I was horrified at the tears filling my eyes. It was the last day of Vacation Bible School at Chatham Baptist Church and I had stopped on our way out to thank my daughter’s teacher. But what I’d intended as a breezy thank-you turned awkward as I was hit with the full weight of my appreciation for this week and these kind volunteers.
This is not my first rodeo, I thought as I mentally chased back the tears threatening to spill over. I’ve been a part of VBS in one way or another for 30 years. Get it together. I briefly won the battle, but then the tears came back. Miss Bonnie graciously pretended not to notice, accepted my thanks, and then gave Lucy a big hug before we left. Because her mother is obviously going through some things, I thought as we walked to the car.
With some time for reflection, I’ve realized what I was going through that week was experiencing ministry on the flip side. Most of us have years of experience volunteering at VBS, leading Bible studies, and serving as camp counselors. What we may do less often and less easily is availing ourselves to the ministry of the local church, trusting fellow Christians to serve faithfully and obediently, and leaning into Scripture’s call to live in loving community with each other.
Indeed, this wasn’t my first experience with VBS. But it was the first time I’d dropped my children off at 9:00 and picked them up at noon, still singing the songs they’d learned that day. It was the first time our daughters spent a week of mornings dedicated to patient, caring instruction in God’s word; the first time I’d noticed how those mornings can build on one another, resulting into some important conversations at home about God, grace, sin, and salvation.
It’s been a few weeks, but I am still a full-fledged VBS evangelist. You should definitely sign up next year, I’ve told practical strangers at the library or the grocery store. I’ve made a mental note to mark the date on our 2023 calendar. And I’m still thinking about how I can engage in ministry from the participant side, for opportunities to listen instead of lead.
I’d also like to be less weepy when I witness churches loving their communities well, but I’m not making any promises.
Meredith Day Flynn is a wife and mother of two living in Springfield. She writes on the intersection of faith, family, and current culture.