Although Vacation Bible School seems like ages ago, it has only been about 6 weeks since the sanctuary of Silver Spring United Methodist Church was filled with energetic young children all dressed in brightly colored shirts, eager to learn God’s word. This year’s theme was “Surf Shack,” which fit nicely with the start of summer. Crews and centers were aptly named to fit the theme. Crews included the Sea Turtles (4 years old), the Seahorses (5-6 years old), the Lobsters (7-8 years old), the Sand Crabs (8-9 years old), the Jellyfish (9 years old), the Squids (9 years old), the Stingrays (10 year old boys), and the Dolphins (10 year old girls). This year at VBS, the numbers were smaller than in previous years, with only 85 children attending.

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Despite the need to close registration early due to a lack of volunteers, this year’s VBS proved to be a successful one, and a week that the children thoroughly enjoyed. Lucy Hur, an avid participant in VBS, and member of the Lobsters Crew, says that her favorite parts about the week were, “art, because we did a lot of crafts there, and singing songs.” Like Lucy, almost every child had a center during the day that they particularly enjoyed. Whether that was the Craft Hut, Discovery Dunes, a center filled with fun science experiments, the Story Deck, the Mission Center, Tidal Tunes, or the beloved Snack Shack.

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The success of VBS is largely due to the amount of preparation and hard work that goes on behind the scenes. Ms. Marie Matthews, SSUMC Director of Christian Education, served as the fearless leader and director of this wonderful ministry. She shares that the hardest parts about orchestrating a large ministry such as VBS was, “making sure that we have enough volunteers for the week,” and “enough leaders for all of the different centers.” However, after a number of years, the task often does not feel as daunting. Ms. Marie agrees, stating, “we’re kind of pros at it now, once you’ve done it once or twice it’s very simple.”

Ms. Marie was not alone this week. There were a number of youth and adults who stepped up this summer to help lead Vacation Bible School. The experience of volunteering during the week is always fulfilling, with adult and youth leaders alike feeling as if they have contributed to the church, as well as the community. Every volunteer had a different reason for stepping up. Youth crew leader Risa McGinnis says, “I like working with kids and it was a good opportunity to reach out in the community.” During, and especially after VBS, there is always a common sense of joy and satisfaction that is felt by everyone involved in the ministry.

Active adult leader Jim Joholske expresses this notion stating, “It is so fulfilling to see how much the kids enjoy VBS. It brings me great joy to see how happy they are to be there. The centers are well planned and the kids love the activities. I also enjoy meeting the kids that do not normally attend our church. I think this is such an important outreach not only to our church family, but to others in the community as well.”

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Ms. Marie agrees with the positive outlook on the ministry, sharing that the most fulfilling part of the week was, “it’s always the kids having a great time. No matter what it always works out.” She shares her main reasoning behind continuing the ministry every year stating, “I love the kids, and I love Vacation Bible School. It’s one of the highlights of our ministry, and it’s a good outreach tool; we have more children from the community that come to Vacation Bible School than we have our own kids that are members of the church.”

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This positive impact of the ministry also translates over to the diverse groups of children that are met with an opportunity to strengthen their relationships to God. Through the fun activities throughout the week, children are taught and exposed to various stories and lessons that teach them how to see, love, and trust in God.

There were various “pop up phrases” that were reinforced throughout the week in order to keep the principle of God’s love present. These short, yet powerful phrases include, “God creates,” “God helps,” “God loves,” “God calms,” “God provides,” and “God sends.” These simple phrases helped to keep God alive in the minds of the children, and they were a reminder of God’s love for them. Sarah Park, mother of Audrey and Isaac Park, states, “I am grateful that our church community provides a fun, inviting environment for children to learn about God and what it means to be a Christian in our world in very real ways.”

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The impact of Vacation Bible School has also reached numerous parents of children who have participated in the ministry. Sarah Park states, “I know that both Audrey and Isaac learned a valuable lesson by participating in the mission project for Haiti during VBS. Just the other day we were driving in the car together when we heard a news report about the recent unrest in Turkey. Isaac (5) suggested that we send food and money to help the people who live there.” These small, yet powerful acts continue to be part of a greater impact on the community.

Vacation Bible School always has been and will remain a highlight, and a vital part of our church year. The program continues to greatly impact all who are involved, and all who have the pleasure of witnessing a week filled with God’s love. At the end of the ministry, it is rewarding to see all of the hard work and preparation pay off through the eagerness and joy of the children.

Because of the positive impact that this ministry has had on the faith of the children, our goal is to be able to welcome 150 children (or more!) to Vacation Bible School next year. That being said, if you are an adult or a youth who is looking for a way to reach out into the community, please consider giving some of your time to volunteering at Vacation Bible School next summer. We promise, you won’t regret it.