that the entire church was about 35 people in July 2008...At our 2008 VBS we saw 48 different children come to at least one day of Bible school (an average of 30 per day). Last summer's VBS saw 56 different children with a daily average of 44 (we were averaging about 55 people per Sunday after one year).

Last night we had 42 children for opening night. We praise the Lord for everyone one of them! Check back each day for some observations and photos from "Heartbeat Hospital" at New Beginnings BFC.

Father, we know that you love every boy and girl who will come to Bible school this week. We trust You for their salvation. Help us to teach, care, love, and serve them with the grace of Jesus Christ this week. May many children turn from their sin and place their faith in Jesus Christ. May you cause other young hearts to fall more in love with Your Son, Jesus. Lord, please anoint Miss Karen as she vividly communicates Your living Word each evening. Watch over our week and may You bring much glory to Yourself through our labor in Your name. Thank you for every leader and helper and for their special gifts and heart for the children of your kingdom. Amen.

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