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Vacation Bible School: A Ministry of the Past?
By Pat Sheets

I am writing this column as somewhat of a confession. This is the second year in a row that my church has not sponsored a Vacation Bible School program. The fading of VBS is not unique to my church. I have noticed fewer and fewer banners stretched across church lawns announcing what was once a yearly revival for kids.

In my defense, I did give some brief thought to overseeing a summer program for the kids, but flashbacks from my last VBS experience kept surfacing. The nightmare began during a church planning session. Someone mentioned Vacation Bible School just as I was leaving for the ladiesí room. I returned moments later to learn I had been elected Vacation Bible School Director by unanimous vote.

"My, that was quick!" I said to the group. It had taken two hours to decide between original recipe or extra crispy chicken for the upcoming picnic. God must have prompted my appointment as director. What an honor!

I immediately began planning the big event by seeking counsel from the prior yearís director. When I called her, we were disconnected just as I spoke the words, "Vacation Bible School". I called again, but there was no answer. Assuming there was a problem with the phone line, I waited until the next day and called once more. A voice mail answered: "This number is protected by Nuisance Annihilator. We do not accept calls from charitable organizations, telemarketers, or Vacation Bible School solicitors. Please delete this number from your calling list as required by The National Council for the Preservation of Sanity."

I was beginning suspect that the former VBS Director was avoiding me, so I decided to cultivate a program of my own. My objective was to bring as many children as possible into the church for a five-day adventure that would help them learn about Jesus. Little did I know that I would learn a few lessons, too. For instance:

The terms potty-trained and childproof fall under the heading of false doctrine.
There is probably a reason why a child was named Dare.
Eight-year old boys like to carry rocks and bugs in their pockets.
Eight-year old girls do not like rocks or bugs.
Once dry, Play-dough can only be removed from a childís nose through surgery.
"911" takes longer than you may think to dial.
The Fire Department has no cap on the number of times they will respond in a day.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can be successfully treated through medication and therapy.

These lessons are of immeasurable value, however, I came to realize other truths of a far greater significance. I learned, for instance, that the word "parents" has become an anomaly. The custodial unit of todayís family more often than not consists of a single head of household. More than two-thirds of the children who attended the last VBS at my church lived with either Mom or Dad, but not both parents.

I learned that you should not say to a child "Mommy or Daddy will pick you up soon." When I said those words to a five-year-old girl whose mom was a few minutes late, she crawled under a table and begged that I not make her ride home with her "Mean Daddy thatís supposed to be in jail".

A six-year-old boy caused me to realize that adulthood comes all-too-soon for some children. Each day at snack time, he would devour half his cookie, then neatly wrap the other half in a napkin and place it in his book bag to take home. "Is a whole cookie too big for you?í I asked one day.

"No." he replied. "Iím taking some of it home for my little brother. Sometimes he gets hungry before bedtime, and we donít have cookies at our house."

A twenty-one-year-old single mother made me realize that the church is sometimes better at rendering advice than providing services. "Everyone in my church told me not to get an abortion when I got pregnant. Vacation Bible School, however, is the first time anyone from a church has offered to watch Joey while I work."

I learned that the "haves" do not associate with the "have nots" on the playground, that dental care is an unaffordable luxury in many households, and substance abuse can begin before a child hits a double-digit age. The most frightening fact that I learned, however, is that the children could teach me far more than I could ever teach them.

Once again I ask myself why I complacently watch another summer escape without attempting to revive what is becoming a relic. My honest answer is that I think it is time for someone else to step up to the plate and take over. I have had my days with Vacation Bible School and all its frustrations. I am tired and ready for a break.

But, what about the disciples who walked endless miles to spread Godís word? They must have gotten tired. And how about Jesus in the desert without nourishment or rest for forty days, so exhausted that God sent angels to care for Him? Then there was Jesusí own words, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 19:14 NKJ). He did not end the sentence with "Unless you are tired and ready for a break."

Perhaps I need to give Vacation Bible School more thought. "Because I was tired", might not be a good enough answer when I stand before God on Judgment Day.
Pat Sheets is a freelance writer with an offbeat sense of humor. She lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with the three men in her life: Jack, her husband, is a pastor. Duncan and Barkley are pound-saved mutts but none-the-less, her "boys".
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