This past week marked vacation bible school for our church. An entire facility was transformed from its standard configuration to an arctic-themed adventure land and back again. Many volunteers are recovering from a full week of crafts, games, music, and snack preparation. It was energetic. It was exciting. And it was exhausting.
Why do we do it?
At the end of a long journey or arduous project, it’s common to look back and consider if it was all worth it. VBS was a lot of effort, but was it worth it? Take that a step further, children’s ministry in general is a lot of work, is it worth it? Why do we even do it? Can children really understand enough for it to matter?
It is tempting to assume that faithful Christian parents in a faithful Christian church leads to faithful Christian children, yet, how are we saved? Are we welcomed into the church by virtue of our ancestry and the faithfulness of our parents? Are there a set of behaviors and practices that guarantee the salvation of our children if we only have the discipline to follow them?
The only safe assumption is that we successfully and completely passed down our sinful nature to our children. It can be dangerous for both parent and child to assume otherwise.
But can children really grasp the Scriptures enough for it to matter? Can a 4-year-old really grasp the concepts necessary for salvation? Wouldn’t it just be easier to provide a lighthearted and fun experience, saving the teaching and training until they are able to sit still for longer than 10 minutes?
Children are in a perpetual state of training and that training starts somewhere. They may not understand calculus yet but that wouldn’t hold you back from teaching basic addition now. The ideas they are exposed to in their families, in their communities, and in their media, all shape their worldview.
Like the “muscle memory” of a trained athlete, their worldview will be “trained” to something. Would you not want that training to be based on truth?
That’s not to say any amount of training guarantees salvation. No children’s church curriculum comes with a 100%-conversion guarantee (and if it does, don’t buy it). We’ve often used the analogy of piling logs on an unlit fire. We don’t have the ability to light that fire of salvation. Only God can create the spark, but we will put as many logs as we can on the pile so, should that spark come, the fire will burn brilliantly.
Our salvation has always been and will always be from God quickening dead sinful hearts to newness of life. This always comes by repentance, responding to the preaching of the Word.
The only “formula” for saving sinners (regardless of age) is to preach the Word faithfully, pray for the sinner, and rest in God’s sovereign result.
This is why we expend all the effort in VBS and children’s ministry: the Gospel. The Gospel is always worth it. If that means marker stains, cleaning up spilled juice, or ushering a child to the bathroom for the 3rd time this evening, so be it.
We often despair at the lack of evangelistic opportunities in our lives. We excuse ourselves by claiming that we really don’t know too many neighbors, friends, coworkers, etc. Yet, in our midst are dozens of children who need the Gospel now.
So is it worth it? I say, “Pass me another handful of crayons and glue sticks.”
photo credit: cdn.www.ministry-to-children.com