By Brian VanderArk
I have to admit to you, I was a bit panicked and I was not 100% sure of the outcome in the moment of the story I am about to tell you. I do know that my belief in students to step up and be the church was forever confirmed by what I saw and experienced.
A few years ago, I took 20 junior high and high school students and 3 leaders to serve for a week with an organization that was holding a seven week neighborhood VBS. Each week, they held a VBS in a different neighborhood of a large city. Our week was number 6 and 120 kids were expected. Going into the week, I thought after five weeks, the on-site crew from the organization would have the process down pat, we would fit into our helping roles and we would have a seamless experience. What our team found on Monday morning was the on-site director in tears from exhaustion and two college students who were new that week. The plan had gone awry, supplies had run out last week, the props were ruined by rain and the experienced help had quit.
Monday afternoon, I pulled our team together and we brainstormed activities, supplies and props. Our students became prop masters, skit writers, storytellers, supply shoppers, game facilitators and small group leaders. And they led. Tuesday through Friday, students led the experience and we few adults acted as coaches (and bouncers for the rambunctious kids.) I can still see Ian, Rachael, Jon, Luke and Anneka, to name a few, take charge and lead, love and serve. The site director (after two days off to rest) came back to find a handmade welcome back poster from our team and the kids, supply bins filled, props made and most importantly, 120 kids engaged, knowing more about the God who lovingly made them and Jesus who restores them to God.
I tell you this story to encourage you because it is a true story of students going the extra mile and doing above and beyond what was expected. It was a special time where, as a group, we experienced the Lord in our midst.
I also tell you this story because I want to challenge you. I do not want you to miss out on what God can do through the students of your church. Each of the students in this story has talents and gifts which were primed for use. Each had hearts that were willing to share. Each were willing to step out beyond their normal expectations to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to be the church, to give and love and serve like Him.
You have students just like these who will rise to any challenge set before them IF you are willing to prepare them and give them the opportunity to lead.
You see, before the trip, as a group, we did several things that made our students ready for the unexpected moment.
We were intentional in our planning meetings leading up to the VBS to:
- COMMUNICATE VISION | Explain why we were serving these children and what God longed to do in their life.
- ASSIGN RESPONSIBILITY | Give them assignments and responsibilities for planning that demonstrated their willingness and ability to both lead and follow well. Remember they do homework more complicated than the average job requires.
- PRACTICE | Train each participant to use the curriculum and understand both their role and the flow of the event. Lots of students play on sports teams in a coordinated role-they can do this!
- PRAY TOGETHER | Bring the student’s focus to the hearts of who will come, listen and respond.
As you begin your planning for VBS, don’t forget to include students. Believe me, like I did, you and your other adults will see amazing things happen. You will not just see students serving, you will see the Church in action. I can’t wait to hear your stories!
Check out the BRAND NEW VBS offering from Orange for 2016 – WALK THIS WAY! Your kids will take a journey with Paul and ask the same questions he asked – making some incredible discoveries along the way!
Brian VanderArk is the Family Care Pastor at Ada Bible Church near Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has developed a comprehensive ministry strategy that coordinates parent resources and family celebrations with weekly resources for children and students. Brian is passional about helping churches strengthen their strategy to allow families to better follow Jesus. He leads a GREAT team who is energized by Orange thinking. Brian and his wife, Ruby, have a son, Will, who is currently a freshman in college.
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