This week we embarked on something new at IBC. We have been dealing over the past year+ with several issues that began with the burning of our education building and specific challenges to ministry that the condensing and crowding and chaos presented.
Last year, when VBS season rolled around, we tried Backyard Bible Clubs in two strategic neighborhoods - one in close proximity to the church with few attending members to reach the unchurched in that area, and one in a subdivision with several children who attended both regularly and periodically, but some of whom's parents did not attend with them. Making everything portable, keeping papers and artwork from rolling or blowing away...all part of the difficulty of this format. It works in some cases, but didn't really reach as many as we had hoped to reach through the efforts of all the teachers involved. And it took several workers, because we did a morning and an afternoon session. We had to have two art teachers, two recreation leaders, two song leaders....It was just a lot of asking for volunteers, most of whom were already teaching Sunday school, Awana small groups...they were maxed out.
So we decided to look at a way to keep the idea of VBS at our home church location, but do something that would work with no more space than the sanctuary, fellowship hall, and choir room. In praying for our church, for necessary leadership and teachers, and for families, God laid on our hearts (mine and Joe's) to keep families in tact. Everyone of our children's Sunday School teachers....EVERY SINGLE ONE....is a parent. They may or may not be teaching their child's age group. We've taken the nuclear family and exploded it in the modern church framework.
There is a place - as a teacher, I can say this with 100% certainty - for age-appropriate teaching in the church. But the ultimate model for discipling children is found in Deuteronomy 6. It is for the parents to lead, guide, equip, and send out their children as ministers of the Gospel. It is for the church staff to equip the parents to do so. And if all those parents are plugged in as teachers, when do they get equipped? If we had a traditionally themed and scheduled VBS, those same people would have volunteered as the teachers. We had to give them a break.
The other conviction about doing VBS this way came from scripture itself, with its multiple references to the church and Christ as a family unit. God instituted the family before He called for a tabernacle. The latter took its design, according to God's perfect plan, from the former. Each has a Head, a Bride, and Children. We want the church to operate in that framework, following the authority of the Head - Christ, honoring and protecting the Bride - the Church, and training and sending out the Children - individual believers. In the same way, we want healthy families where the father is empowered with Christ's authority to be a godly Head for his household, whose job is to honor and protect his bride, and together they nurture and send our their children as lights into a dark world.
That led us to this VBS format. We set up the sanctuary with round tables and chairs. The Bible study material is coming from AWANA's home study "God's Plan for the Family", but any curriculum that incorporates Bible reading and good discussion questions that parents can facilitate would work. The schedule for the evenings is as follows:
6:00-6:30 Family Fellowship - Dinner around the tables, with 2 or more families per table
6:30-7:00 Family Worship - Grown up and Kid friendly worship selections with the freedom for kids to move around as they praise.
7:00-7:30 Family Study - Bible teaching time followed by question and answer sessions facilitated by parents at each table. Part of the goal is for children to recognize their parents as spiritual leaders and encourage a level of comfort for more spiritual discussion to happen in the home.
7:30-8:00 Family Activity - Because the weather has been so unpredictable, and because the parking lot and sidewalks are ripped to shreds because of the construction going on around the church, we opted for arts and crafts. But had we been able to use the outside facilities, there would have been more recreation and even a family scavenger hunt. Still, it's fun watching dads trying to use sequins and glitter glue. This might be at least one area where mom needs to be the authority. Sorry, guys.
Success for us is measured by smiles on faces, hugs around the neck between parents and children, seeing adults with grown children plug in as "foster parents" to children who didn't have someone to lead them, and ultimately, as we become more finely tuned toward the Gospel story throughout the week, seeing children and parents led to Christ, whether that be an initial or a more intimate relationship. Success is also seeing those same parents who lead small groups week in and week out lifting their hands in praise, feeling refreshed and encouraged, ready to pour themselves into their ministries and the children they serve.
Success is a healthy family and a healthy church.
Thanks to all of the volunteers in the kitchen, nursery, tables/chairs, sound/computer, and craft department for helping us bring all of these pieces together. We're having a blast!!!