It’s that time of the year…
~ when temperatures soar and the days lengthen, ripen, sweeten and swell with the heaviness of the season’s fruit. Slip-n-slides, sprinklers and swimming pools fill with flinging and flailing, splashing and laughter.
It’s summertime and for many of us, the month of June also ushers in the 3rd largest celebration on the church calendar: Vacation Bible School!
I love me some VBS!
I don’t know if it was a Backyard Bible Club or a Vacation Bible School–but I clearly recall at least one childhood summer making yarn and stick “God’s eyes” and slurping drippy popsicles while watching the flannel-graph come to life before my very eyes! Whether or not I understood it was about Jesus…well, that’s a different story.
But you know as well as I do;
precious seeds were being sown.
Now, as a Christ-following adult, I look forward to this week as much as possible. I mean, let’s face it; it’s hard work to have this much energetic fun day after day for one week solid!
So when the sign up sheet comes around, once again I prayerfully accept the blessing of teaching the rising 7th grade group. For some reason, this used to be hardest slot to fill but honestly; these kids are my favorite. No lie.
At our church, this is the last stop before Youth Group in the Fall so these kids come to the table already feeling like they’ve earned their wings. Most likely, their parents MADE them come this week and they are certain they’re way too mature for VBS. So yeah; it can be a challenge.
It’s one I heartily accept. The best part about this group is: I don’t have to treat them like babies. While they, like me, still love to play (and should), they’re willing to shoot straight and open up… most of the time. So I shoot straight with them too.
Yeah, there’s a theme and a book full of games but I check that mess at the door. We pass out bibles and for 40 precious minutes, read the Scripture for the day and talk.
Right from the start I know one thing about these kids: the world they inhabit and are inheriting is vastly more complex than it was when I was their age. It’s terrifying if you think about it. The playground taunts no longer get left behind as bullying and bad news chase them down across a 4G network.
Then there’s the problem of real. What’s real anymore?
Photoshop, “reality” T.V., auto-tune and Youtube have blurred the lines so that it’s deathly difficult to discern what the truth is about anything anymore.
So before we start reading the story from the Bible…there’s an honest question I have to ask:
How can we know it’s true?
Oh well, you know; “Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so..” but today, the fiercest place of attack is whether or not the Bible is true and can we trust anything it says. So it’s important to take the time to simply show them yes, it is.
Some of these kids have been in church since they were only a sparkle in their Daddy’s eye. They cut their teeth on goldfish crackers and apple juice. They know the stories, they know the ‘right’ answers…but do they know the Savior? Can they trust His Word?
Obviously, one week of five 40-minute lessons is not enough time to make a watertight case but it’s plenty of time to offer a simple apologetic lesson on who to trust, what to trust and why we can trust in God and His Word.
If we can’t trust it then, why are we there?
This world is a storm and they need to know there’s a solid place to anchor their faith so they can begin to own and understand what they believe. I tell them the same thing I’ve told my own children:
” It’s not enough for you to say you believe simply because I do. God is not going to ask you for my (your parent’s) credentials. But here is how you can believe and why.”
It’s a privileged moment.
Only then can we spend the time in our lessons, free to learn about fear and faith, those God uses, how and why because we are anchoring in the solid bedrock of absolute Truth.
We learn the reason those lessons and stories have been preserved in the Bible is not only for the sake of learning about individuals, their journey of faith and a time ANCHORED in history…but also because God has given us this pattern of faith to follow and this is where it leads.
We learn the 12 of us gathered are there by His invitation; it’s no accident. God is speaking and calling us by name because there’s work to be done by us for Him… at any age.
They talk. They listen. They are silent.
They sniffle a bit as I read from Crazy Love, about Brooke Bronkowski, the 14-year-old girl who saved her baby sitting money to buy Bibles for her unsaved friends and started a bible study at school before her death. Two hundred more people attending her funeral prayed to receive Christ and received one of those bibles.
They watch in awe as, on the final day, I play the Lifehouse video “Everything”, (which gives me chills every time) because they see although the darkness of this world will try to drag them down, their Jesus will fight for them and WIN!
They see, they hear, they begin to understand how, even and especially now, they can believe too.
This is a sacred work.
The week is over and we’ve gone our separate ways. I pray the work in their hearts will continue and they’ll never forget.
For me, I know I won’t forget how one young lady pulled me aside sharing how God is talking to her and asked some very important questions before going home. The eagerness in her eyes told me everything.
We prayed and suddenly she grabbed me in the tightest little hug and with Her face buried in my chest, between tears she said, “Thank you…oh thank you. This means SO much.”