Friday, August 03, 2007

VBS 2007: Breaking the nets in deep water

Last night I completed two back-to-back weeks of Vacation Bible School, which, I've decided, is enough to wear anyone out. The first week we put on VBS ("The Great Bible Reef") for our own congregation and this week we took the show on the road, so to speak, to provide VBS for the children of Glade Run, the children's home that our synod maintains and supports just north of the city. Both experiences were wonderful, but very different. A total of 32 kids came to the VBS at Emanuel's and on our biggest night at Glade Run 52 kids showed up. I had a very dedicated corps of volunteers from the congregation to help with both sites. I think everyone would agree that both experiences were very exhausting, but also very rewarding. The kids at both sites clearly seemed to love everything we offered them. I always manage to find a few ways to critique VBS, but all in all I have to admit that it is overwhelmingly a worthwhile endeavor.

The children learn some great songs, and they love to sing them. They often make requests to sing certain songs over and over. My only regret is that we don't have the time or the energy to teach all of the songs the curriculum provides. (I do have to say, however, that while the songs are catchy, they don't seem to have quite the weight and depth of meaning that the VBS songs from my childhood had).

The curriculum usually highlights very good Bible stories that cover the breadth of Scripture. This year we had Moses in the basket, Naaman in the Jordan River, the miraculous draught of fishes, the healing of the man born blind, and Jesus' parable about the wise man building his house upon the rock. The volunteer who was in charge of Bible storytelling did a fantastic job. I was surprised that the children of Glade Run were more familiar with the stories than our own children were. They also seemed to do a better job of listening to the stories.

The crafts and games, I've decided, are mainly included to provide the kids the all-important opportunity to engage in constructive play, creative efforts, and conversation. All of the kids loved both activities, and both were very, very well-run. There was one game that stuck out. On Thursday, when the focus was on the man born blind who received his sight, one game required the kids to focus on Jesus while walking forward, navigating between two parallel lines of masking tape on the floor. The game's leader stood facing the kids on the other side of the room, holding above his head a big painting of Jesus' face. It was an interesting exercise because their temptation, obviously, was to look at their feet to see if they were stepping outside the lines. With concentration, however, they were able to look at Jesus and follow in the path safely at the same time. I thought it was a good metaphor for parish ministry.

Although I'm tired and need a break, I am very, very glad we went forward with both VBS programs this year, and hope that the volunteers will request that we do it again next year. I know the kids already have.

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