VBS: Let’s get submerged
Do you remember going to vacation Bible school as a child? Hopefully the mention of VBS brings back fond memories of such things as crafts, songs, teachers and maybe where you first accepted Jesus.
Maybe you didn’t go to VBS and further explanation is needed. VBS is a fun and exciting adventure that helps children explore the Bible and encourages real-life application and provides an opportunity to accept Jesus. To better understand the impact of VBS, here are some statistics reported by Lifeway in 2016. 72,925 decisions to accept Jesus as savior, 56,386 people enrolled in Sunday school as a result of attending VBS, and an average 2.7 million people enrolled in VBS.
If these statistics are not impressive enough, the Barna Group Research published in 2013 that 43 percent of Americans make a commitment to Jesus before the age of 13, and 64 percent make that commitment to Jesus before their 18th birthday. The great thing is VBS programs don’t just target children, but it also has potential to impact their families, who may not attend church regularly.
This year, Church of the Living God decided to use Lifeway’s VBS program entitled “Submerged: Finding Truth below the surface.” During our underwater adventure we “scoured the mysterious fathoms of the deep sea.” We learned about the thrilling discoveries just beyond the portholes of our yellow submarine, such as colorful coral, amazing types of fish, and dark, unfamiliar sea creatures for those brave enough to dive deep.
Things look very different once you get below the surface — and that’s true for life above the surface, too.
In the many days, weeks and months leading up to our opening night of VBS one of the first tasks was to develop a decoration team. This important team would help children visualize and physically experience the deep sea adventure throughout every area of the church. Our backdrops, character creation, scene setting and development are truly nothing short of what you might see at a Broadway musical. These areas included the Worship Helm where kids learned motions to songs and watched a short video each night of the adventures of Louis and Skeeter; Deep Sea Crafts where kids get to make a take home a craft each night which enforces that night’s bible point; Deep Sea Bible Adventure where kids are taught from the Word of God that nights lesson and bible point; Deep Sea Games where kids get to play games which help to enforce that nights bible point; and Sub-Station Café Snacks where kids get fed a full meal.
Additionally, there were meetings with sound and media teams to ensure PowerPoint slides, videos, and music tracks run smoothly, and with church leaders to arrange time during service to present and promote VBS and ask for volunteers.
Recently we held our VBS for five nights. We had two separate groups: one for ages 3-4 and one for ages 5 through the sixth grade. Each night we “submerged” kids in God’s Holy Word. Our VBS memory scripture was found in Psalms 139:23-24, “Search me God and know my heart; try me and know my thought: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Our VBS motto was “Jesus Sees, Jesus Knows, Jesus Saves,” which helped each child know they are unique and of value to God.
Our VBS goal was to help children discover that Jesus sees people differently. Jesus didn’t see just what was on the outside, He saw people for who they were on the inside — down deep. We wanted to children to understand that as we learn to see ourselves the way Jesus sees us, we learn to look at others differently too. We realize that everyone needs a Savior and that a relationship with Jesus changes everything!
Each night began with the pledge of allegiance to the American flag, the Christian flag and the Bible, followed by reciting the memory scripture verse and singing and dancing to the theme song “Submerged,” “Remarkably Made” and “Deeper Still.” We also watched a short video production about the adventures of Louis and Skeeter ,and Captain Ironheart which helped kids to understand the real life application for that day’s bible point.
On night one we learned “Jesus saw Zacchaeus” for who he really was — a man in need of salvation (Luke 19:1-10). We had 114 in attendance (69 kids and 45 volunteers). The kids received a special treat during Sub-Station Café from an anonymous donor who purchased McDonalds for all of the kids in attendance.
On night two we learned that “Jesus saw the Woman at the well” and her true worth and offered her living water (John 4:1-42). We had 172 in attendance (108 kids and 64 volunteers).
On night three we learned that “Jesus saw Nicodemus” and his need for a savior (John 3:1-21; 19:38-42). We had 183 in attendance (115 kids and 68 volunteers). We had an altar call during the closing worship rally and 17 children accepted Jesus into their hearts. On the bus ride home from VBS, one of our volunteers reported that when one of the little girls got off the bus she told her mommy, “Tonight I welcomed Jesus into my heart.” Her mom was so touched that in that moment she began to cry.
Another volunteer reported that a young girl who wasn’t sure how to respond or react to kind comments or gestures, seemed to fully understand that love after inviting Jesus into her heart as she had the biggest smile on her face and willingly hugged the volunteer.
On night four we learned that “Jesus saw a blind man” with a purpose (John 9). We had 163 in attendance (93 kids and 70 volunteers). One of our volunteers was approached by a parent who decided to attend with her daughter who had been coming since the first night. The parent said her daughter had accepted Jesus into her heart the night before and she had noticed a change in her daughter’s behavior. She said she had been angry, unhappy and stressed before but since she came home last night and all of that day she has been pleasant, happy and smiling. The parent stated, “Her whole attitude has changed.”
On night five we learned that “Jesus saw the children” and loved and accepted them (Mark 10:13-16). We had 185 in attendance (115 kids and 70 volunteers). During the Sub-station Café the kids received a special treat as two volunteers made funnel cakes for the kids. Tonight was our final night and our last altar call. We had an additional 12 children invite Jesus into their hearts. Can I get an amen? Praise God!
Every church should be investing in areas like VBS because the impact in children’s lives and their family is eternal. This year our VBS helped children understand seeing below the surface means seeing others for who they really are — on the inside. Inside, we are all the same. We all need a savior.
“Jesus sees, Jesus knows, Jesus Saves.” You are important to God! We are all important enough for Jesus to die for. Jesus loves you.
Beth Plummer is VBS director at Church of the Living God.