Today I found myself sipping on watery Kool-Aid and nibbling on chocolate-chip cookies whilst keeping an eye on 16 second graders seated on the floor. Two high-school girls stood nearby, also watching the kids and snacking. Suddenly the first cup of Kool-Aid spilled, followed by at least one other. The girls and I jumped into action, getting kids away from the mess and soaking several paper towels. Once that was taken care of, we were passing out paper bags, each bearing a child’s name and filled with their things. Then it was time to make a line, yelling “Attention!” to call the kids back to us. Finally we marched into an auditorium filled with hundreds of other kids. We sang some songs and watched a skit. Yep, it’s that time of year again: Vacation Bible School. =)
This is one of my favorite times of the year at my church. In a matter of hours, the building is transformed from typical Sunday setup to VBS kids’ zone. Balloons, rainbows, airplanes, butterflies and clouds all adorn the building this year, as our week is centered on the sky. After this has been accomplished, all the workers rush home for a few hours of sleep before the crazy week really gets started. In a rush, Monday morning is upon us. We stand by our rows of seats, waiting for the children assigned to our class to arrive. Slowly at first, they trickle in. Some are bursting with energy–they’ve waited all year for this, or so they tell me. I don’t doubt them either. Others are nervous or shy. They might know the other kids, or maybe they don’t, but either way, there is too much noise. Too many people, too much excitement, too many unknowns. The kids don’t have any idea what the week will hold. They don’t know much more than the general theme when they walk in the door–and that’s if they actually paid attention to the specifics of the announcements. Most just know that it’s time for VBS, and here they are. We start singing, we watch a video, we play games. We make a craft, we learn about a Bible story, we eat a snack. We sing some more, and then it’s time to go home.
For the kids–if I’m remembering correctly from my days at VBS–it’s an exciting but exhausting day. They love it, but they’re tired by the time they get in the car to go home. For the workers, it’s about the same. I love working with the kids, hugging them and spending time getting to know them. I enjoy learning the motions to the songs and helping the kids with their crafts. But by noon, I’m as worn out as the kids. We’ve been running around the church for 3 hours. It’s time for a break.
So why do I keep doing this? And why do I bother to write about this week-long event? Because VBS is a blessing. We hear from the children’s director that hundreds of kids and their families are blessed. And I am sure that’s true. Often we even get kids from local daycare centers. It’s quite the event, and countless kids have been affected over the many years our church has put on a VBS. However, the event isn’t just a blessing for the kids. I firmly believe that all of us workers are blessed as well. We put time into preparing lessons, decorating the rooms, and loving on the kids. Some kids we will never see again. Others we see every Sunday–in a classroom or in the halls. We see them at camps, in choirs, and in the community. There’s nothing like going to Taco Bell after a long day at VBS and having a child run up to you, calling out “Teacher! Teacher!” Their parents will smile at me and talk to me. The blessing I receive from VBS comes in the form of the relationships I form with kids and–to a lesser degree–their parents. There are kids I taught in VBS years ago who will shyly wave to me in the halls at church or light up when they see me in the parking lot. It’s not just VBS either. I’ve worked various events with my church in the past. Some of the girls who met me at an overnighter still talk to me and give me hugs. I try to check up on them pretty frequently, though I’m not as good at that when I’m away at school. All that being said, it is an immeasurable blessing to watch a child grow from 2nd-grade VBS to middle school. It’s amazing to watch kids make decisions to follow Christ. As they grow older, these kids will have opportunities to go on missions trips, to impact their communities further, and to join the ranks of VBS volunteers. both blessing and being blessed.
As a child, I was loved and encouraged during my weeks of Vacation Bible School. As a young adult, I now have the opportunity to love and encourage a new group of kids. The work is demanding, the kids are excited, and the reward is intangible. I wouldn’t trade this week for anything. Like the old VBS song says, “I like Vacation Bible School.”