Vacation Bible School has been a summer tradition of community churches almost as long as there have been community churches in this country. While they serve the same purpose today as they did say 50 years ago, the formats and techniques have changed dramatically over the years.
Just recently I attended two VBS sessions – one at the Twin City Church of Christ and another at the Cypert Church of Christ near Marvell. I took a mental note of how visual they have become in my lifetime. Hard-working church artists and graphic specialists put in long hours to bring the Bible days back to life for a group of curious youngsters.
Children today are much more visually oriented than the generation I grew up. Of course television was on the verge of changing all of that. But primarily in the late 1950s and early 1960s, children were still intently interested in the currently almost lost art of storytelling.
I had great VBS teachers that could bring a Bible story to life with simply the inflection of their voice.
My earliest recollection of Vacation Bible School dates back to around 1958 or 1959. I was five or six years old at the time. Our old church building had very few of today's modern conveniences. There was no air-conditioning. In fact, we were quite thankful for the ceiling fans. When it was really hot the windows were raised and the ladies used hand fans to avoid “perspiring” during the services.
The classrooms were small and decorated with only a few illustrations centered on what we were studying that week–no posters, thank you very much.
VBS usually took place early in the morning around 9 or 9:30 and dismissed before lunch. We would gather in the auditorium before we were dismissed for classes and sing a few classic children's songs like, “Jesus Loves Me” and Jesus Love the Children of the World.”
I think we also sang a couple of adult hymns too. It was VBS where I first got brave enough to lead singing before a group. I still get a little nervous when I lead singing but I credit that VBS experience with being able to overcome some of my stage fright in the church building.
During the first session, we listened intently as the teacher told the lesson of the day with the use of some illustrations from the material. As a child, break time was what we all anxiously awaited. Ice cream and soft drinks were the order of the day – from popsicles to fudge bars to Orange Crush and Double Cola. Man was it ever cold and good.
After we ate, we still had a few minutes to romp and play a little in the great outdoors. Then, it was back to the classroom, where we got to work on some type of craft associated with the Bible story. It would vary from using cotton for a cloud in a picture to working on Noah's Ark made from popsicle-sticks.
Page 2 of 2 - Of course, the best was saved for last. It was class as usual but they were shortened somewhat. We returned to the auditorium where we would receive our “Perfect Attendance” certificates. The weeklong VBS culminated with a huge watermelon party for the entire congregation.
VBS is a great tradition that lives on even if it is in a somewhat modified format. Both had one thing in common – the Bible was at the center of the activities. May this tradition never die.