We just wrapped up a week of VBS, which is to say that we washed and wore the same t-shirts for a week, ate our weight in Goldfish crackers and came home with glitter and glue in the strangest places.
As someone who did not grow up attending VBS and, in light of my call to minister to women, college students and young adults, I feel like I have an outside-in view of children’s ministry. What I saw as a volunteer this past week left my heart swollen with great joy and gratitude for those who, year in and year out, pour themselves into the often-unsung work of ministry to children.
While a local church’s VBS or summer programming will likely never make headlines in the news, I am certain that in the annals of Heaven those who gave themselves for such events will be clearly celebrated.
Perhaps I am late to the party (as I often am), but I wanted to share what I saw happening this week.
A Massive Planting Effort
I love planting seeds in my garden, but I don’t often (read: never) find myself planting in my neighbor’s yard or a stranger’s yard, as I want to enjoy the harvest. However, this week I saw a hoard of helpers planting seeds by the barrel fulls into other people’s gardens. I saw young mothers with sleeping infants on their backs or bosoms giving their time and energy to bless other people’s toddlers or early elementary schoolers.
I saw dads wrangling the attention of distracted day-dreamers back to the Word of God. I saw them teaching rich theological truths in a way that children could grasp them.
Each, in their own way, was doing his or her part to sow the seed of God’s timeless Word into tiny hearts. Some tilled the soil with humor and ridiculous skits, while others, through conversations, dug little holes into which the seeds might fit.
From the surface and perhaps to those accustomed to VBS, this may seem normal. But from the Lord’s perspective, I imagine such massive planting efforts are seen and celebrated as the Herculean and supernatural tasks that they are.
An Intergenerational Family
This week, I watched high schoolers, who are stereotypically known for being too cool and aloof, doing goofy hand motions with children clinging to them like barnacles on a boat. I saw middle schoolers who are known for their sloth-like sleeping tendencies dropped off at Church at nearly ungodly hours to wipe the sleep from their eyes and step into service. I was blown away by the way these older students were following the examples of their youth leaders who were leading the charge in blessing the greater Church body.
I watched empty nesters busily preparing animal crackers and oranges when they could be playing golf or sipping coffee in the quiet of their home. I watched them help wash sticky, slimy sets of hands. I watched them pick up trash and break down boxes when no one was looking.
It may be decades before these seeds take root and reap a harvest, and they may never see or enjoy any of the fruit from the planting of this week, but I watched our diverse and intergenerational church family rally around a worthy cause.
By the end of the week, everyone was spent and the church household was a mess, but the family had pitched in to powerfully present the Word of God, entrusting the harvest to Him.
I watched three precious refugee girls walk nervously into our church wearing their hijabs. And then I watched them be quickly absorbed into a wild game of tag without any one so much as turning a head. My heart soared morning by morning as they clapped their hands when we arrived at the Church parking lot. I watched other children go out of their way to include them, to sit by them, to teach them hand motions, to make space for them. I was blown away by the hidden efforts that went into making our property and our people hospitable, from registration to leader training.
I also watched my precious 4 and 5 year old classes gladly pack backpacks for strangers they don’t know. I watched them make cards to slip into their packs, scribbling the love of God in their own little chicken scratch.
For those who have given themselves this summer to some version of VBS, thank you. Thanks for doing your bit part in the bigger story of God raising up a new generation to fear and proclaim His good news.
In a society that seeks to climb ladders and network, you slid down the slide back into the silliness of childhood. You met toddlers and tweeners where they were with the Word of God. You are the unsung heroes of summer.