Vacation Bible School (VBS) just ended at Montecito Covenant Church. This form of VBS is called Noah's Half-Day Camp and has been in operation for almost 30 years, beginning the summer before my immediate predecessor arrived. It is based on "Noah'a Ark" with each age group gathered around an animal: kangaroos, parrots, wolverines, etc. About 120 elementary and junior high kids filled the campus every day with two sets of loud music and energetic singing (see band below), followed by rotating activities like arts & craft (my wife Martha led with a team of helpers), sports, missions, a dramatic bible story, class time and snacks. It roared to life at 8:20 with staff announcements and devotions and then collapsed in exhaustion around 12:30 p.m. when the last of the volunteers left the campus (often to take much needed naps!)
The dirty little secret I have is that I have not always liked VBS. It seems like elaborate child care for other church children and youth who rotate through sequential VBS all summer long. It takes enormous energy and time to plan, run and recuperate from. And at the end of the day, the children and family return to their churches promising to come back next year.
Is this what the church is called to do? For a number of years I did not think so, until I encountered Noah's. At the recent camp, we had 10 men as teachers, volunteers and leaders. Several took vacation days to step in. A number had no children at home, but did it because they felt called. A number of women did the same thing, stepping out of professional life to step into the lives of children. The band was wholly made up of MCC youth and Noah's alumni, investing back into the sound of Noah's.
High school and college students woke early in the summer (amazing!) to pour themselves into these little lives!
I am tired and I did not teach any classes but wandered around with a cup of coffee blessing kids and teachers. But I now think this is discipleship at its best! It's one-on-one time with children and adults in a safe and healthy community creatively exploring what it means to follow Jesus and trust God. I would not miss this for the world!