FIRST PERSON: Vacation Bible School sows onto impressionable soil
by Tim Gentry
Beans, seeds, macaroni and glue, key ingredients for Vacation Bible School. I have fond memories of craft time at VBS in the old army barracks at Oklahoma City, Putnam City. There was something magical about gluing beans, seeds and macaroni onto a wooden tablet. With the careful guidance of my teacher and possibly an outline drawn on the board, I created a wonderful work of art.
But I remember other seeds that had an even greater impact on my life. My teacher told the class a story about the mustard seed. She described the parable in Mark 4 where Jesus told how it is “the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants.” She told us that this was a picture of faith. She said that God wanted to take our young lives and use us as missionaries to do great things in His Kingdom. Right then, I decided I wanted to be a mustard seed for God. That was the first of many steps I took toward spending 27 years in California as God’s mustard seed.
I cannot remember the name of my teacher, but I cannot forget the truth she planted in my heart from God’s Word. I have heard many times, “you’ll never know this side of Heaven, the people you have touched with the Gospel.” She probably doesn’t know the impact she had on my life (unless she is in Heaven already), and for sure she doesn’t know the impact my ministry has had on others. But I know her impact, just as sure as I know the impact Jesus Christ has had on my life. And because I know, I have to let others know, too.
I have read statistics that show how fruitful VBS is in reaching children with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have also read about the opportunities to reach the parents of these children. Normally, I don’t like to rely on anecdotal evidence, but in this case I am that personal story. My life was changed because of the commitment of the ladies, and I am sure a few good men who stepped forward and said, “we are going to have a VBS this summer even if I have to do it all by myself.”
On another personal level, VBS played a huge part in the start and development of the West Roseville Church (currently Grace Bible Church), Roseville, Calif. With our first public service held in January of 1982, VBS that summer in our rented facility was a time of excitement, evangelism and engagement with our community. Each year, for the 12 years I had the privilege of serving as pastor, VBS was one of the highlights of reaching out into the neighborhoods of our mission field. Whether it was in a rented hall, the local park or later, in our own facility, VBS touched lives. It touched me as a pastor by connecting me with the families in our community; it touched our members by serving as a resource for the enlistment and training of workers, and it touched our community by introducing children and their parents to Jesus Christ.
Summer is just around the corner, but it is not too late to get started in planning a Bible school at your church. Your church leadership may already have one planned, but they are still praying for one more volunteer to step up and be a mustard seed for God. Please accept my challenge to pick up the phone today and call your church’s office to see if there is anything you can do to help with VBS. If your church is without pastoral leadership, you can contact your associational director of missions for VBS resources.
Another possibility would be to partner with a sister church in your town or county to be the difference in whether they have a Bible school or not; whether seeds are sown in that community or not. Many times, ministries like VBS exist because one person, even one who considers herself or himself small, steps forward and says, “I want to be used by God to do great things!” For a willing heart, a great God and impressionable soil, it is never too late to be obedient.
Tim Gentry is evangelism specialist with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.