Have you registered your child for summer Vacation Bible School (VBS) yet? If you have ever driven by a church marquee in North America you know that VBS promises to be a jam-packed, fun-filled week for the young attendees. A saturating theme is the hallmark of VBS nowadays—VBS under the sea, VBS amidst the stars, VBS inside the jungle! And VBS volunteers usually outdo themselves with hand-painted sets, convincing character costumes, and even snacks that match the day’s lesson.
I remember attending a neighborhood VBS when I was a child. My parents were not believers, but they undoubtedly thought the camp looked wholesome and like a good diversion from the normal routine of my summer vacation. While I didn’t understand the gospel that week, I do remember with gratitude the deposit of faith made by the moms and teens who volunteered there. I clearly recall a sheep made out of cotton balls.
Because your local VBS promises to be a memorable milestone for your children, you must consider the content that will be presented. Specifically, based on the promotions and posters and bulletin inserts, who is going to be the subject of the VBS lessons—is it going to be your children or is it going to be God in heaven?
In my experience as a mom of 14 years I have had to make an effort to find children’s books and materials that triumph Jesus over self. We’ve super spiritualized the message “be who God made you to be” to the point that we now focus far more on who we are and who we want to be rather than on the person and nature of God. It is so much the air we breathe, that I think most curriculum developers, pastors, and VBS leaders don’t even know it’s there.
While my girls are now too old for VBS, my hunch—based on a few glimpses of VBS signs around town—is that we, the western church, are discipling our children from an early age to believe that they are the center of the their stories.
But there’s a better story—a grand narrative in which our souls and theirs were meant to exult. God in heaven is glorious and good and he is the at the center of everything! The creator of the universe is worthy to be praised all week long at VBS. His nature and works are so robust that no curriculum could ever tire of examining his attributes.
This is good news because his love and power and glory will never run out. He will never disappoint. But we will. We will tire, we will sin, and we will disappoint—especially ourselves. Let’s lead our children from an early age to plum the depths of of God’s character and word, that they may lose themselves in his story.
If the VBS that you’ve registered for points your children to themselves, skip it. Instead, let us fix our eyes on Jesus, “for by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17). He alone is worthy and able to be at the center of our lives and our children’s week at VBS.