Encountering God in the Fun of VBS
Vacation. Break. Fun. Extra Time.
Those buzzwords remind us that summer brings an interruption from the normal routine, especially for those whose lives revolve around the school schedule. For Caryn Short, it offers her more time to seek God’s presence and spend more of her time worshipping, growing and serving, which she says helps deepen her connection with God.
Caryn: In the summer I have more time to seek God’s presence, and when I’m more involved, I think that helps me recognize God’s voice.
That priority is reflected in one of Caryn’s summer traditions: volunteering at VBS. Some of her most vivid childhood memories involve her time as a VBS volunteer when she was a teenager. Years later, with children of her own, she felt a desire to volunteer at VBS again and experience those same moments that she had as a child.
Caryn: VBS brings together all the things that I love: Jesus & the Bible, church and children, teaching, worship and music. It’s an opportunity to get to be silly and have fun and put all those things together. But it’s also an opportunity for kids to hear how much God loves them and that they are a child of God and I think that’s huge.
Nita Bryan shares similar feelings as a VBS volunteer and grandmother to several kids who go to McFarlin. Seeing kids grow to know who God is and how much God loves them gives Nita a sense of purpose and immense joy.
Nita: I have grandchildren here and I like to participate. It’s a way to know and understand what they’re going through. God is constantly urging us to keep listening and hearing and proclaiming the Word. That’s why I keep doing VBS every year. I learn just as much as the kids do.
Through spiritual themes, songs, Bible verses, stories and activities, kids enter the doors of McFarlin and walk into a place full of laughter, fun and love. And that’s one of the things that Caryn loves so much about VBS.
Caryn: I love that kids can come here during VBS and just know that church is fun. They get to be with friends and other kids their age and do fun things at church.
Caryn can attest to the spiritual significance of VBS. As someone who’s been a VBS volunteer for many years now, she can testify to how many children have been transformed over the years. The impact that VBS had on Caryn, both as a young person and an adult, comes full circle as she sees the impact serving others is having on the kids growing up in church today.
Caryn: I’ve done this for so long that I have watched children who participated as very young children grow up to be VBS volunteers, active in youth ministry and leading active Christian lives as adults. Several years ago, our church began taking the opportunity for VBS to be a bridge for 5th graders to enter the McFarlin youth program. That has worked well!
Nita also sees the spiritual transformation that occurs in children in just a few short days.
Nita: I can see them change and embrace the spirit as the week goes on. The first of the week the kids are shy. They’re listening to the music and the stories and we’re nurturing them and sharing this with them. By the last night, the whole group is jumping and singing and dancing and shouting and it’s just beautiful. You can tell they really enjoy it and all the people who participate are very nurturing and giving and leading in the way kids need to be led.
VBS has a way of transforming people of all ages, even adult volunteers. Caryn and Nita both find themselves learning and growing in their faith right alongside the children.
Nita: Hearing the kids singing and dancing and shouting praises, it’s just a beautiful way to worship. I just love watching the children and listening to them sing. They’re very special people, these children of God. It reminds me that there’s more to church than just my family and I want to make sure I don’t leave someone out. I want everyone to always feel welcome here.
VBS isn’t just a few days of fun and faith. It’s an example of how individuals come together in community to encounter God together. As Caryn said at the beginning, summer can offer us extra time to be more attuned to what God has to teach us and how God wants to use us to grow together in community.
Caryn: Just the fact that whenever we are here and in the midst of being with others, that’s when those times can come, those encounters. And the more we do that the more we want it and the more we love how it makes us feel and how it can impact our daily lives. Every time I go to a class with my Sunday school, or church choir, or worship, it always recharges me. Volunteering in any way, being with the people and being in the midst of ‘where 2 or more are gathered,’ I just feel like it’s something we all need. We are meant to be in community together.