This week, St. Paul’s, Nobleton has been holding its annual Vacation Bible Camp. Each year, it is our privilege, and that of many other congregations, to welcome community children into our midst for a few days to teach them and model for them the way of Jesus. It’s a sacred trust, and we take it seriously.
Think about it: yes, we see some of our own home-grown kids, but we also welcome children who are not currently part of our fellowship. Parents bring them to us, sign a form, and entrust their little loved ones to our care. For parents, it’s not just about a few mornings when they can have some peace and quiet, or some unfettered time to get some work done; they are entrusting their kids to us and allowing us to build into the spiritual formation of these little ones. We are helping to shape their lives for God’s Kingdom.
Volunteers, and sometimes staff, put countless hours into the planning, preparation and execution of these camps not because they want to babysit strangers’ children, but because they truly believe, in the words of Reggie Joiner, that in a hundred years, the only thing that’s going to matter is what these kids did with Jesus. As churches, we offer these ministries to families because we want them – parents and kids alike – to have a life-changing encounter with the Lord.
Kids memorize Bible verses that may stick with them and may not. They also learn songs that definitely stick with them. (I meet parents in the grocery store year after year who tell me – in the dead of winter – that their kids are still singing camp songs. Children’s memories are amazing.) Everything we do at camp is centred on knowing Jesus and loving him. Because of our proximity to Canada’s Wonderland, these families could get season’s passes and go there every day. Some parents tell us that their kids are more excited to come to Vacation Bible Camp than they are to go to Wonderland.
Why? We don’t have rides (well, we have a cool waterslide…). What we have is Jesus. And he is compelling.
It’s not like Jesus shows up in body, looking like the Bible comics we used to get in Sunday school when we were kids. No: Jesus shows up in those who serve. He comes in the form of caring leaders, teachers and helpers who carry a conviction that in a hundred years, the only thing that’s going to matter is what we did with Jesus.
What we can accomplish in five mornings can be the equivalent of a whole year of Sunday morning kids’ ministry. And the community lines up to bring their children.
It’s a sacred trust. And we wouldn’t give it up for the world.
What are you doing to encourage kids to love Jesus?
“Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom” (Psalm 111.10a, NLT).