Passing hay bales and lush fields, the drive couldn’t be more perfect. White, puffy clouds dot the sky in an otherwise sea of blue. My two children, Charlotte and Isaac, sit in the back seat laughing. “I see cows, Mama!” Isaac points and cheers.
“Cows out my window, too!” Charlotte repeats. Back and forth the two name what they see while I turn up the radio.
A few minutes of their silence is suddenly followed by loud shouts: “Let my people go!”
“Let my people GO!!” Charlotte cheers and laughs. Turning to Isaac as if to say your turn, he quickly follows suit and repeats: “Let my people go!”
A few days earlier the two of them saw the story of the Exodus acted out for them during a week of Vacation Bible school. While recounting the 10 plagues the children yelled, “Let my people go,” over and over again. And on this car ride home, my children remembered.
They remembered the story and they wanted to hear more.
The unprompted cheers of my children and their enthusiasm for a week of Vacation Bible School reminded me of the gift of engaging in faith formation at church. Not every church does a week-long VBS and not every church has the resources for supporting such programs. Yet, thanks to a week-long VBS for my children I have remembered three important lessons for engaging in faith formation at any time, at church, or at home.
Bring the Story Alive
Each night the story was acted out by the pastor and volunteers. Props were used, costumes were worn, and invitations for the children to act were provided. The story wasn’t just told to them, but was shown to them. They got to not only hear the story, but experience it. Isn’t that what we all need? A chance to know that the Biblical stories are living and breathing and connect us to God and others. Watching the story unfold by friends and family shows everyone that the stories are ours, that they speak to us, and offer a word of hope and truth for us still today. The testament to this week of stories acted out is the fact that I was prompted to get out my bible and reread the stories we heard – I wanted to keep hearing this good news.
Sing and Dance
I dare you to find one person who has helped with Sunday school or VBS and hasn’t gotten one of the songs stuck in their heads for days on end! As I type this I’m hearing the refrain, “God is good!” while I picture a group of kids raising their arms in the air. Singing and dancing provides another way to engage with the story and with God. We move and clap and cheer and stomp our feet – giving thanks for our bodies and all that they do. We sing of God’s love over and over so that some day when we’re feeling lonely we can recall those words that bring hope and comfort. Whether you’re a toddler just learning to walk or need help walking yourself, sing, clap your hands, and connect to the beat of God’s love for you.
Invite your Friends
Each day before VBS I heard my daughter ask, “My friends at church?” She loves going to church and giving hugs and running around with other kids. She knows she’s loved and safe there. She wants to be there with her friends. I think that’s a cue we can take from children – the cue to invite others to join us. To come and see. It’s always a joy to see friends invite friends and to share their enthusiasm. God’s story of love and grace for us and the world is one to be told. Thanks to this past week of VBS I’m reminded just how important it is to let God’s story become a part of us.
The Saturday after VBS I walked into my son’s room. Lifting up his arms, he asks, “I go church now?”
“Not now, buddy, but I’m so glad you had fun at church. There’s always more to come. We’ll go back.” I tell him and smile.
Yes, we will go back and the stories we heard, and will continue to hear, will be our inspiration and our hope. For God is good!
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two, and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, MO. You can read more at her website. Or follow her work on Facebook.