My alarm disturbed the silence at 5:00 AM on Monday and my cheerful wife said, “Ready to go teach children about Jesus in Vacation Bible School?” Regretfully, at that moment I didn’t feel ready to teach anyone. I admit that few things stress me as much as preparing to teach VBS. I don’t know why. I love Jesus. I love kids. I love to teach kids the Bible.
I think it may be the unknown. I don’t know how many kids will be in my Bible study group. I don’t know if the decorations in my classroom are still on the wall or if they are hanging by one piece of tape, ready to fall on a child’s head like a parachute.
I experienced this rubbing-my-bald-head-until-it-turns-red stress twice this summer. I taught VBS at my established church in the mid-south and at a church plant on the west coast. Teaching in these two very different environments taught me three things.
- Context impacts decorations. At my church, we spend hours covering every inch of every wall of the classroom with colorful paper. We hang countless inflatables and cutouts from the ceiling. We make an elaborate entrance in the doorway. At the church plant, we met in a high school and could not start decorating until two hours before VBS started. The only decorations we had were ones that would fit in suitcases or that we purchased onsite. We covered classroom equipment with plastic table covers, placed teaching posters on the bulletin board, and blew up some inflatables. That was it, and that was enough.
- Context influences direction of content. At my church, most of the kids in my Bible study group were church kids, either from my church or from another church in town. Most had heard about Jesus, and many already knew the Bible stories. At the church plant, every child I taught was un-churched, and I was privileged to introduce them to Jesus and teach them Bible stories that they had not heard.
- Context informs decorum. I already knew many of the kids that I taught at my church. I knew what classroom management techniques worked and I knew the behavior landmines. For the most part, the children who came to VBS knew what was expected of them. Such was not the case at the church plant. I didn’t know these kids or their home backgrounds, and they didn’t know me. Therefore, I had to establish boundaries early and be flexible throughout the week as I adjusted my expectations.
The fact that context plays a vital role in decorations, direction of content, and decorum may seem obvious. Irrespective of the context, kids can learn about Jesus anywhere. However, all the unknown variables can usher in stress unless we fully trust God. Regardless of how much time we prepare, how many decorations are on the wall and hanging from the ceiling, or how many kids show up, God is in control. Always.
Landry Holmes leads Lifeway’s Kids Ministry Publishing Team and is a kidmin volunteer at his church. He is a husband, dad, father-in-law, and dog person.
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