by Bekah Stoneking
There are three things I remember most vividly from my summer vacations as a kid:
- Mom homeschooled us to keep our skills sharp over the break (I still get a little itchy when I see math workbooks or Reader’s Digest vocab lists)
- “Fun Fridays,” when we’d get a break from “summer school” to go on field trips around the city
- Vacation Bible School
Like many other VBS kids in the 90s I remember store brand cookies and punch on the gym floor, colorful beads on a leather bracelet symbolizing the plan of salvation, what recreation felt like out in that steamy Georgia heat, and learning the motions to really fun songs.
My church loved us kids and it was obvious—from VBS, to Sunday school, and everything in between—that they believed Jesus loved us, too, and they wanted us to know that and to know Him. I came to faith as a young child and events like VBS helped nurture my young faith.
What I didn’t realize at the time was how God was using VBS to not only continue working out my salvation, but to draw me to a lifetime of serving Him.
The summers after I’d aged out of my church’s VBS just lacked color and vibrancy. So, the summer before my freshman year of high school, I signed up to volunteer; I just couldn’t stay away from Vacation Bible School! I served with other youth group members on the rec team, and on the crew that collected and organized the supplies the kids donated for our missions project. Then on “Family Night” the Sunday after VBS, I sat frozen in my pew, hands gripped so tightly on the pew in front of me my knuckles turned white and my fingers throbbed.
Everyone around me was up, moving around, singing, and doing the motions. But there I sat, trying to convince God I couldn’t do what He was asking me to do.
There, the summer I turned 14, just a handful of weeks before I was to start high school, God called me into children’s ministry.
At the end of the worship rally our pastor shared the gospel. As people walked the aisle in repentance and faith, I walked the aisle in tears—confused, feeling really young, and convinced I’d be told there was no place for me.
But that’s not how I was received, of course. My pastors were among the most loving and encouraging people in my young life. They helped me find my place in our church’s ministry. I shadowed a few leaders and volunteered in different areas until I found my fit. I went to training alongside the adults. I was loved and respected, even though I was young. And after a few years of apprenticing, I became the lead teacher of a Kindergarten Sunday school class my senior year.
I went on to college where I majored in elementary education and served in children’s and youth ministries in my college town. I became a second grade teacher. I went on to seminary and served a church as their children’s minister. There, I began writing lesson plans for our church, and for summer programming at another church. I graduated from SEBTS and was a part of a church plant where I helped oversee and create educational content for the children’s ministry there. This is also when I began writing for Lifeway Kids. I re-enrolled at SEBTS and am now finishing my doctorate in education while serving churches through Lifeway Kids full time.
And it all started in a little town in Georgia at Vacation Bible School.
From hearing the gospel and meeting Jesus for the first time to realizing the “thing” God made them to do, VBS can be the tool God uses to change a kid’s life forever, and He can work through that life to touch thousands.
VBS is so profoundly worth it. As someone who participated in VBS, then was called to ministry through VBS, then planned and led VBS from a church leadership position, and now works alongside the VBS team at Lifeway, I am just one story of how a week over the course of a few summers can impact a kid. The work you’re doing matters. Every hour, every plan, every changed plan, and every changed plan that changes again matters to the kingdom because every kid matters to the kingdom, and God has a plan for how He will work through those kids to impact your neighborhood and neighborhoods around the world for His glory.