Every summer, kids gather for Vacation Bible School (VBS).
Gregarious games. Sweet and savory snacks. Magnanimous music. Creative crafts. Bodacious Bible stories. Kids would leave the week-long extravaganza with t-shirts, CD’s (remember those?), and new friends.
I think you would agree that historically, Vacation Bible School (VBS) has been primarily for kids.
And as with most things, VBS is not exempt from the “Butterfly Effect” of a global pandemic.
So, this year - what if everybody gets to play at VBS?
Here are three ways that VBS isn’t just for kids, anymore.
Love Kids and Everybody Wins
This one might seem obvious, but it’s a big one.
I learned early on in ministry that the key to every parent’s heart is their most important thing: their kids.
And then, when I became a parent, I learned that kids are not just the key to a parent’s heart - kids become their heartbeat. I mean, there are few things I wouldn’t consider doing to love my kid. And, when other people love my kids, they don’t just have my attention - they have my love, too.
Want to show a parent that they’re loved? Love their kids.
In our current cultural moment, it seems like almost every parent is at least concerned, if not worried and absolutely terrified about how their child is faring and how they will be changed by the past year of uncertainty. The disruptions in schooling, friendships, parent’s job schedules, most likely the death of somebody they know, and if they attended church - Sunday mornings will certainly shape the younger generation because let’s face it - the last 15 months might be all they know of memorable life.
So, yes, VBS is one of the staple, stable, and predictable experiences for many. And that kind of consistency is the key to not just a child’s overall health, but to a parent’s or grandparent’s heart.
Plus, VBS is still very much a perceived safe space in our world (at least, for now).
When you love other people’s kids, everybody wins.
This year, kids, students, and adults get to experience VBS, together either onsite, online, or in their neighborhoods.
Parent(s) hear about God’s love from their kids. Siblings want in on the new games they learned. Parent(s) get the songs stuck in their heads as they hear the music over, and over, and over again. And if the kids make new friends - bring on the playdates!
Want to love parents? Love their kids.
Neighborhoods are the New Church Buildings (at least right now)
That sounds weird, doesn’t it?
Hang with me and allow me to explain what I mean.
Even when restrictions are completely lifted, it will take time for life to return to “normal”. Some even say, we will need to establish a “new normal”. I’m not here to debate which one is more likely. I’m simply saying that I’m not expecting the rush of people to return to any institution, concert venue, or in our case, church building.
I could be wrong, but my sense is that the return to church buildings will be more like the gradual flow of a creek rather than a gushing Rainier waterfall.
This is all to say that the people who would ordinarily gather at a church building for VBS are still living in their neighborhoods. They eat, sleep, play, do yard work, clean their garage, and spend quite a bit of time up and down the same streets you and I live on.
And this is good news.
Everybody who needs to experience God’s love for them are within 500 feet of you.
Paul puts it this way: Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16, ESV).
Indeed, your neighborhood is the new church building. And your neighbors (in a way) live at church.
Why? Because you’re there.
So, if kids used to attend VBS at a church building, and if the new church building is in your neighborhood - then grabbing a few other families and friends to host a VBS in your neighborhood is an incredibly powerful and effective way that God has invited you into His game of loving Him back, loving people around you, and living like Jesus.
You can reach out to Dereem to learn more about hosting a neighborhood VBS in August.
Everybody is Online
The world changed in 2007. In an instant, all of the world’s greatest inventions were in the palm of your hand. The good and the not so good were now accessible within moments. And nobody else would need to know what you’re reading, looking at, or watching because it was on your phone.
Fast forward 14 years later and almost everybody we know has a smartphone. We bank with it. We register for classes. We talk to family. We document our meals. We go to the doctor. We get counseling. So much of what we do everyday could be done or is done on or through our phones.
Simple point: everybody is online.
Mark records Jesus saying, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15, ESV). Let’s be honest, we don’t need to go very far. In fact, I don’t even need to move (as I type this) to “go” into all the world.
Our VBS content will be made available online for you to share and invite other people you know to share.
Sharing “Jesus stuff” can be intimidating. We’re afraid of what others might say or think. We prepare ourselves for a potential adverse response or reaction because we aren’t sure where those we may invite are when it comes to “Jesus stuff”. So, we go back and forth wallowing in doubt and worry until we either give up, forget, or something a little bit “less controversial” comes up to forward on our social media feeds.
The Zero Property applies in both math and invitations. I remember my 3rd grade math teacher saying, “if you multiply anything by zero, you get zero”. Likewise, if nobody invites anybody to consider "Jesus stuff" online, then nobody may ever consider Jesus an anybody.
Zero attempts will always result in zero opportunities.
While sharing our online VBS content might be a “passive” way to be part of God’s greater story of love in somebody else’s life, it can be powerful and life-changing.
Just think, an entire family could be changed by Jesus’ love through VBS that would change the eternal destiny of their future generations. All because you and they were both online in a time such as this.
My friend Greg often reminds me that we are not Jesus salespeople going around and "selling" Jesus. We don't advertise Jesus. We don't sell Jesus. We are Jesus followers who show others where Jesus is alive and working in us and others, our communities and world, online and in-person.
Sharing online VBS content when it's released later this summer on your feed, via email, or however else you can share it doesn't "sell" Jesus - you are following Jesus into a place (online) where Jesus already is working. You simply get to join Jesus in what He is already doing... even online.
Can you think of other ways people besides kids can "play" at VBS?
Send me a note and let me know.
Meet Pastor Tim
Tim Bayer has served as Our Savior's Lead Pastor since September 2019. He also serves as an Adjunct Instructor at Concordia University - Irvine, a National Leadership Facilitator and Resource, and a Community Mental Health First Aid Instructor. Tim studied sociology, psychology, and theology prior to earning his M.Div at Concordia Seminary - St. Louis. He has also is a candidate for an Ed.D (ABD) in Transformational Leadership. He is married to Beth and they have three young children. Together, they enjoy exploring the outdoors, experiencing culture, and pizza and movie nights.