With the onslaught of video games and television shows, with Facebook and other aspects of social media, it can be difficult to tear children away from screen time, from the virtual reality life that they are so used to. Let’s face it, we’ve become used to as well. Since we’re smack dab in the middle of summer, I thought that I would highlight one of my latest favorite programs, Vacation Bible School (VBS). Now, I should say that I am also a big proponent of programs like GEMS, which I also am part of and thoroughly enjoy and recommend for girls.
Okay, so I get it if you don’t feel like church is your place. I kinda get it if you feel like programs such as VBS are pushing religion on children, but what I don’t get is the reality of actually taking time to see what the VBS program is about. Sure, some churches and programs are not going to be your fit. God will lead you where you need to be, just as He has done with my family. We tried a few different churches before finding a home at our church. What I encourage you to do is check into the programs that your local churches offer kids and teens. Too much of this “Facebook” thing and this “YouTube” thing can and will have negative impacts on our children. I am not just coming from a mother’s point of view or a church member’s point of view, but a mental health professionals’ point of view too. If the first two credentials didn’t matter to you before then shouldn’t the third one?
What VBS offers is so much more than a screen ever could or a night sitting watching a movie ever could. I didn’t have the experience with VBS as a kid. My kids do and I feel like they have a leg up on other children who do not. I am not saying that because it’s part of the church that they are better than anyone. Far from it, and I want VBS to help teach them this very lesson. Leaders take time and dedication to make the program something magical and special for children. When they enter the doors of the church, they are transported into a whole new world. The kids will not only see and feel the magic but will feel the love of those within their church or within their community. Even if they do not consciously know the dedication that has been given to their communities, they will feel the safety net of love offered by the volunteers.
Okay, okay so I don’t have you yet huh. Well, check this out, VBS has not only Bible lessons, but cooking lessons, science lessons (whoop whoop Imagination Station), outdoor games where kids actually touch grass and go outside under the sun, great lessons in compassion and fundraising motivational activities. I know, you don’t think your kids will like it, but give it a try as most kids end up having a blast. I am not a people person, but I have seen how my kids blossom and fall in love with the idea that their mother is part of a program with them. I have seen how my kids call a church home. I will afford them another place to explore their faith and worldview as they grow into hopeful compassion and intellectual adults.
From a mental health point of view, you are creating a consistent place of love and compassion for your child. They will know that they are cared for even if they act up or are a hyperactive child (okay, so there are exceptions to the rule, I get this). VBS offers a place where children learn to put others before themselves and that making something for someone else is and should be the biggest joy in life. Oh, and did I mention that they will get to socialize with other children in a real-life environment? Kids need to interact with each other, have real eye contact, learn to solve problems alone and together. They need to know that if things to do not go their way, it will be okay, and they can choose another path. I don’t have to tell you that it teaches children to share and that is good too, I mean we want kids to know that kindness is more than just giving away money but a simple “please and thank you” as well as a smile.
One last bonus, it gives parents a break for a little while if they are not volunteering for the program themselves, and what better place to be than in a place that should be emitting hope, love and faith within the community.