Tuesday, January 20, 2015

7 Ways to Ruin VBS

Vacation Bible School season may seem like a distant dream; however, the curriculum for this year is already in and in just 5½ short months we’ll find ourselves once again serving the children of this church and community with our VBS ministry.  Our goal, of course, each year is to have a successful VBS.  What makes it successful is that, in all we do, to seek to glorify God in our efforts (1 Cor. 10:31).  There are ways to ruin VBS though, I thought of seven.  Read these and consider them as you now prepare your hearts for VBS and before long we’ll be making preparations to receive whatever children God sends our way.

1.) Treat the children harshly
(See Proverbs 15:1; Romans 2:4)

It is no secret that I am not a fan of large and uncontrolled crowds.  Few things send my irritation alarms off quicker!  Some of you may share those idiosyncrasies as well, and VBS can be one of those situations that peaks those alarms in you too.  Children have a way of finding the right buttons to push and then they don’t just push them, they smash them!  But we must remember our goal is to show them Christ.  That doesn’t mean allowing chaos!  Certainly not!  It does mean that as we set down rules and parameters for what is expected that week that we see our interactions with them as having tremendous Gospel significance.  When tempted to speak harshly over an action of insolence, remember the Gospel.  Remember, that your frustration with them over their disobedience is nothing compared to the justified anger God could have held to you over yours against Him.  Yet, Romans 2:4 reminds us that it is the kindness of the Lord that leads to repentance; His kindness to send Christ to die in our place so that we could be forgiven.  Think on His kindness to you and how others, even children, need that kindness shown to them as well. 

2.) Forget that they are children and expect them to be tiny adults
(See Proverbs 22:6; 1 Corinthians 13:11)

First, I am an advocate for helping our children grow into responsible adults.  There is a fine balance between remembering they are a child and so they should enjoy the things children do at the same time remember the goal of childhood is preparation for adulthood ultimately.  I am also no fan of the ‘kids will be kids mentality’ as a way of excusing disobedience, however, it does EXPLAIN the behavior.  We are to train up children in THE WAY.  We are to point them to Christ, but we have to remember that they cannot think like adults yet because they aren’t adults.  They think like children, they reason like children, they behave like children; so show them the Gospel and the beauty of Christ and encourage them to follow Him.  Explain that their disobedience comes from their hearts and it reveals that their hearts are in need of the forgiveness that only Jesus can provide!  They won’t see that through the teeth of our frustrations but through the gentleness of our responses.

3.) Don’t prepare ahead of time
(See 2 Timothy 2:15)

If you know now that you are going to volunteer for VBS service this year then you should start preparing your heart now.  You cannot expect them to see Christ in you if you are not seeking the Spirit’s guidance to bear fruit in your that would show Christ to them.  If you call me over to see your dead rose bush and you spend your time explaining how beautiful the roses are that it produces, I will have a hard time believing that anything of value comes from that dead plant.  I need to SEE it.  Further, if you are going to be teaching in any way, start preparing your heart to teach by studying the Scriptural truths for yourself before you even begin going through the outline of the lesson in the material.  I was so encouraged to hear from Bro. Richard Dennis at our Men’s Breakfast as he spoke, at our table, about how he prepares for a Sunday School lesson.  Be diligent to study the word and prepare your heart and mind to be engaged with the Word and by the Spirit impart that passion to those children.

4.) Do VBS to grow the children’s ministry numerically
(See 1 Corinthians 10:31)

It seems that these days many denominations are in a contest to see who can boast the highest numbers.  This most clearly reveals itself in things like boasting of worship attendance, youth ministry numbers, or VBS attendees and decisions.  But the goal of any ministry cannot be to boost the numbers of children (and likely that is so that there is a boost in the number of families).  It isn’t that desiring numbers is necessarily bad; it isn’t that growth is bad.  However, our goal must be to proclaim the Gospel to these children.  We are to do all things unto God’s glory.  That’s the goal.  We ‘put on’ VBS for 5 or 50 (or 500 – yikes!) for exactly the same reason, to glorify God through the proclaiming of His truth to children and hopefully their families.  If we let the numbers become the focus then we will be likely to lessen passion with which we approach each year as we will likely be frustrated or disappointed by participants who don’t turn into to prospects and eventual members.

5.) Assume VBS is only for the benefit of the children
(See Matthew 6:19-21; 1 Corinthians 9:24-25; Galatians 6:8-10)

We all receive delight in serving these children, but there is reward to be had for you as well.  The Bible speaks about storing up treasures in Heaven.  As you serve and find yourself tired or frustrated, remember why you serve, for God’s glory so that you can store up treasures in Heaven that one day you will lay humbly at His feet in praise of His glorious Name!  Don’t get so busy serving that you forget that the Lord intends to not only bless the children with what you teach and show them, but also you as you learn to trust Him and glorify Him in your service.  He will sustain your joy!

6.) Dumb down the message and assume they don’t understand
(See Psalm 19:7; Romans 7:7-25)

I’ve heard it said before that children only need to hear about God’s love because they don’t understand sin.  Well to that I say, if we don’t labor to explain sin to them they will never understand.  We must teach both about sin and God’s love.  God’s love in sending Christ is robbed of its impact when the reason for it is omitted.  You can explain to a child what sin is in a way that they will understand.  And as they grow they will eventually be able to understand why sin is so serious an offense against God and just how remarkable God’s love is for sending the Lord Jesus to save them from their sin.  You can’t make them make the leap between knowing what sin is on an intellectual level and understanding it in their heart, that is the Spirit’s job, but you can give them the knowledge from God’s Word and trust God to save.  They can understand more than we give them credit for, all too often the problem is that we don’t labor to find Biblical ways to explain it to them in a way they can comprehend.

7.) Push decisions over discipleship
(Jonah 2:9; Psalm 3:8; Matthew 28:19-20)

Just as true as it is that we do not do VBS to grow numerically in attendees, we also do not do it to boast numbers of conversions. Sure we all want conversions!  We ALL want to see those children come to repent and trust the Lord Jesus Christ! We want them soundly saved!  But we have to remember that salvation is of the Lord, we are called to proclaim the Gospel, plant the seed so to speak, and make disciples.  We make disciples from those the Lord saves. If getting my children to repeat a few words was the way to get them saved then the first sentence I would have taught them as babies would have been “Lord save me”, but their prayer to God to save them must come from the heart, not simply repeating what we tell them they need to say. Is it not an equally wonderful reason to rejoice over one soul saved as it is 100?  Certainly yes! Is it not comforting to know that the Lord’s Word never returns void but always accomplishes that which He sends it to do?  Sure it is!  So rest in those truths and preach on trusting the Lord to bless your efforts in His time and in His way.

Submit your ideas for "ways to ruin VBS" in the comments section below and don't forget to re-post this article if you found it Biblical and helpful!

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