Throughout my career as a minister I have participated in many Vacation Bible School weeks, and regardless of the church or the theme, VBS always puts a spring in my step. Last year I joined children, teens, and adults for VBS at St. Paul’s in Alexandria, Virginia. For me, the week was a blessed blast. And it made me think: Why is VBS so powerful as a clergy person?
Cheering for Formation Staff and Volunteers
VBS appears through countless hours by formation staff and volunteers. Clergy have a joyful opportunity to commend, congratulate, and bless VBS efforts, especially the efforts of the VBS coordinator. As we all know, words of affirmation go a long way in ministry.
Clergy tip: Find your affirming catch phrase and use it often: before, during, and after VBS.
Working Side by Side with Formation Staff
Nothing builds a working relationship like taking on a project together. When clergy help at VBS – beyond just observing or checking in – we form bonds, especially with formation staff. The VBS coordinator and I planned the opening sessions for each morning, after going over the themes and scripture for each day. During the sessions themselves, we tag-teamed, ‘passing the mic’ back and forth for prayer and announcements.
Clergy tip: Enjoy the freedom of not being in charge at VBS. A great clergy line at VBS is, “Where do you want me?”
Honing Preaching and Teaching Skills
Teachers, parents, and ministers know that if you can explain a concept to a 4-year-old, you can explain it to anyone. VBS provides an exciting – and challenging – opportunity for clergy to share the good news of Jesus Christ with little ones. (And by the way, those older kids and teen volunteers are also listening very carefully, even if they don’t appear to be.) Clergy often develop sharp, succinct, and clear explanations for theological concepts, which is a blessing for future preaching and teaching.
Clergy tip: What are the two or three truths you want children to hold in their hearts? Think about how you can express those truths in as few words as possible.
Meeting and Greeting Adults
I saved this one for last, because VBS is for the children and the teens. But that being said, VBS is also a chance for clergy to meet and greet parents, grandparents, caregivers, and all the other wonderful folks who walk through the doors. Clergy can think of greeting adults as side-door advertising for the church, but more important, VBS is the perfect setting for friendly clergy interaction.
Remember that by its very nature, VBS is a welcoming and joyful place to be. It is where the church really shines, showing values of community, education, scripture, and nurturing children. Clergy at VBS can take advantage of this positive atmosphere, engaging parishioners and guests alike.
Clergy tip: Put on your best extrovert hat at VBS and chat up anyone and everyone. Remind yourself, “This is our church being the best we can be: loving children, loving Jesus, building Christian community.”
This article first appeared in Episcopal Teacher:
Spring 2018, Focus Issue – VBS, page 5