When you have nearly 300 kids coming together for two hours in your church for five nights a week, you’re praying that they can calm down enough to behave, listen and learn. Literally praying for it.
“...Father God, help us be on our best behavior, and be good listeners,” said Pam Foster, children’s ministry director at Aldersgate UMC in Nixa. She opened the prayer by asking the children to sit down, close their eyes, fold their hands, and be very quiet as they talk to God and listen to for God’s voice.
It worked, although “very quiet” is a subjective term when there are 282 children in the sanctuary. But it’s clear this Vacation Bible School is a big deal before you ever get in the door. The parking looks like a county fair, as numerous parking lot attendants guide cars in and out to keep traffic flowing efficiently and safely.
Inside the main sanctuary, the children are organized by section and paired with group leaders. The stage sets are impressive, and it seems a shame they are only used for five nights. Fortunately, they are not. The same stage set is used for worship on the Sunday morning following Vacation Bible School, and the church is also in a cooperative relationship with other churches that use the sets on different weeks of the summer.
Following the initial welcome, the 300 kids split into four groups and go to different areas of the church for crafts, games, live Bible stories presented as skits and videos. Pulling off such a large scale operation requires an immense number of volunteers – about 200. You could question if such an effort is worth it, but Rev. Dennis Miller knows all the work put in by the volunteers isn’t a cost, it’s a benefit.
“This is the best thing we do as a church, because it spans all ages and brings us all together,” Miller said. “Some of the volunteers are junior high and high school kids who only recently graduated from VBS. Some are college kids home for the summer. Some are parents. Some are retirees.” As he looks around the room and points out the “unpaid servants,” it certainly isn’t just people into children’s ministry, it’s also the finance chair and members of the board of trustees.
One volunteer commented that his children used to go to VBS there, and now his children are leading it, and his grandchildren are attending.
The church accepts children as young as three in VBS. Ben Stone was volunteering, and had his three-year enrolled for the first time, and his five year old for her third. “As soon as it’s over, she’s asking when it will be next year, and what the theme is going to be,” he said.