I confess – I love Vacation Bible School.
This has been a fun week for me, slightly removed from the main action. I’ve caught portions of the dramatic monologues that introduced important Wesley characters and 18th Century life, admired the realistic sets that transported us back in time, and enjoyed the snacks produced by the kitchen crew.
Even though my participation this week has been minimal, my experience with helping at VBS, Sunday School, and camps began when I was a teen. For me, teaching is a chance to explore topics I don’t know and learn new things, even while trying to share that information with kids.
Sitting on the sidelines of this VBS, I see what I think is most important in forming servants of Jesus – caring relationships. The laps that are available during snack time, the quiet presence with someone who’s feeling out of sorts, enthusiastic support for creative endeavors, storytellers who invite the children into the story – these are hallmarks of loving others and inviting them into a relationship with Jesus and the church.
A few years ago my pastor asked several of us to share memories of childhood experiences at church, as our congregation prepared to welcome children and families. Honestly, I don’t remember a single VBS from childhood, although I know I was there. I do remember caring Sunday School teachers who took us swimming; youth leaders who made it possible to attend training events; and adults who listened to us, challenged our thinking, and loved us. I felt warmly welcomed most of the time at those churches.
Others from my church had fewer positive memories. They remembered being scolded for tracking mud on new floors or being tasked to sit and behave in front of the congregation for the whole worship service or finding their trust in adults betrayed. Humans make up the church, and we can – and do -- fall short.
That’s where leadership and vision comes in. Teachers and helpers can be encouraged to learn new ways of doing things, to develop realistic expectations about children’s behavior and to find ways to make the Bible and other materials relevant and meaningful. I am so impressed with the care and leadership at EPUMC, beginning with the staff – Pastor Dan, Deb, Don and Rick – and the ways they care for children. That care is multiplied by all who are working directly with kids. It’s obvious to me that this has been an important ministry for a long time.
Thank you, EPUMC folks who shared your time and talents this week! Pastor Dan is away at Annual Conference, and so he asked me to write the Weekly Memo. I invite all of you to come Sunday morning to learn more about John and Charles Wesley and the people called Methodist and to share in the exuberant spirit of VBS. There will be energetic singing; I’ve overheard the rehearsals.