We're celebrating 90 - that's 90 years of providing the very best VBS curriculum, resources, and training - by going to the archives for ideas and advice that is just as relevant today as the day it was first printed. The following article was originally published in 1998.
Some of my clearest memories from childhood are of Vacation Bible School. A few of them are eating ice cream on the front lawn of the church, the minister of music leading songs for my class, gathering for the large group picture of everyone in VBS, carrying one of the flags on parents' night, and actually going into the pastor's office while touring the entire building. And the cookies and punch, of course.
While preparing for my first VBS as a church staff member, my perspective of VBS focused more on job descriptions and responsibilities than anticipation and excitement. Enlisting leaders, ordering literature, and the hundreds of other details required was taking more time than I thought it would. And I was scared that if the week did not go well, my first VBS as a minister of education would also be my last VBS as a minister of education.
When the big week arrived, I led a group of first graders on a tour through our church building and took them to the office to meet our pastor. When he said: "Hello, boys and girls. Thank you for coming to visit me today," the words sounded familiar. They were the same ones I had heard during VBS when I was in first grade!
I realized that what was happening right then was likely so impressive for the children that they would probably remember it for years to come. I also realized that many of the other seemingly insignificant events of the week would also make lasting impressions. We were making memories similar to the ones I recall fondly.
That experience improved my perspective of VBS. Until then I had viewed VBS as another event on the calendar, another job to do. I was able to regain the anticipation and excitement.
Now I look forward to VBS every year. It's a great week! I intentionally clear my scheduled of everything else and jump into VBS with both feet. I enjoy having the opportunity to meet and talk with many children. (I find that church staff members are held in high esteem by the average seven-year-old!) I visit different classes and see what crafts and other activities they're doing. I have occasionally had opportunities to visit with new church members who are working in VBS and ended up with new Sunday School teachers for the coming fall. And I do make it by the church kitchen once in awhile to run quality control tests on the chocolate chip cookies. (Someone has to do it!)
But far more important than the sentimental memories and the cookies are the learning opportunities and life-changing decisions likely to take place during the week. VBS is one of our best times to lead children to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus. The precious hours of VBS each year are not to be wasted.
Look at those old pictures of yourself in VBS when you were in elementary school, and get ready for a great week this year!
Written by Ross Burton, who at the time served as Minister of Education and Administration, Calvary Baptist Church, Little Rock, Arkansas, and published in The Sunday School Leader, February 1998. Burton currently serves as Minister of Administration at First Baptist Church Jonesboro, Arkansas.