You watched cars pour into the parking lot. You saw pictures of kids whacking each other with pool noodles on Facebook. And, you have heard some cute stories about kids singing, “Operation Arctic.” But do you really know all that happened at FBCE’s 2017 VBS?
If you can spare a few minutes, I will happily to tell you the “rest of the story” (as Paul Harvey used to say). Let’s get ready!
WHAT THE NUMBERS SAID:
We did not know what to expect when we opened the doors to the Children’s Ministry Center (CMC) on Monday, June 5. Over the last three years, FBCE’s VBS average attendance has dropped after reaching a high of 254 kids per night in 2014. I was bracing for that negative to trend to continue.
Thankful my expectations were off base! I am excited to report that our average attendance per day shot up from 166 kids in 2016 to 218 kids in 2017. Our average attendance grew by more than thirty-one percent this year! And more than 50 of those kids were coming to VBS via our bus ministry.
The largest growth took place in the middle school and upper elementary classes. The 7th and 8th grade class grew by forty-seven percent, the 6th grade class grew by seventy-one percent, and the 5th grade class grew by sixty-one percent. I loved seeing so many older kids excited about the gospel!
Though most of the numbers were unbelievably good, our kindergarten, 1st grade, and second grade classes all shrunk this year. This year may have been an anomaly. But those numbers are worth watching as we go forward. The lower elementary grades and the preschool classes often give us a glimpse of what our future ministry will look like.
Though we had far more kids than anticipated, FBCE’s VBS team meet the challenge with unparalleled poise. Kids were checked in easily (at least after Monday). Snacks came in and out of the rooms in the blink of an eye. Games were fun. Music was exciting. And, the crafts were engaging. Before the kids could blink, the two hours of Bible teaching and activities were over. I truly think organizationally and functionally, VBS 2017 was FBCE’s best VBS that I have experienced!
Our attendance reached a peak of 245 kids Wednesday night, June 7. But our Vacation Bible school was so well organized and run, you would have thought only 100 kids were in the building.
It’s undeniable. God blessed the FBCE with a great team of VBS workers. Over 110 people cooked, drove buses, organized crafts, taught song motions, lead games, and shared the Scriptures during the week of June 5-9. And because our adults sacrificed their time and energy, FBCE was able to share Christ with over 250 kids throughout the week.
Though everyone is worthy of a mention, I only have to space to mention two people. I wish to thank Christy Wynn and Summer Sheffield for spending hours recruiting volunteers, problem solving, and answering questions. They kept VBS from being an tangled mess and freed me and others up talk to parents, to address sinful children, and to teach. Thank you guys! And thank you FBCE!
THE GOOD NEWS
And now for the real good news.
VBS is ultimately not all about attendance, numbers, and stats. (Though I do like them a bunch!) VBS should be about the gospel! To have a successful VBS, a church must preach the gospel!
FBCE presented the gospel with gusto all week long! All of our teachers did an excellent job teaching the Bible and pointing kids to Christ. We loved using the Answer In Genesis Operation Arctic Curriculum as it equipped our teachers to teach the word. , FBCE’s VBS was a resounding success!
But the gospel was not just preached. God used it to transform lives!
We challenged our kids to raise $650 for missions at the beginning of the week. I thought the kids would fall short of their goal, lacking earthly incentives to give. (Yeppers, I did not want to take another pie in the face.) We asked the kids to give from a sincere heart. At the end of Thursday night, my dire expectations were almost our reality. The children had only given a little over $270. But then with time running out,
God did the amazing! By the time the last song ended on Sunday night, our kids gave $846.83 to missions! WOW! God is good!
The surest sign of God’s blessing this year was the outpouring of his spirit. Ten children made professions of faith during the week of VBS after hearing the gospel preached. We taught and they voluntarily responded! Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
I think FBCE has mastered VBS! We licked our last major logistical challenges. By having snacks delivered to each class, by shortening the evening from a 2.5 hrs. time frame to a 2 hrs. time frame, and by having all the kids dropped off in the CMC, we did away with the free-time that fostered conflicts and eliminated the confusion that greeted families when they first arrived.
We also did a better job of connecting with kids’ parents. By moving our celebration to Sunday tonight, we had more than 300 people worship with us as the gospel was preached. We exceeded our Friday night celebration attendance by more than a 100 people. I believe we have found our VBS sweet spot.
Going forward, we do not need to make any major structural changes. But, I think we may need to spend some time reflecting on the purpose of VBS.
If VBS exists to expose churched kids to the gospel in an intense and fun environment, then having VBS when summer first begins at church for 2 hrs. during evening makes sense.
But if our purpose is to reach the lost (i.e. VBS is truly an evangelistic event) then we may need answer some probing questions: Should we move VBS to the end of the summer so that we can use VBS as a bridge into our Wednesday night kids’ program? Or should we leave the church building and have VBS in homes and neighborhoods across Eastman? If VBS is supposed to be about outreach, shouldn’t we go out?
I am not sure how to answer all of these questions. I invite you to ponder them with me as we prepare for 2018.
Enough from me. Now it’s your turn! I would love to hear your VBS stories, highlights and reflections! Please post them below in the comment section.