By Richie Rhea, Care Pastor, NorthRoad Community Church, Moscow Mills, Missouri
VBS. So many memories. I was blessed to attend Vacation Bible School every year of my childhood. As a pastor, I haven’t missed a single year. Some years, I’ve attended more than one. That’s about 63 years of uninterrupted VBS. Although as a child, I did my fair share of interrupting.
Oh yes. A lot went on in VBS. There was singing, snacking, flag holding, and a little slapping. There was joking, laughing, learning, talking, and a little poking.
One thing always seemed to happen to me as a child and even now as an adult. Jesus. There was hearing about Jesus. Thinking about Jesus. Being amazed about Jesus. Loving Jesus. Trusting in Jesus. As a child, I grew in Jesus. As an adult, I worshipped Jesus as children came to know Jesus year after year, drawn to Jesus by the grace of Jesus.
VBS is all about the Bible. The Bible is all about Jesus. Therefore, VBS is all about Jesus.
That means that VBS is a great time to teach giving and all the other gospel truths. For God so loved the world that He GAVE. Jesus.
Just like many children place their faith in Jesus during VBS, children can receive and grow in this grace too. The grace of generous giving. “But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge…see that you excel in this act of grace also” (2 Corinthians 8:7 ESV).
How can we use this summertime Bible vacation experience to teach generosity?
- Understand, first, that children desperately need this God-given grace of generosity.
Children are naturally selfish. If a child can experience how good it feels to give rather than keep, the entire rest of their life will be blessed in all kinds of ways. Givers make good marriages. Givers make good parents. Givers are loving. Givers are illustrations of the powerful, life-changing grace of Christ.
On the other hand, if children continue in their natural stinginess, they are in for a dry, dusty, lonely life.
- Build principles of giving into your VBS experience.
Just a couple of minutes explaining the Biblical principle of giving in big, bright, inspired ways can produce amazing results.
- l Make it about giving to Jesus, not to VBS or anything else
- l Focus the children’s attention on a gospel opportunity they can support
- l Lead the children to give what they have (maybe their favorite toy)
“For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord…they gave themselves first to the Lord…” (2 Corinthians 8:3–5 ESV).
- Resist cheap manipulative tricks.
Children love the truth. Leading them to give only to win a prize or be the star of the show and you will create an air of excitement and take in more money. Maybe. But children will, in time, see it for its manipulation and could be tempted to turn away from the Lord and the church.
Instead, share the truth in love. Be clear. Be passionate. Be creative. Be real. Trust the Lord to open their eyes and their hearts to the truth. Challenge them to give to Jesus out of love for Jesus. Why do so many believe it’s wrong to lie and manipulate unless we’re talking to a child?
I remember a little girl who won a prize in VBS. She was so proud. But a few years later, she realized how manipulated she was. It shook her faith. That girl was in my family. A cheap trick to “make giving exciting” hurt her.
“When you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward” (Matthew 6:2 ESV).
- Ask the church to give to Christ by supporting VBS.
Just as you plan to teach children to give, teach the church to give. Because VBS is so important, it should hold an important place in the ministry budget. Budget to communicate with your entire community before VBS. Budget for materials. Budget for great healthy snacks. Budget for fantastic décor. Budget for special guests and whatever else is needed to effectively communicate the message of God’s Word.
Be sure to share the visible and eternal results of VBS with the church afterward. Thank them for their prayers and support. Much of what Paul wrote in the epistles were words of thanksgiving to those who had given.
The ideas we are considering have eternity in mind. May VBS not be a “wood, hay, and stubble” flicker, here today and forgotten tomorrow. But may the Lord Jesus be front and center. May the power of Christ be on display so that every eternal result is only to the praise and glory of His great name.