Friday, June 13, 2014

Time to change Vacation Bible School?

Ever since I came to Christ, I've been associated with churches which do a few days to a week of Vacation Bible School each summer.  Often, the youth pastor will speak a Sunday or two before VBS, reminding the congregation of the need to reach people while they are young, encouraging them to take part in VBS, and the like.  During VBS, there will be crafts, games, high energy music, and quite frankly a fair amount of "encouragement" to "pray the prayer" and become a Christian.

Afterwards, there will typically be exultation over the number of children who have "come to Christ", praise for the VBS team, and......

....afterwards, the VBS team and youth pastor go into a weeks-long decompression and coma from all of the activity.  At this point, it's a good thing that few if any of those kids who decided to pray the prayer actually follows through and goes to church, because the youth workers are too tired to shepherd them.

Oops, wait a minute.  That's not a good thing, is it?   Let's go to Matthew 13 and see what Christ says about this.....OK, we have the possibility that we've actually done evangelism for other churches.....OK, they're not seeing a huge increase in attendance, either.....or what we have is either seed on stony soil, seed choked out by weeds, or seed not planted at all, as far as I can take the Parable of the Sower.

More or less, I've been involved in children's ministry in seven churches since I came to Christ, and out of the thousands of "decisions" that these churches would claim from VBS, I can't think of anyone I've met who actually followed through and followed Christ who wasn't in church already.  There are presumably exceptions, but all in all, the overall effect is as if you'd sent the sower out into Death Valley.  Food for the birds and nothing more, really.

So what is wrong?  Well, allowing for people moving, changing churches, and the ordinary difficulty of following up with new believers, I'd have to argue that what is going on is that the "pressure tactics" (loud music, pressure to "pray the prayer", etc..) does not regenerate people.  Rather, they "go along to get along" and then....."snap back" the day after VBS ends to their former state.  They'll tell you they had a great time (and they enjoyed games, snacktime, and such, to be sure), but you will not see them in church.

What's to be done?  I'm not sure what all needs to be done, but it strikes me that if we want to see real decisions for Christ, churches might do well to sit down with the VBS team and say something like this.

Folks, as far as I can tell, we spent $3000 and 2000 man-hours preparing for VBS this year.  We had 35 apparent decisions for Christ, but I hate to tell you this, but none of them are in church with us.  We have done a great job making false fruit. 

What we're going to do is this. We're going to reduce the time spent preparing for VBS by half, reduce the decorations by half, and let's spend the time and money we save studying some books on evangelism that do not use pressure tactics.  In the meantime, the deacons and pastor are going to look carefully through the VBS programs we've been using, and we're going to make sure we're actually presenting the Gospel to these kids in a coherent way.

13 comments:

tobin said...

Good points. And timely, as today is the last day of our church's VBS.

Just teach them about Jesus. No pressure tactics, no sales, no "praying the prayer" -since that's not what saves anyhow. Just show them Jesus.

Bike Bubba said...

Amen. Discussed this with another brother today, and we realized that if people are praying to receive Christ--theoretically--but nothing happens because it was just induced by pressure, we may be actually inoculating vast numbers of people AGAINST the Gospel.

Hope I am dead wrong here, but if there is anything to this, hope somebody is listening....

Jim Peet said...

Bert: We used this on Sharper Iron here

C A Watson said...

We are doing something completely different this year. We are taking three days and walking the children through half of the Old Testament, focusing on the big picture story - heading towards the gospel. We have some games (and our music is far more conservative than any normal VBS, or regular Baptist church for that matter). And we are testing the children on the material at the end.

Bike Bubba said...

Thanks--I'll see if the SI administrator approves my application to comment there. Some good comments there.....

Anonymous said...

C. A. Watson, your comment sounds refreshing... as I decompress from last week. I'll be praying for all these things here and those who lead our churches. All things for His Glory.

Mrs. Bike Bubba

Maeve said...

Mr. Bubba, we do a VBS at our church, but really, it's just for a fun week's activity for the parish children.

I had never heard of Vacation Bible School until I moved to the south, and then, (LOL) I was slightly scandalized that a Catholic church would have one (somethings were just things Protestants did and Catholics didn't do - I could only assume that a Bible School of any kind was one such thing)

Elspeth said...

Good post, Bike. It raises good questions.

Mark said...

Our church gave up the idea of baby-sitting other churches' children a couple of years ago...

Bike Bubba said...

Mark, sounds like time for a post on the topic on "Nature's Most Perfect Food", brother. No? How and why was the decision made?

Jim Peet said...

The S/I membership person fixed your membership. I did not set you up correctly. You should be able to post comments now.

Ray D. said...

The idea that VBS is meant to elicit "decisions for Christ" is all wrong. The rest of the Church's ministry is to lead people to Christ, and a lot of the time that will not look very dramatic.

If you set the goals of the VBS differently, then you can succeed in a) Giving kids a good social time in the summer b) giving some moms a break c) introducing the Church to the neighborhood, through a) and b), d) helping the kids to know the bible better.

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