Encouragement From The Word

Worth the effort

This week, our congregation has hosted Bible Fun Camp, our annual outreach to community children.  It’s been great to be back after a pandemic hiatus.

The amount of work involved, and the number of volunteers needed, to pull off a vacation Bible school is massive.  Even with a solid and user-friendly curriculum, the effort required is still significant.

But when it’s all said and done, we may be weary, but we will always say it was worth the work.  Why?  Because we have had the privilege of influencing children’s lives for Jesus.

I put an ad on Facebook for Bible Fun Camp about a month ago.  The first comment to come on our ad – which circulated to users in a radius of only about 20 kilometres around Nobleton – was from someone who was accusing us of brainwashing children.

While it saddened me to read, I replied to the comment, leaving both the comment and the reply visible for a short time before deleting both.  In my reply, I simply said that yes, we would be ‘brainwashing’ children, in one sense.  Parents, in leaving their children with us for five mornings, were giving us permission to influence their kids for the gospel of Christ.  But in reality, parents have a choice:  they can brainwash their kids with Jesus and his love, or they can leave it to popular culture to influence them instead.

I often say to parents at a baptism that when they take vows to raise their children to follow Jesus, they are making the choice to brainwash their children, instead of letting Beyoncé do it.  (You can name your favourite popular culture figure instead; I wasn’t just picking on Beyoncé.)  It sounds a bit rough, maybe even offensive, but the fact is that parents have a responsibility to shape their children’s values.  If they fail to do so with intent, the world around them will pick up the slack, and the parents may not be happy with the result.

Churches are called to equip parents to ensure their children’s values are shaped according to the gospel.  And sometimes, it starts with a five-morning adventure for the kids in the summer.  That’s often how the relationships start.

It’s worth all the work!

Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it” (Proverbs 22.6, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word, Uncategorized

Why we do Camp

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).