Vacation Bible School as Worship

Author: Rachel H├ębert
August 03, 2020

We respond to God’s grace in the context of personal relationships, particularly when Christians who live together worship together. Opportunities for household or family worship include: sabbath-keeping and rhythms of daily prayer; Bible reading, study, or memorization; prayers before meals; singing hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs; and expressions of giving, sharing, and service to others. Congregations are encouraged to nurture and equip households and families for these practices. Directory of Worship, 5.0104: Household Worship

One of my least favorite classes in seminary was Presbyterian Polity, where we spent an entire semester learning about the Book of Order and its four parts: Foundations, Government, Worship, and Discipline. I was in a small group where we were assigned a project involving chapters 5-7 to then present to the class. A close friend of mine was in the small group, and as we got together to plan out our presentation, she said, “If I ever start to lose faith in the Presbyterian Church, just tell me to come back and read these chapters.”

During the pandemic, I have found myself returning to the Directory of Worship time and again for grounding and inspiration. As it became clear that Vacation Bible School would not be in person but online, I was heartbroken for our congregation, for the children, families, and volunteers. My fondest memories growing up was being a youth who helped out with VBS, leading the opening and closing, and “creating” my own unique role, where I would bring snacks and water to workshop leaders and youth assistants, but there was another role that I played: child whisperer. If there were any kids from preschool all the way up thru the fifth grade who were struggling (i.e. painfully shy, got hurt, crying, etc.), I would be sent for, usually to help comfort and help the child to rejoin the group.

A woman who served as one of my references was a VBS director for multiple years and would site this role I played to the Associate Pastor Nominating Committees – “We knew from that point on that Rachel would be called to ministry. She understood pastoral care even before she knew what those words meant.” Now understand, I did not always like attending VBS, especially as a child. I was one of those children who would become filled with anxiety at not knowing who would be in my group. It would cause me to stress every morning, and every afternoon I would come home exhausted from trying to figure out relationship dynamics during the entire morning. Yet my mom would be my source of encouragement every single day, and the years she participated as an adult or workshop helper, I was filled with ease.

The beauty of parenthood is your child’s innate knowledge that they are safe with you. That you are their encourager, that you will be present, and that events like VBS matter in the long run. You know they will look forward to becoming a youth helper, and as they grow older, they’ll still come back to volunteer as they’re able to in college. One day they’ll be calling you and tell you how they’re now an adult leader who volunteers with VBS.

Vacation Bible School is not simply an event—it is an entire week of worship for the children. It is fellowship together, it is breaking bread together, it is learning about scripture, it is being creative. As many of our hearts are heavy with the prospect of yet another activity being relegated to online, I cannot help but think of the opportunities that will be provided to children.

First, they will be with you, their parent and guardian, someone who they feel safe with and encouraged by. They will be upset to not get to do VBS with their friends, so perhaps you might Zoom/Skype/Facetime with another family and let the kids share about their at-home-VBS experience.

Second, this is a time of household worship, something that is so important to our Reformed tradition that we have an entire chapter in our Directory of Worship devoted to understanding the foundations of worship at home. Not only are you providing encouragement and safety, you are modeling for your child the multitude of ways in which worship can happen and take place. To remind them that being with friends is truly wonderful, but VBS is also like worship. Perhaps you might ask your child(ren) what in VBS reminds them of Sunday worship?

Finally, the seeds that are planted, even being online, will yield a future fruition that you do not even yet know nor can foresee. Yet these seeds will grow within your child(ren) and help them to readily connect as they grow older how their faith plays out in their daily living, being reminded of their unique gifts and talents, and how God will love them and use them for the healing of the world.
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