Vacation Bible School is right around the corner
May’s approaching means the school year is almost over and churches across the county are preparing for Vacation Bible School. This concentrated time of Bible study, activity, music, crafts, recreation, refreshments and fun for children and students usually is held during a week of “summer vacation.” Times have changed and people take vacations throughout the year these days, so the emphasis should be called “Summer Bible School,” but Vacation Bible School, or VBS, is the traditional name.
VBS was the brainchild of Mrs. Walter Aylette Hawes, a doctor’s wife who was concerned about so many children wandering the streets of New York. In 1898 and 1899, she rented space on New York’s east side to conduct her “Everyday Bible School” as opposed to “Sunday School.”
As the 20th century dawned, VBS became a growing trend. At first, VBS was a four-week event. Eventually, it became a two-week emphasis and was incorporated into churchlife. Today, most last one week.
Preparation and follow-up, on the other hand, take weeks before and weeks after the event is completed. Our dedicated workers at McDonough Road Baptist spend several weeks decorating their rooms to coordinate with this year’s emphasis. They spend hours preparing their material and lesson plans. Once VBS is completed, the work continues as Sunday School teachers visit children to see if the church family can minister in any way and to invite them to visit us on Sundays.
For me, VBS is not only a present blessing, but also a pleasant childhood memory. My early years were spent at Jefferson Avenue Baptist Church in East Point. We’d have a crowd. I still remember Bible verses that I learned in those summer settings. I remember gluing popsicle sticks together to make a “plaque” and then gluing on macaroni letters that read, “what time I am afraid I will trust in Thee,” (Psalm 56:3).
I remember always looking forward to refreshment time, which usually meant peanut butter crackers and a bottle of Nehi grape or orange soda. After moving to Milledgeville, I remember riding in a bicycle parade to promote VBS in the neighborhood.
VBS later played a key role in my call to ministry. As a college student, I applied to be a Baptist Student Union summer missionary. Baptist Student Union, now called Baptist Collegiate Ministry, is a Baptist-supported ministry to students on campuses across the nation. Every summer hundreds of students contribute their summer to serve in various roles overseas and nationally.
I was appointed to serve as a vacation Bible school worker in the Bahamas. (It was a tough assignment, but someone had to do it). I was Georgia’s representative on a team of 12 students who were divided into teams, teamed with Bahamian youth and assigned to different churches over a five-week period. Our team stayed in Nassau and worked with five different churches helping to lead VBS.
I taught the youth, and my two partners worked with the children and the preschoolers respectively. At the end of two weeks, my partners wanted to switch. One of them took youth, the other took children, and I ended up with the preschoolers. I didn’t really picture myself as a preschool worker, but it was a time of exercising great flexibility and of realizing how God could use me if I was just willing to be used. It was a time of tremendous personal and spiritual growth. Looking back, I now see how God used that formative experience to show me He could use me as a full-time minister.
Vacation Bible Schools are still going strong helping lots of children and young people learn more about the Bible and about how to have a stronger relationship with God. They also give lots of people an opportunity to serve the Lord by teaching children.
Our McDonough Road Baptist Church VBS is June 4-8, 9-noon, and the theme is Amazing Wonders Aviation: Encountering God’s Awesome Power. We’d love to have your children participate with us! You can enroll by going to our website or by coming by the church office.
Dr. David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church in Fayetteville. The church family gathers at 352 McDonough Road, just past the department of drivers’ services building, and invites you to join them this Sunday for Bible study at 9:45 a.m. and worship at 10:55 a.m. Visit us on the web at www.mcdonoughroad.org.