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Parent/Pastor Thoughts on VBS

This week we sent our kids to 2 different VBS, 1 Baptist and 1 Methodist. My wife and I are both clergy serving a church that

hasn’t hosted VBS in the 5 years we’ve been there, this is the first time we’ve sent the kids to VBS and here’s what that distance helped us see.

1.VBS really is a gift to parents, primarily those who don’t volunteer to help with it. Hours of free engagement, activity and learning. Kids come home both excited and exhausted. So good. And if you’re not helping, it gives you Summer space to breathe.

2.VBS levels the “experience” playing field for church volunteers and is a great entry-level gig. Spoke to two volunteers who had joined their church within the last 2 yrs and they said they met more fellow church members through VBS than any other opportunity.

3.Nothing else requires a church to be intergenerational like VBS. It’s so good and rich to see older guides leading kids, curmudgeon church members door greeting preschoolers and Youth learning bible stories to teach them to littles.

4.Jesus is still dying on Thursdays at VBS…why? Why does Jesus have to die at VBS at all? Aren’t there better venues for helping kids hear the story of Jesus’ death? #talkingtoyouGroup.

5.VBS as predominantly practiced isn’t creation care conscious. One featured a stage-length underwater reef made of Cut Pool Noodles (that looked INCREDIBLE). What do you do with that after VBS is over? Does it make a tour of High School “Enchantment Under The Sea” dances? Does it become a new exotic backdrop for Dillards family portraits? Maybe curriculum offered suggestions for upcycling it- hope so, but doubt it. TONS of consumer waste are produced by a single VBS. Both kids got Fanny packs packed with novelties- times 200 kids.

6. Curriculum writers have gotten damn good at making pop-y, catchy faith-forming songs and dances. Our kids are singing them constantly and beg us to play them in the car (and VBS folk have put the songs on streaming services). None are terribly annoying.

7.And yet- they’re still trying to set beloved traditional hymns in pop contexts. Great Is Thy Faithfulness as an ‘80s rock ballad…I mean, I still sang along but…ugh...

8.There will always be complainers at VBS. Overheard at the end of week picnic, from a person who used to organize this particular church VBS: “The Video Skits are fine and all, but wasn’t it so much better when our people did them?” Production value wise? Nope nope nope.

9.Crafts have been domesticated. The Other Rev. made an ashtray at her childhood 1980s VBS in West TX, and at one small town VBS I went to as a kid I was handed a nail, hammer and small rough cut of sheet metal to make “punch hole art.” Tetanus be damned. Is it really a VBS craft if in some way your life or the life of the volunteer helping you isn’t threatened with physical harm for the sake a new keepsake that your loved ones may immediately throw away?

10.It doesn’t matter if you have a Rock Concert VBS or a Camp Simple Song VBS- what matters is the energy, the love and the faith that you show. Both churches had different approaches, and our girls loved both equally. Both were really well done.

11.Lastly- for years I’ve heard clergy belabor VBS (and have done that myself); the amount of effort, arguments, and resources it takes. After 1 week of sending my kids to it for the first time (in 2 places), I totally see the value of it in the broader community….

and I am humbled that a group of people would work that hard (when they don’t have to) to provide that for my family who will likely never come to their church. It’s wonderful to see faithfulness in my kids in new ways.

So Thank you for reading this unintentional VBS dissertation this is more than I think I’ve ever tweeted…like, collectively, and frankly I’m pretty shocked I chose VBS as my first thread topic. Enjoy!

Reverend Ryan Motter-Associate Minister at Community Christian Church in Kansas City, Missouri


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