In just a matter of day’s hordes of children will descend upon Westminster Baptist Church. VBS is coming and while it will likely feel like an eternity for our wonderful volunteers, in actuality we will only have these children for roughly eighteen hours give or take a few minutes. Eighteen hours is not too shabby, it’s over half the time we get with kids in Awanas, for the once a monther families this is more ministry time than they would get in a year of Sunday School, it’s substantially longer than retreats or conferences. God can do a great deal in eighteen hours; he can win souls, call apostles, and even create most of the universe. This said, eighteen hours is a mere fraction of the eighteen years children are in our care (it’s literally around one percent of one percent). Children will be far more shaped by the other 99.99 percent of their childhood than they will during our exciting Upward Bound VBS. In spite of this reality many approach VBS as their tally taking event of the year. Whole denominations track all of their life decisions for Christ in VBS even when they are literally the same kids multiple times over. In these cases kids might seem excited for God on day five of the VBS but care little when Sunday worship comes. It seems to me that we are missing something and I think the VBS company we use at Westminster Baptist Church understands that.
Despite arguably being the most Gospel centered VBS in existence, the VBSs from VBS Reachout Adventures include neither an alter call, a decisions tally, or even a designated “Gospel Day” (to be honest all of the days are Gospel Days). We know that God can make monumental changes in the lives of children through VBS and that is why the Gospel cannot be missed in this VBS. We believe this Gospel message can and will work in sinful hearts, but we trust in that amazing message we put up front not in emotionally manipulating tactics. The truth is it will be hard to see the impact VBS has on our kids and with whom the Gospel message really sticks until they have been graduated out for years. This means in VBS and all other ministries we need to depend upon the more regular spiritual instruction of children in the home. We need to see VBS as a ministry where we focus on first equipping and then supplementing the discipleship that happens Sunday through Saturday in the living room for 18 years.
The most important part of our VBS can easily become the most neglected part; parental take home work. Upward Bound has some exciting and life changing lessons for our children, but if these lessons are taught for the 18 hours of VBS and neglected its unlikely substantial lasting impact will be made. The VBS lessons should be stewed upon each day at home where Christian parents or other Christian family can help children reflect upon the lesson and apply it to themselves. After VBS, little difference will be made if the verses memorized and Bible lessons learned become a mere relic of summer days past. Parents can use the helpful Trailguides to keep their children active in learning scripture and allowing the Gospel to shape their identity. Many approach VBS as a spiritual pinnacle and bedrock to a child’s spiritual development and hopeful salvation. In truth VBS ought to be just one of the many many mile marks on the eighteen or so year road of discipling a child.
Children can be truly and clearly saved through the eighteen hours VBS but even then if we are rightly discipling these children in home and at church, the real decisions in VBS were merely the straw that broke the camel’s back. Similarly, we might not tally huge numbers of decisions (real or fake) during VBS but over time we find Upward Bound was one of the many boulders to precede that straw. Helping children truly come to understand their need for a savior is rarely going to be the product of five days isolated from continued Biblical teaching. Parents will typically be pivotal to this kind of lasting Biblical conversions even if the child we disciple each and every day makes that “decision” during VBS.
I am excited for our church to be overrun with those hordes of children. I pray we impact the lives of every single child we see for Christ and I believe our team will do everything in our power to help these children see Jesus. This said I’m not putting my hopes on this or any VBS on its own to result in dozens of conversions or seismic changes in our kids; things simply aren’t that simple. What I do know is that if parents and children’s ministry volunteers partner together to daily point our kids to Christ, there is no limit to what God can do with the next generations. I am excited to see how Upward Bound can play a small but important part in that lifestyle of immersion in the Gospel. I hope this year you can join us as we point these children to our amazing King Jesus, but more than anything, I hope you can play your important role in the eighteen years we get to disciple children.