This is the second article in a four-part series about winning hearts and minds in the summer through Vacation Bible School.
After I’ve selected my summer Vacation Bible School (VBS) program, focus, and theme, it’s time to center my efforts on the gifts of the community of people who will make it all happen.
The promotional materials I’ve been previewing for months are full of vibrant, happy artists creating eye-popping décor, professional musicians leading enthusiastic children, and well-prepared, loving adults leading engaged children through creative Bible story reenactments. I never see petulant, distracted children, bored teens, or impatient, unprepared adults. There are no haphazard decorations or store-bought snacks. Where do they get these people? I sense it is my responsibility to transform a box of manuals and posters, a parish facility, and a faith community into a summer extravaganza. What comes first? Unpack the gifts of the community.
The most effective way to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary is to tap into the giftedness of your community. Don’t overlook anyone. I know I need creative people, extroverted people, musical people, dramatic people, and people who can build and draw and paint. I also need people willing to spend hours making phone calls, cutting out 100 seashells, or baking enough cookies for a small army. I need organized people, playful people, and shy and introverted people too. Before I ever begin working on what we will do for the children, I must concentrate on what I can do for the adults and teens who will become the VBS workforce. The summer program will be most effective when I win the hearts and minds of the team.
The process of recruiting and motivating a team of VBS volunteers can not only result in a successful summer program, but it can also become a powerful tool for evangelizing the community. Tapping into the talents within the community to serve a common purpose allows new relationships to develop, gifts to be revealed, and bonds to be formed. With eyes wide open, I must identify the needs of the program and the wealth of human resources at my disposal. I must create an atmosphere of mutual respect and shared effort.
I’ve learned the importance of setting clear expectations, being attentive to personal limits, communicating an overall vision, and encouraging personal creativity and enthusiasm. I’ve learned to ask for help from people I would have never expected to say “yes.” I’ve learned to be flexible. I’ve learned that even the smallest task can overload an already overwhelmed person or be delegated to someone just waiting to be asked. Being successful requires being attentive to the hearts and minds of the team.
In a spirit of collaboration, each volunteer feels useful and needed and becomes an important part of a significant ministry within the parish. These volunteers go on to look for more ways to serve the parish after VBS is over. By inviting new faces to use their gifts in our Vacation Bible School program, we have the potential to make disciples not only of the children who will attend, but of the adults who will make it possible.
Kathy, your article is very timely because it comes at a time when churches that traditionally offered VBS (primarily Protestant) are opting not to and Catholic churches, which typically do not have a long-standing tradition of hosting VBS, are on the increase. Here’s a link to an article about the decline: http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2013/july/barna-why-fewer-churches-offer-vacation-bible-school-vbs.html?paging=off