Vacation Bible School 2014 ~ Workshop of Wonders
A Week of WOW!
I wanted to take a few days before writing down my thoughts about this year’s Vacation Bible School. The adrenaline rush when it’s over is exhausting, and I forget those “little” moments that make it all so special.
This is our 7th year of hosting a vacation bible school at St. Mary’s. I will say, it gets a little smoother each year, which makes it just a little bit easier on us. We know more of what to expect and can stay a step ahead. However, it doesn’t make it any less exhausting. I always call VBS a “labor of love” and often relate it to actual labor. I always said God helps you “forget” how painful labor was, that’s why you have more than one child. Well, God helps me to remember the wonderful parts of VBS, and forget the really hard and exhausting moments, which is why we are already gearing up for year 8!
Our theme this year was Workshop of Wonders, where we learned to imagine and build with God. The focus of this year was on how to develop your relationship with God. This was such a wonderful theme for the children. They understand creating and building, so it was easy to use that metaphor to show them how to build a relationship with God. We started with praying. We taught the children how to pray, and how to listen. We continued with works of service. The children collected school supplies for our Backpack Buddies at J.D. Parker Elementary School. We had several children donate brand new items they had picked out for themselves, but wanted to share with others. The children learned to build their relationship with God by getting lost in his Word. We examined the bible and heard some of the wonderful stories in it. We talked about spending time with God, and the many ways you can do it. We lifted our voices in praise to God, thanking him for allowing us to come together each day!
The acronym for Workshop of Wonders is WOW – and that’s really what I thought several times! I said WOW when I saw our brand new priest, Fr. Ian, teaching our VBS groups some really fun and wonderful songs. He’s a great guitar player – I hope you get to see it sometime! I said WOW when I saw the AWESOME science experiments Jeri Gumbinner and Judy Dye showed our kids each day. Every student created a terrarium to grow mustard seeds and a lava lamp (plus a LOT more!) I said WOW when I saw our wonderful teen volunteers share special moments with the students. These tweens and teens gave up one of their last week’s of summer to spend it with our VBS students. The VBS students really look up to them and they bond over the week! I said WOW when I saw our wonderful Bible Center team led by Jane Anthony and Jane Burton present a great dramatic presentation each day! They can really re-build a Temple and Jane Burton plays Queen Esther beautifully, and you haven’t seen anything until you have seen Jim Anthony as Jesus! I said WOW as I watched 7-month pregnant Nikki McCarthy sit on the floor each day and explain these stories to our students with such grace and understanding, even our 3 year olds understood. I said WOW as I watched our students create wonderful crafts each day. So many volunteers led by Alexis Stuckey and Gayle Schneider helped the children create some wonderful things they can keep forever. You can see one of the best creations hanging on the wall of Meeting Room 3 in the Pittenger Center. Barbara Godfrey helped the children create a mural so we will always remember this year. Check out what each of the 127 children would put in God’s toolbox! I said WOW when so many people, some of whom are not St. Mary’s parishioners, were willing to give up their week to work with these children. It takes a lot of energy and work to move groups of 25 children from center to center, and to help them understand our message. Mostly I said WOW each day when I saw the smiles of these children. Each morning they were so excited to come and spend the day with us. They would high five us on the way in, and hug us on the way out. They wanted to sing and dance and create and build! They wanted to be at St. Mary’s!
People often ask me what is the goal of VBS? Is it an outreach? Is it to get new members? Is it to promote the church? The answer is YES in part to all of those questions, but it is so much more. I would tell you VBS is our largest outreach project every year. More than 65% of our students are not St. Mary’s members, and many volunteers are not either. Many of these children don’t ever go to church! Would it be great for some of them to decide to attend St. Mary’s? Absolutely! And each year a few more families decide to join us – and we are thrilled to welcome them, but we stay in contact with those that are not here all year. I love when I’m at Publix or school, or anywhere and see a child in a St. Mary’s VBS shirt. Keep your eyes open – you will see them! What great promotion for everyone in Martin County to see – St. Mary’s welcomes children with open arms! But again, that’s not the only reason we do this. We all know the song “Jesus Loves the Little Children!” That really is my goal for each VBS. I tell the children at the end of the week that if they only remember 1 thing from the whole week – I want it to be that Jesus loves them. They are God’s children and they are special in the way God created them. They are never alone in this world and they should always know how loved they are! It can be a tough and scary world for children, but if they know God is there with them (just like the footprints in the sand craft we created) then it can be a little easier.
As I tell the children as we end our week, “it’s not good-bye, it’s see you later” because we can’t wait to welcome them back next year for G-Force VBS!
Children’s Ministry Director