Say Y-Y-Y-Yes to the V-V-VBS

Published 9:07am Thursday, June 13, 2013

By Rev. Jonathan Yarboro
Greetings from the corner of Bridge and Bridge! The word is out. Churches of every variety are busy preparing, promoting and perpetrating that great tradition of church: summer Vacation Bible School. The signs are literally everywhere.
I wish churches would have VBS all the time. I am of the opinion that the church, any church, is at its best when VBS is happening. Worship, Bible study, crafts, food and fellowship are always part of the mix. Sometimes costumes, sets and props are thrown in. No wonder people have so much fun and remember the things they learn!
Don’t get me wrong. I know why churches only do it for a week every year. It takes a tremendous amount of time and energy to pull off a good VBS. Very few church members have that kind of time and energy to spare on a consistent basis. Sure, we can pull out all the stops for one week out of the year, but 52? I don’t think so.
Additionally, if we did it all the time it wouldn’t be special any more. People would start to get burned out or bored. The physical facilities of the church would deteriorate at a rapid rate. Budgets would be blown. Maybe year-round VBS isn’t such a hot idea after all.
I have a better suggestion. What if the church as an institution actually learned something from VBS? There’s a novel idea. Is it possible that the institution so many fear is charging into oblivion and/or irrelevance could actually change?
I am hard on the institution of the church because I love the institution of the church. This may be due to the fact that I literally grew up in the church. I don’t know how to live without the church. I guess you could say I don’t know any better. I am actually OK with that.
I do think there is one lesson the church must learn from the VBS experience. I truly believe there is a great deal of kingdom building God wants to see happen on this earth. I also believe the institution of the church can play a huge role in God’s work, if only we will allow it.
I am blessed to serve a congregation that takes its open invitation seriously. I know I am not alone in this blessing and that there are many churches that do likewise. This open invitation is best experienced during VBS. No one ever seems to care who comes and goes from VBS. “The more the merrier” is the prevailing motto of the day.
Jesus modeled open invitation to all he encountered. Jesus never wasted a single moment trying to figure out who belonged, who should be fed or who could participate. Jesus never turned anyone away. Jesus welcomed everyone to the party.
The institution of the church recognizes Jesus’ example most fully during VBS, I believe. Unfortunately, as is often witnessed by religious news headlines, the church regularly spends an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to figure out who is welcome and who should be kept out. No wonder more and more people identify themselves as “spiritual but not religious.”
Jesus offers a litmus test for the church. Any time a ministry of a church seeks to exclude anyone, that ministry is violating gospel truth. Yes, I really believe living as a child of God can be that simple. This isn’t a Presbyterian thing, either. After all, I got my article title from escorting Josephine to her week at First Baptist VBS! Think about it.

The Rev. Jonathan Yarboro is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Wetumpka.

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