Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A big thank you...

VBS…a.k.a. (a.k.a. means “also known as” in police lingo) Vacation Bible School, has become something I look forward to in church life. Each summer the church building is transformed into some kind of adventure. I think my first as a church planting pastor in New Hampshire was “Amazon Outfitters” and with a whole lot of help from our home church, First Baptist of McAllen Texas, we turned the old Littleton Opera house in to a virtual Amazon jungle. The next year was “The great kingdom caper” which had a distinctly British feel and we had a plane full of FBC McAllen volunteers to help us with that one as well. During my tenure here at Calvary, we’ve been on the “Boomerang Express”, the “Saddle Ridge Ranch” and this year the “Big Apple Adventure.” One thing I’ve noticed with each VBS are a number of common denominators regardless of what church I was serving in at that time:

1.       Much pre-planning and organizing in advance. Each January/February dedicated people who love Jesus, VBS and children begin the preparations for the mid-summer adventure. Decorations are planned out, supplies ordered, crafts to be considered, volunteers to be recruited and trained, music lyrics & choreography, Bible study lesson plans, meals to be planned, snacks, games, mission emphasis, what to do with preschoolers, how to pre-register/register children, how to advertise, what the family night  will look like, what the mission project will be, how the contest for the offering will be handled, who’s going to run sound, video, who’s going to help in each grade….you get the idea. I’m sure I’ve missed some important component in listing all this…the point is, there is huge preparation for VBS that starts in the beginning of the year and it takes an army of people to pull it all together. Each year the week before VBS, I look at VBS like I view one of those giant Air Force transport planes across the bay in Delaware at Dover AFB wondering: “How in the world will this thing get off the ground and fly?” But it does! It flies because a lot of people have planned all the logistics needed to make it happen.

2.       How God shows up. With each VBS, I’ve been amazed at the little miracles that God does related to the weather since invariably we’re doing some part of it outside and our critical need for the weather to cooperate and God provides exactly what we need, without fail. How God protects the kids, the leaders, how He provides patience for leaders and preacher types who may not be exceptionally patient people in everyday life. How God blesses people with an attitude of flexibility and good spirits to faithfully show up each night for a solid week after they are exhausted from working all day long at their regular jobs. How God continues to reach children, parents, and yes even leaders and draw them closer to Him as the church endeavors to minister through VBS. God shows up in big and little ways during VBS and He shows me how He’s at work during that VBS week.

3.       How much fun you can actually have as an adult making a fool of yourself with kids. I will not comment further except that I routinely see different sides of people you’ve never seen beforeJ.

4.       How the music gets stuck in your head and heart for months. Music is such a powerful tool to teach kids and adults spiritual truth, and in VBS, it effectively does this in fun way that actually allows me to worship the Lord. I always get choked up and tears come to my eyes when I hear kids singing the ABC song for that week or a new song about serving Jesus. VBS is such a blessing each year.

5.       How fast the week seems to fly by. Maybe I’m just getting old but time flies during the week of VBS. I wake up the Saturday morning afterwards exhausted and in shock at how fast VBS came and went and wondering what in the world happened.

6.       How God draws children to make decisions for Christ – by salvation or to be obedient in believer’s baptism. Historically, I share the gospel with all the age groups during the ABC night when I get to teach the Bible lesson that special night. I don’t give an invitation to the kindergarten or 1st & 2nd grades; we just sow seed. We are intentional with 3rd & 4th, and 5th & 6th grades, and God always allows us to reap a harvest because faith Bible Study teachers and leaders have been sowing seeds with their groups. I marvel at the simplicity of the Gospel that kids not only understand but respond to and how the gospel reaches moms and dads as well. This year we had at least 3 decision for Christ and a couple for baptism.

7.       How I always loose the contest of the week whether I represent the boys or the girls, the pastor seems to be getting dunked, a pie in the face, or a Gatorade bath. I think every pastor should be able to write a book about the VBS contests he’s lost. ( I think my record thus far is 1 win and 8 or 9 losses. My “win” was against my dad who’s a minister also so I didn’t feel bad on that one!) The reality is that God’s Kingdom wins because kids have given generously to support whatever mission cause we supported. This year, our kids gave over $1400.00 to the Harford Homeless shelter and I’m thrilled to tell you that our church is going to match that gift. Over $2800.00 given to minister to folks right here in our community. I don’t care if I lose every contest till Jesus comes if it furthers Kingdom work!

There are other common denominators for sure but one of the biggest is just how thankful I am for every volunteer who tirelessly works to prepare and lead in VBS, who serve on the front lines or in a myriad of ways behind the scenes in preparing cookies or taking out trash, or having a preschooler crying on your shoulder; or just locking up each night; however you helped with VBS, thank you. I can’t list people by name or I’ll be in trouble for sure because I’ll forget someone. God knows who you are and I can tell you if you didn’t work or serve, VBS would have never happened. So a big thanks to our Calvary family for once again serving the Lord through the ministry of VBS. I’m so proud of you and thankful to God for you, from my little corner of the world to yours…

Ralph Green

Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church

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