Are any of my readers in ministry? How about children’s ministry? Last year I experienced some ‘learning opportunities’. Today I’m writing about them for a couple reasons. One: because I need to write things down in order to understand them. Two: I REALLY want to hear from others who have had their own ‘change is hard’ experience in ministry. I want to know what you did right, what you could have done better, and what you have learned. 2014 marked my 10th summer heading up VBS efforts at our church.
This year, we did something new. We started ‘Kids Clubs’. That’s our ministry of taking Vacation Bible School into the streets of our community. It was a brand spanking new ministry. Not that we invented it, but the concept was new to our church and our area. Over the past 10 years, VBS attendance has nearly doubled from 200 to nearly 400. So, why would I decide to upend the cart? Why would I take what looks like a good ministry, a well funded, well attended ministry, and shake it up like this? VBS is SO much fun! Tons of volunteers get involved in the fun and chaos of the week. We’d share stories from the Bible, eat snacks, play games, sing catchy music, laugh at hilarious skits during Worship Rally, and just BE together as a church. It is so entertaining. Fun. Entertainment. Is that really the Great Commission? And, was Kids Club better? Can I quantify that after one summer? It was definitely different. Here are some of the ways:
- Children came to understand and accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Many who attended learned more about Him. I don’t think I have to write anything else to convince you or myself that this ministry is worth our investment of time and prayers. Children made decisions to follow Jesus Christ. Their eternal destiny was determined this summer! “There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10. Heavenly parties! Woo-hoo!
- We had multiple clubs in various locations throughout the summer. So rather than one wonderful week, we spread it out from the first week of June to the first week of August. We were able to reach children in the community that would otherwise never come to our campus. Because we were willing to go to their neighborhood, we were able to share the gospel of Jesus Christ to entire families we would not otherwise reach!
- We spent less money. ~$1800 less. That is a significant enough number to mention! We had a longer running ministry with a broader reach in the community. Plus, much of the expenses were for non-consumable or undated publicity materials that can be used again in 2015!
- Many people who have never been involved in VBS got connected to ministry. I love seeing people grasp a vision and run with it! It makes my heart go all squishy when I watch people serve this community in the name of Jesus!! Those who served together deepened their friendships. Don’t we all need that? I crave real, deep friendships with people who want to serve the Lord with me! People who will walk alongside me as I live the Christian life. People who have the same goals and desires: to further the Kingdom! We all need friends who “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)
- We even had a few Small Groups come together to serve. One class in particular goes above and beyond to stay connected with the families they met during the summer, even inviting a mother and daughter to attend our annual Women’s Holiday Banquet. I was speechless when they were standing before me! All I could do was blabber and tear up. I’m sure it was overwhelming for them. (I do that, habitually. I overwhelm people.) What’s key here, is this group intentionally contacts the people they served over the summer.
- Many volunteers became LEADERS when they weren’t looking. People dove in head first by hosting clubs at their homes, organizing other volunteers, and spending their time and resources for the Kingdom. They made decisions and followed through on them with little or no input from me or other staff members. I could not be any more proud of them!
- It was a HUGE draw to our website. On the busiest day of the year at GBCAtoka.org, Kids Club was the #1 visited page. AND Kids Club was the #2 most viewed post, second only to our ‘About Us’ page.
So as Media Director (officially for one year, WOW!) I’m tickled to report that our new website was viewed 21,000 times this year AND as VBS/Kids Club Diva I’m thrilled that this ministry is getting so much traffic.
Do you ever have a big fat BUT right in the middle of your celebration?
- Fewer children. Many of the children that came to Kids Clubs were un-churched. That means that many of ‘our’ kids (those whose families are already part of the church) chose not to come.
- Fewer workers. Many who have been faithful, reliable volunteers at VBS in previous years did not join the mission.
- People have left the church to attend ‘Some Other’ church that has traditional VBS. Entire families have decided to leave because of my decision. *gulp* Even writing this down makes me feel sick. I’m so anguished I can’t verbalize all my thinks on this thought. I want to plead for grace and second chances. Not that I would un-do the decision to take the ministry to the community, but I would ask for these families to give it a chance. I would ask them to join at least one of the Kids Clubs. I would ask the parents to bring their children to one of the clubs and experience all the fun and learning and community. If the parents would themselves take the time to volunteer and know all the wonderful things that happen as a Children’s Ministry Volunteer (AKA Super Hero)–the deepening friendships with like-minded people, the joy of seeing a kid ‘get it’, the giggles of water balloon fights, the taste of cookies and kool-aid with the smell of fresh cut grass dampened by a sprinkler, oh I could go on!
I’m heartbroken about the missed opportunities for both kids and volunteers. I confess, I’m scared to speculate as to the reasons. I have prayed, cried, lost sleep, and all sorts of other physical manifestations of agonizing over this.