It’s that time of year, again, for Vacation Bible School. I remember it well as a child. Two blocks north of our home, Salem Baptist Church was where my brothers and I attended VBS for years. We didn’t attend Salem as our regular church home, on the corner of 99th and S. Claremont, but we did spend summers there learning more about God and having great fun in the process.
Honestly, I don’t even remember if our home church, Trinity Methodist Church, at 99th and Winchester, even had VBS. If it did, I never went there but I sure did attend Sunday School, weekend programs and after school activities during the regular school year. While today, I may be concerned about theological differences between the denominations, those sorts of details didn’t cross my mind fifty years ago. Of course, I didn’t have years of seminary training behind me back them. And Janet gently reminds me on occasion that I have some pretty high standards for what I hear from the pulpit these days. But VBS is about pointing kids in the right direction – and we need more of that, in every Christian church.
Most of my ministry work has to do with teaching the Bible to adults who have a thirst to deepen their relationship with God. However, our daughter, Kristin, who also has years of advanced education and an earned doctorate, serves on staff at a local Presbyterian church and is responsible for our youngest church attenders – birth through kindergarten. And in addition to her normal duties of writing curriculum and engaging these youngsters, she is committed to motivating them and assisting them on their journey toward an eternal relationship with Jesus Christ. She does a remarkable job and those of us in the family couldn’t be more proud of her. Her passion for ministry and leading people to Christ is evident to those who work and worship with her on a daily basis.
So it probably comes as no surprise that she is also the church person responsible for VBS. She, other church staff and an army of volunteers are the hands and feet of Jesus as the church opens its doors to the community children in the hope of drawing them closer to God. And that happened this week – finishing earlier this evening. As we all know, its difficult to recruit volunteers, even for something as noble as this effort. Our youngest daughter, Jill, even travels up here from Oklahoma each year to lend a hand during this most important week in the lives of our youngest generation.
It does my heart good to see members of our family devote their time, talents and treasures to work together for the kingdom of God at VBS. But even with all the great hearted people, there were more volunteers needed at the church. Sure enough, Kristin and Jill recruited Janet and me to help out last night. In all honesty, it has been a long time since I have worked with our pre-schoolers through 5th graders. But we gladly and joyfully showed up to fill our assignments. Janet and I both loved the experience.
The singing of songs, skits, Bible stories and games were far more fun than when I attended VBS back in the day… And Kristin was up there in front leading the charge for God. I was particularly impressed with the stories of John the Baptist, the apostle John, the conversion of Paul and other famous Bible characters. Each night, the theme highlighted one of the things that God provides to us. From Sunday through tonight, the kids studied Hope, Courage, Direction, Love and Power – all gifts from our Creator. I was delighted with the teaching and the engagement of our youth – and I was glad to be a part of it all.
I think I had forgotten how important the children are to God. There are all sorts of statistics about the faith lives of people who come to know Christ at an early age. And this week was about exposing them to the love of Christ in their own lives. I can’t say enough about the experience. I was transformed and spellbound by my time with the kids that I was shepherding.
I think that is what Jesus wants for all of us. Our verse for this evening highlights the importance that Jesus puts on our youngest people. In fact, he mentions this particular idea in three of the Gospels. Luke tells us, in Luke 18:16, “But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” That’s important to hear – we are to lead the children to Jesus – He and the Father will do the rest, through the agency of the Holy Spirit.
My encouragement this evening is that God loves us all – particularly our children. My prayer is that we will re-dedicate ourselves to making sure they have exposure to Jesus. And maybe, just maybe, you will consider serving as a volunteer in a VBS program near you. It’s a rewarding experience and gets us off the bench and into the game of expanding the kingdom of God. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…