Every summer, usually around the first week in June, the halls of FBC Starkville are filled with the sounds of children singing, laughing, and playing. The walls of the classrooms are covered with brightly colored decorations, and the sanctuary stage is transformed into an imaginative scene. These are all signs that Vacation Bible School has taken over the church once again, and the joy that fills the church is undeniable.
This year’s theme for Vacation Bible School is “Galactic Starveyors: Searching the Visible, Discovering the Invisible.” According to Lifeway.com, the main focus of this year’s theme is to help the children understand that the God who created the wonders of the universe also created them and that He desires a personal relationship with them. The children will explore the stars and the planets, and at the same time, learn that God has a special plan for each one of them.
VBS is one of the biggest outreach ministries for children that our church undertakes. The numbers from last year are proof of that. Of the 323 total children registered last year, 64 kids indicated that they do not attend FBC, and 22 of those indicated that they did not attend a specific church. This year, the number of participants is expected to be even higher.
What does it take to make VBS a reality? Leah Frances Eaton, Director of Children’s Ministries, says, “It takes a lot of volunteers to run the machine! It’s a huge operation.” Last year, more than 100 people pitched in, including many youth and university student volunteers. Many people are shocked by the number of people and variety of talents that are needed to make VBS come together. It is more than just Bible teaching. People are needed to help decorate before the week even starts. Cooks are needed to help with both adult and kid snacks. Athletes are needed to lead recreation. Musicians are needed to lead music. Artists are needed to teach crafts. People with administrative talents are needed to help with registration. There are so many ways people can use their God-given talents VBS week.
Many believe that when you volunteer during VBS, you will be the one teaching and blessing the children. People quickly learn that they also are blessed and learn so much through serving. Last summer was my third year to serve during VBS week at FBC Starkville. My first year, I kept the volunteer’s babies in the nursery. It was during that week that I got to know Ms. Geneva Nelson – what a blessing it was to befriend someone I might have never otherwise gotten to know! My second year, I helped teach missions with Mrs. Mary Frances Lolley, who has been faithfully teaching the missions rotation for many, many years and someone else I might not have gotten to know had it not been for VBS. And last year, despite being nine months pregnant with my son, Louis, there was still a place for me to help out. I worked the registration desk and kept up with attendance records. (Although my time was cut short when Louis decided to make his appearance Wednesday night of VBS!) No matter how I have served, I have always known that what I was doing was making a difference for the Kingdom of God. I knew that the work was of the utmost importance in reaching these young souls for Christ. And what a blessing it is knowing that! Also, the relationships I have formed through serving during VBS have been so enriching for me. It is such a blessing to be able to serve alongside people from every generation.
Lana Hamby, who has led the main music rotation at VBS for about 13 years says, “The biggest blessing I get from teaching VBS is when the lightbulb comes on, and they get what they are singing and hearing. I love it when the Gospel clicks, and it shows on their faces.” Susan Seay, music director for first and second graders during VBS 2016, says that the biggest blessing she received was “being able to see the excitement and understanding on the kids’ faces. It feels like I’m doing my part to bring them into a relationship with Christ.”
One of the great things about VBS is that it gives our youth an opportunity to serve the church and experience a mission field right in their own backyard. Travis Story, who helped out two years ago, says that his favorite thing about VBS is working with all the little kids. He enjoys playing with them and having fun with them. When asked why other youth should volunteer to serve during VBS, he said, “It’s a great opportunity to learn how to work with both adults and children.” Charity Gwaltney, Director of Preschool Ministries and a youth mom herself, says she has seen some of the youth really blossom during VBS week. “Many have realized that they want or are called to work with young children,” Charity says. Youth and university volunteers are vital parts to making the VBS machine run. They assist teachers with so many tasks, including keeping attendance and helping keep the children focused and on task.
Do you feel God leading you to volunteer in some capacity during VBS? No matter what your talents may be, there is definitely a place for you. Can’t help out every day that week? No worries! Come on the days that you can help. We need people of all ages, from all walks of life, to show these children how much God loves them and to teach them the truth from God’s Word. If you are reluctant to volunteer, consider these words from Charity: “Jump in, feet first, and do it! Having a willing heart and a willing spirit is the most important thing. God gives you all the tools and gifts you need and didn’t think you had. The long term impact outweighs any fear you may have.”
If you are interested in volunteering for Vacation Bible School this year, come to an interest meeting March 26 at 4:00 pm on the second floor of the Children’s Building. Please consider attending and committing to serve at VBS. You won’t be disappointed you did!