Vacation Bible School
Reprinted from 2011 Special Issue on Preaching
When I was a young girl, I remember going with my Dad to the Pomona Hall on a Monday morning during the summer to help with Vacation Bible School (VBS). My excitement grew the closer we got to the Hall. Who was going to be there from the neighborhood or our Sunday school? Would they want to learn more about God and choose to seek Him?
As I look back on that experience I don’t remember who came, but it made an enormous impression on me. That seed stayed dormant within me for over 30 years, but in 1998 Sis. Kristy Robinson and I started talking and praying about having a VBS at the Simi Hills Ecclesia. As an ecclesia we had decided to have the Truth Corps come and help with the preaching in our community. Having the Truth Corps was a perfect opportunity to start having VBS. Kristy and I put together a proposal and presented it to the arranging brethren to have a VBS during the time Truth Corps was with us. They gave us the green light and we haven’t looked back since. Since 1998, we have conducted VBS each summer in our ecclesia.
The two main objectives of VBS were both to expose the local community (both children and adults) to the teachings of God and also explain who the Christadelphians are. We would not measure success by “numbers” but by whether these two objectives were met. This proved to be critical as we developed the program over the years. We would work at sowing as much seed as we could and allow God to grant the increase.
Taking on such a project requires us to use all the various talents we possess within an ecclesia. Whether your talent is in advertising, telling stories, carpentry/painting, coloring, cooking, computer, graphic arts, listening, phones, photography, photo copying, singing, sewing, teaching the adult class, or even wiping away a tear or giving a hug there — there is a place for all willing workers. Some would be greeters, teachers, crafters and “foodies.” The CYC also made an important hands-on contribution with the school
The first year we had 35 kids — 34 from our own Sunday School and 1 from the community. We were so excited! By 2010, two-thirds of our attendees were from the community. We now teach an average of 80 children and have over 60 adult and CYC volunteers from two different ecclesias. Some volunteers help prior to the week of VBS, others during the week and then another group of individuals do post VBS communication. Annual planning of VBS has become easier due to a consistent format and an experienced ecclesia.
Our philosophy for teaching has developed throughout the years. Since everyone learns differently, we make sure we use as many different styles of learning as we can. Our program allows the children not only to listen to stories, but to act them out. We provide crafts which allow them to touch and feel. We sing, dance, play games, read, write and memorize — all in a span of three hours. Some have asked if we have a discipline problem — the answer is no. They’re too busy “doing”. We reward good behavior and ignore the bad.
In 2010 our theme was “Let’s Build an Ark” so we covered all the walls of the main hall with brown butcher paper and made it look like wood planks. It was soon transformed to look like the inside of Noah’s ark. We enlisted the help of a bearded brother who was willing to dress up. He became “Noah” and every morning came to visit the kids telling them the story of faith from his life.
Since the first year we have developed the program to provide a week of learning, focused on God’s people and how their character was developed through their daily lives. For example: Daniel helped us learn how to pray, Ruth and Naomi taught us how to love and have faith in God, Paul and Silas encouraged us to preach, Nicodemus demonstrated the courage to believe and Saul showed us we can turn our lives around to serve Him.
Our Friday night BBQ provides an opportunity for the kids to showcase the songs and the lessons they have learned throughout the week. The families of all the kids are encouraged to come for dinner and see their kids perform and listen to a short bible talk. A 15-20 minute talk reviews the lessons the kids have learned and relates it to God’s plan of salvation. Friday night’s BBQ has now grown into an evening of more than 200 people attending from the community and our ecclesia. It’s nice to see families returning year after year.
It is important to have a post-VBS plan of action as well. The Simi Hills and Verdugo Hills Ecclesias are active in a number of community service activities and outreach events. These include collection of items for community food banks and clothing for shelters, and renting booths at the local Farmers Market or Street Fair to pass out Bible Companions or advertise the upcoming seminars. We are also finding it is invaluable for preaching to have an active email address list. About half of our communication is done via the Internet.
Because numbers and percentages are not part of our measurement, we have been able to look more clearly at the bigger picture for the impact of VBS. VBS has introduced kids and adults to the Bible and has provided a forum to help our CYC members learn how to teach and pray. Then the next step for them is to become teachers and leaders. It has been a fantastic journey to watch our young mature into leaders within our ecclesia. Although we have not had anyone from the community come on a regular basis, we do have a community who knows who the Christadelphians are. But, who is to say the seeds sown are only for the community? It’s been a safe place for our own members to bring a family member or friend participate in the ecclesia. Vacation Bible School has been a priceless opportunity to minister to inside and out of our ecclesia.
Sis. Sandy McLeod (Simi Hills, CA)