Recently I had a brief conversation with another person about Vacation Bible School (VBS). I referred to VBS as a mission project and they inquired why I would name VBS as such. VBS has long been considered a program of the church, an event that happens because it has always happened. I have learned in my travels and conversations with others this is not the case anymore as many congregations around the nation have let go of VBS, allowing it to be a piece of their history. That we host VBS and consider it a mission project seems odd to others, but for those in our presbytery, VBS is still a vibrant part of our identity.
For us and others in our region VBS is both a traditional program of a congregation and a mission project. VBS in a small community requires ecumenical relationships to gather enough staff to host a week of VBS, to be sure you are not hosting the same week a nearby community is hosting, and to share supplies those years you can. VBS in a small community requires maintaining relationships with the local library, sports organization, and school because all have summer programs and the pool of children is small so we organize ourselves to not be in competition the best we can. VBS becomes a mission project for us because the nature of the work requires us to go outside of our building simply to begin planning. It continues as a mission project as we welcome children and adults from the larger community to join us in a week of learning and fun, and as we dedicate our efforts to raising money and/or supplies for a designated need.
Growing up some of my only contact with a worshiping community was through their VBS programs, I was one of those children who showed up unregistered, covered in summer sweat and dirt, for only a portion of the week. I was the child who was reluctant to play the games, sing the songs, and would sit sullenly (sometimes) and quietly (most times) while I tried to figure out who this Jesus was they kept talking about. I do not have a long history of VBS to inspire me to serve in this capacity. But I was called to a community that has a long vibrant history of VBS and for them the thought of VBS being relegated to history is not an option. Thankfully they have taught me what it means to love this mission project and how to find God at work in something so foreign to me.
This last week we joined together to host the VBS service in our town and once again I was amazed at how so many people come together to spend five mornings in a row providing a safe, fun, welcoming environment for our children and adults to learn about God’s action in the world. I know for others VBS might not seem much like a mission project or even a viable program for a congregation, but for me, an adult learning what it means to be a part of the Body of Christ, VBS remains one of the undertakings that reminds me of how different people united in one cause can glorify God through their work.