As I have driven various streets in Little Rock this past week, I have seen many yard signs advertising various Vacation Bible Schools (VBS) to be held in the coming weeks. As a result, I was just thinking about how good it is for churches to continue what has been a decades-long tradition.
What is VBS? Actually, it is a form of religious education scaled down to a week or less. Back in the days when I was a youngster, VBS was often a two-week long event. While there are many activities that take place during the course of the week, learning Scripture is the foremost purpose. I am reminded that learning from an early age is of utmost importance, and such learning can last a lifetime. The apostle Paul encouraged his young protégé, Timothy, to keep on with what he had learned as a child: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (II Tim. 3:14-15).
• The impact of faithful teachers. Growing up in Ashdown, attending church and, in the summers, VBS, were aspects of small-town life that I cherish to this day. Central Baptist Church in Ashdown is my home church. I recall the various classes I attended in Sunday School, especially those who were my teachers. However, I remember even more the impact of my VBS teachers. I won’t try to name them because the list would be long, but I assure you that each one had a powerful and memorable impact on me.
Learning can be fun! Today VBS is quite different from those days back in the 1950s and 60s. Flannel boards, puppet shows, sword drills, Bible baseball and memory verse challenges made learning the Word of God fun. Children today, for the most part, have little knowledge of those types of activities. Still, good teachers today are making learning enjoyable through music, videos, missions emphases and Bible verse drills.
• A good VBS requires planning and work. During my time as pastor of the Central Baptist Church in Prescott, we had some wonderful Vacation Bible Schools. For a small town, we had really large attendances each year. Our staff put much effort into making VBS something that the children and young people wanted to attend. In fact, for several years, we had adult VBS classes!
• There is an emphasis on missions. I mentioned missions emphases. One year, we turned the entire second floor of the educational annex into Mexico. The hallway was a roadway to little villas where various aspects of Mexican life were depicted. When those kids who attended VBS that year became teens, they were totally willing and ready to go on one of our mission trips to Mexico where they did puppet shows for the children in the villages. We also did those types of VBS themes for Honduras, the Philippines and Guatemala in other years.
• VBS is where great memories are made. One particular VBS in Ashdown still impacts my memory six decades later. The city permitted the church to block off an entire street so that various games could be played without traffic interference. That might be rather difficult in this day and time.
In my formative years, my pastor, J.P. Jones, had a tremendous effect on me. He was a woodworking craftsman who took me under his wing and became a mentor. He always had a unique way of tying in his crafts for the children with the teaching taking place in the classes. That memory is so vivid to me, and I wish I could see that approach in VBS ventures today.
Thank you to those who work in VBS. Last week, I wrote about mentors, urging people to thank those who had mentored them. Most everyone who reads this today had VBS teachers and workers in the past. If those people made an impact on you — maybe leading you to trust Christ as Savior or to surrender to full-time ministry — I urge you to send a text or email, write a letter or even pick up your phone and call, thanking them for investing in your spiritual welfare and eternal life.