VBS training is in full swing. State conventions are training associational leadership, and associational leadership are in turn preparing to train church leaders to have evangelistic and life-changing Vacation Bible School’s. These times of training take on different looks. One of primary ones is the clinic on the associational level where, traditionally, the local church is trained on how to lead the individual age groups and rotation sites. Recently I learned that a few of the associations across our state are employing an “expo” style of VBS clinic. What this means is that the association will set up a display of some or all of the other publishers, in addition to Lifeway, who offer Vacation Bible School material. Some of those publishers include Group, Gospel Light, Standard, Regular Baptist Press, Concordia, and Cokesbury. Once the seven or eight options are presented, churches from the association “shop around” for the curriculum that best fits their need. In my opinion, this process of selecting a Vacation Bible School is flawed on several levels.
Now let me say up front, as a disclaimer, that I don’t believe that Lifeway is perfect. It would be unwise for me to say or to infer that. I believe that Lifeway is the best of all the rest. I personally have areas that I struggle with within the area of publication choices. Some of my children’s Sunday School teachers have some valid concerns with teaching material that I hope to see addressed one day in the future. I have pastor friends of mine who struggle with the cost of curriculum that is passed on to the churches. I have been involved in the teaching of VBS leaders at the state level for many years for two state conventions. I have intentionally studied other publishers VBS materials. In years past, I have used publishers other than Lifeway for our church’s VBS. I feel confident and qualified to say here, and hereafter, that Lifeway VBS is the best of all the rest. I don’t expect everyone to agree, and that it fine. I’m OK with that.
I want share why I think the “expo” style of clinic for the association is flawed. The reasons I believe this style of clinic is flawed are the same reasons I feel Lifeway VBS is the best one for our churches. Two come to mind.
1. The Issue of Doctrinally Integrity
Lifeway’s VBS is doctrinally sound. Churches that choose to use Lifeway curriculum won’t have to worry about the biblical content. There is a confidence in knowing that the material is written through the lense of the Baptist Faith and Message. The flaw of the “expo” model is that the DOM or some representative of the association would have to make sure that each of the publishers they were allowing to be modeled was doctrinally sound. Someone has to ask a question like “Does this curriculum present Jesus Christ as the sole means of salvation?” Someone has to ask a question like “Does this curriculum present the Bible as the perfect word of God?” Someone has to ask a question like this one “Does this curriculum acknowledge that man is lost and in need of a Savior?” In an associational “expo” clinic, that someone should be the DOM.
2. The Linking of Southern Baptist Missionaries
In addition to being doctrinally sound, Lifeway VBS draws attentions to the work of our Southern Baptist missionaries. With the inclusion of a Missions rotation, students have the opportunity to study real life missions and missionaries from around the world and understand how Cooperative Program monies work. I believe this is invaluable for our children and adults as well. In the “expo” clinic model, this is absent. I cannot for the life of me understand why a Southern Baptist association would choose to model for its churches a VBS that does not highlight what our Southern Baptist missionaries are doing.
Some may say that it is “just” Vacation Bible School, it is no big deal. I don’t buy that. Some would say just pick the best looking theme that the kids would like. That should never be basis for a decision. Some would say that cost should be the deciding factor. I don’t believe that should even be the deciding factor. VBS has the potential to affect and change the lives of children, adults, and churches. I believe that within the ministry of VBS our future teachers, pastors, missionaries, and lay leaders will be called out. This is the reason why that as a pastor I am so passionate about VBS . It is also the reason why I believe it should not be treated so lightly and as carelessly as it seems to be treated at times.