Monday, July 20, 2009

Vacation Bible? School

When I moved into the manse here I explored one of my extra rooms and found a stash of mysterious objects. Brightly colored things that seemed like soft styrofoam, in funny shapes - incomplete shapes - pieces of shapes. Bagged in sets of twenty each, packaged in more foam (as if they weren't soft enough?), accompanied by "foam glue" and special markers. I was befuddled.
You see, my church never *did* Vacation Bible School. We went camping, yes, and put on musicals, but never had summer-camp-at-church. We missed out on the whole phenomenon of VBS crafts, a subject that is still foreign to me, but now I've done some research and found out what I was missing. A crucial part of VBS is, apparently, gluing small pieces of pre-cut foam together to make a predetermined craft shape, which then you bring home and give as a token of affection to your adoring parents who can't think of a blessed thing to DO with these crafts, so they accumulate on the counter until the child has forgotten to be proud of them or concerned with them.
To help make VBS more cohesive, the geniuses (genii?) at the Oriental Trading Company have developed more than a summer's full of themed VBS packages. For example, you can have a "safari" theme, where you bring home tiger and lion crafts which remind you of the Bible because Samson and David used to kill lions, and those stories were in the Bible somewhere. Or maybe the connection was that lions and tigers are brave just like Jesus was brave? Something of the sort - I forget.
In all seriousness OTC carries a "crocodile" VBS theme, although they can't decide whether it's an alligator or crocodile, and it comes with such catchy slogans as "looking out for God's Love" (eyes poking out of the swamp), "hungry for God's word" (toothy grin), and "basking in His Glory." So if your kids remember these slogans, perhaps THIS activity:

will pack some punch.
But I wouldn't be surprised if a few of your kids come home at the end of the day a little confused about what they were supposed to be learning. Odds are the "gator snacks" (reconfigured gummi candies) will be the most memorable.

Some of you have probably never heard of such activities, and are scandalized. Some of you probably just finished your own crocodile-themed VBS and have reasons why it was great. Be it all how it may, I really do question the need for such an industry of disposable entertainment under the banner of raising up children well-schooled in the Bible. The Word of God ought to be attractive enough without the murky filter of swamp water making it "fun."

Our church is trying to re-focus VBS. We renamed it, as if that would help, but we also chose our own non-commercial theme, a little more Biblical: "the Light of the World." We'll still be doing crafts, but they will be focused on the useful tradition of candle-making, and foam glue will not be implicated. Our Sunday School Superintendent is working on her own original tunes for them to sing. Stay tuned to see how it actually goes... attendance has been low in the past few years, perhaps because the local children know this church doesn't give out gator snacks. We'll see!

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