I have fond memories of the Vacation Bible Schools that I attended as a child and that I’ve helped with over the years. My memories are filled with songs that still get stuck in my head, snacks, and sunburns. I also remember story after story of God working in the hearts of children and the adults that dropped them off. Thank God for VBS!
As we get ready for another activity filled summer, I wanted to share some words of caution and provide possible solutions. Vacation Bible School is a discipleship opportunity. It really is a school. In light of that, be careful of what VBS you send your kids to.
When I entered vocational ministry, I noticed a trend that I had never seen before. Some parents in our community would find all of the Vacation Bible School’s being offered within the town. After discovering these different weeks, these parents would sign their kids up for them all! I would hear jokes about “free daycare” and the opportunity for more peaceful mornings for mom and dad. This troubled me for a few reasons. As we get ready for VBS season, here are a few things to consider as parents:
- Your home church probably offers a VBS. Make this the primary (and possibly only) Vacation Bible School for your children. Why? When you and your family members joined your church, you did so because of what they believe, preach, teach, and live out. You know who they are and why they do what they do. Remember VBS is a discipleship opportunity. View it as an extension of what your kids are taught week in and week out in your home church.
- When friends and relatives invite your kids to the VBS at their church, thank them and let them know that you’ll get back to them soon. In the meantime, go speak with your spouse about the opportunity, and go to the “about us” tab on their church’s website to learn who they are and what they teach (Please walk through these steps even if you think you know the church or even if they’re a part of the same denomination as yours.). If everything is good up to this point, reach out to the children’s pastor of that church and ask about what the kids will be learning and when they will be learning it. Think of this process like you would if you were out of town and had to find a pediatrician for your sick child. In many ways, the circumstances are even more vital than addressing a sickness. When we take our kids to be discipled by someone, we are dropping them off for soul care. If you’ve gotten this far in the process, devote the opportunity to prayer with your spouse. Consider moving forward if you both feel a peace about it, but don’t feel obligated.
- We often berate teenagers for falling to peer pressure, but don’t we fall in the same way at times? In order to best steward your child’s spiritual development this summer, you may have to kindly decline an invitation to a friend or family member’s VBS program. Listen, they may get offended. However, I’m reminded of Paul’s word’s in Galatians 1:10 “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” If you have to decline a VBS invitation from a loved one, do it with gentleness and respect. Thank them for the opportunity. However, resist the urge to make decisions about your child’s discipleship journey based on hurt feelings or what someone may say about you. I know it’s hard, but try to leave it in the hands of God.
- Fight against the daycare mentality of VBS. As I mentioned earlier, involving your kids in every VBS sounds like a great option on the surface! They will be fed, they’ll be protected (sometimes), they’ll learn about God (sometimes), and they’ll have fun. What more could you ask for?! However, the discipleship of our children has nothing to do with our comfort and is certainly not motivated by how much fun they could potentially have. Over the last few months, my heart has broken several times upon learning what some churches teach children. Not all churches are the same. Many well-meaning environments do not teach Biblical truth. Instead of your child having a blast of a week jam packed with Christian growth opportunities, they may be fed falsehood for 5-6 days straight. This is way more than daycare. This is discipleship.
- Consider volunteering for your church’s VBS this summer. Your children’s pastor likely needs help! A great way to work against the comfort element of daycare VBS culture is to dive into the work of VBS yourself. It will likely be tiring and you will likely feel that someone else could do a better job, but you never know how God could use you in the lives of the kids that attend your VBS. While VBS is a discipleship opportunity for the kids that already attend the church, it is also an evangelism opportunity for the families in your community. My youth pastor was saved after being exposed to the gospel through my church’s VBS programing! He thought he was just bringing his kids to have fun and get free food. Now he serves as missions pastor in Texas. You never know what God could do!
You might be thinking, “Frank, aren’t you taking this whole process a little too seriously?” I’m reminded that the discipleship of children is a BIG deal to Jesus (See Luke 17:2). If you’re looking for a week of activity that may or may not impact your kids for an eternity, consider taking them to a water park or Six Flags. If you are ready to elevate your view of what VBS could be in the eternity of your child, consider my suggestions today. Vacation Bible School is a discipleship opportunity.