You hear the letters VBS. I imagine thoughts and images immediately come to your mind. Perhaps you smile a bit and fondly remember your experiences with VBS. How as a kid you loved the stories and singing and being crazy for five days. How as a parent you loved sending your kids to church for five days to be with friends. How as a volunteer you loved the creativity and energy that comes from so many kids gathered together. How as a pastor you love the holy moments learning from kids.
Or perhaps you hear VBS and you just feel exhaustion. How you remember the many days and nights planning and reading and preparing. The thematic snacks. The decorations that just kept falling down over and over again. The songs that will not get out of your head. The dance moves that were forced upon you. The loudness and craziness. The over-tired kids.
Some love VBS and some don’t. And it’s prime VBS season right now. The church I attend is just about ready for their week of VBS with the theme centered around being a hero. My preschooler will be attending for part of the night. I’m excited for her. She’s excited.
I admit: I love VBS.
While I served as a pastor I loved the chance to spend one full week with kids and parents and volunteers and community members. I loved seeing the ideas for decorations come to life and how people could use their creative gifts for decorating, feedings, crafting, and teaching. I loved the chance to be crazy and sing loud songs and do crazy hand motions. I loved seeing kids being excited about their faith. I loved seeing others invited into this fun.
Now as a parent I love the chance for my daughter to experience this intentional week of learning. Yes, it’s a long week. And in the end everyone is exhausted. But it’s a week that points to something larger than I can share on my own. It’s a week where everything ultimately points to love.
The love that God has for God’s people.
Yes, through crafts, food, decorations, singing, praying, and hearing Bible stories, everything points to God’s love. At least that’s the hope. Through VBS I’ve seen churches welcome neighbors wholeheartedly. I’ve seen over and over again the power of love through sharing snacks with one another. I’ve seen the power of love when kids can be creative and use their gifts. I’ve seen the power of love when God’s story is told in fun and creative ways. When the story comes alive for the kids. I’ve seen the power of love when kids who are lonely or afraid find a place and a voice singing and dancing. I’ve seen the power of love when kids gather in a circle and pray for one another. I’ve seen the power of love when adults look kids in their eyes and tell them they are welcome in this place. I’ve seen the power of love through blessing one another and marking the sign of the cross on each other’s foreheads.
God’s love for God’s people is so big and grand and unbelievable and life-changing.
And it’s through weeks of VBS that are crazy, messy, loud, and life-changing that we can see God’s great love for all God’s people.
So this year at VBS whether you’re a parent, volunteer, or participant, remember that you are loved. And share that love with others. In songs, dances, food, crafts, and stories.
It makes a difference.
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: http://kimberlyknowlezeller.com or follow her work on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KimberlyKnowleZeller/