What can I do for VBS this year?
For many years, I served in a major leadership position for our church’s Vacation Bible School (week long summer program for kids). This year, since the vision in my left eye was still unstable after surgery, I didn’t feel comfortable committing to any major role. So I volunteered to be a helper in the preschool department. “I’m content to do a lot of holding,” I told my husband as we walked out our side door the first night of VBS.
My words surprised me. Hugging was not my spiritual gift. I’ve never considered myself a huggy type of person. However, my words became prophetic. Throughout the week, I felt my arms extend towards children. Many times, they initiated the hug or gravitated toward my lap. Instead of teaching and telling stories to a sea of faces, this time, I got to know children by name up close and personal. I learned to treat them as individuals with their own stories.
Kelsie suffers from a severe heart condition. Her father explained to us that she has only a 75% percent oxygen level. “She knows how to pace herself,” he told us. I nodded in agreement. All week, she had used my lap as a time out.
Raine lost her dog in a tragic accident on the second day of VBS. Midway through the evening program, she burst into tears. My lap became her refuge as I explained to her that it was okay to be sad and she would probably feel sad off and on for the next few days. “But it will get better,” I promised as I handed her a tissue for her next sad moment.
Paisley, the youth minister’s daughter, found my lap first. Mommy and Daddy were flying hither and yon in their major roles in VBS. My face was familiar so the little girl clung to me from moment one. It didn’t take long for her to no longer need the safety net of a lap and scramble into the circle of children.
Three little boys must have sensed my need for a cuteness break. They’d crawl into my lap, sometimes two at a time, say something that made me choke back laughter, then catapault to explore another part of the room, eat too many marshmallows intended for a craft, or bedevil the lead teacher with some kind of mischief.
Some church programs don’t provide a class for toddlers and preschoolers. Program planners assume the children aren’t old enough to teach. I disagree. These precious children are teachable. I saw them sing the songs, make the crafts, and listen to the stories. Albeit in two-minute segments but they did learn. Their parents told me so.
The most effective method of teaching preschoolers is in what you do. You probably don’t remember a specific lesson or when a specific teacher taught a specific story of the Bible before you turned six. Most of us will remember a teacher, a kind face, even a kind deed. I still remember how my first grade teacher hugged me after I got separated from my class and lost in my big elementary school. She helped me find my box of Kleenex and wiped my tears.
If you are ever asked to help with a preschool program and you don’t feel qualified to teach or you feel your teaching days are in the past, reconsider. Your lap may be all that preschool department need. Anyone can serve in the ministry of the lap. Oh, and make sure you stuff your pockets with tissues. Just in case there’s a few tears.