Summer is here and that means that every church in America is hosting their own Vacation Bible School. Two summers ago I was ready for the summer season and by being ready for it, what I really mean is that I had my kids enrolled in every VBS within a 20 mile radius of our house. I didn’t care how early I had to get up to get them to the VBS across town, I was doing it. It meant that for 3 hours I had alone time and they had something to do.
That summer we went to every single VBS in town and I started to feel quite icky by the end of the summer. I didn’t feel icky for the reason that you think I did. You would think that I would feel icky for taking advantage of the VBS system and abusing each sweet church’s open arms to my kids. Little did they know that when we showed up for the first day of the week and my kids whispered that they knew all the songs it was because they sang them last week at the other church across the street. I am fully aware that I took advantage of free childcare and snacks for my kids that summer. But listen, a mom has to do what she has to do to survive four children when their dads on the road. It’s a matter of survival y’all.
The reason that I felt icky at the end of that summer is because 2 different churches called me at the end of the summer to congratulate Cayden on accepting Jesus into his heart. The sweet children’s pastor told me how excited she was for Cayden and what this meant for his life now. I told her that he hadn’t mentioned anything to me about this “conversion”. She was confident that he would and that I should just ask him about it.
I did ask him about it and he had no clue what I was talking about. He did retell the events that went down and in his words “the guy said if we went down to the front we could go to heaven”. Well, I would have went down too I told him! Then he ran off and continued playing legos with his brothers. He had no idea what went down and when I asked him about the prayer that he prayed with the person at the front, he had no idea what was said.
Then the next time I got the call from a different church it was the secretary called me to give the good news. She was so sweet and I felt awful for my lack of enthusiasm at my sons new found faith, but it just seemed rehearsed and as if I was a part of a survey she was taking for all new Christian parents. She went through the whole shebang about Cayden “accepting Jesus as his savior” and what he needed to do next. She invited me to the class on baptism and explained how important it was that he get baptized right away. I listened and did a lot of uh-huh’s and let her go thru her spill, and then I told her that I would talk to Cayden about all this, but he hadn’t mentioned anything to me about it and I’m not sure what really went down. She explained that he had come down and prayed the prayer to accept Jesus into his heart.
I again asked Cayden about this and he had no clue what I was talking about. At this point I was getting a little frustrated at the whole system I felt that I was a part of. This is where the icky feeling came into play. I began to feel as though my child was a number on some churches stats page that they were broadcasting and proud of, and yet he had no clue what they were talking about.
Now please hear me when I say what I’m about to say. YES people can find Jesus at VBS. For sure. Don’t email me your story about becoming a Christian at VBS because I know it can happen. My point here is the “come say a prayer” “free ticket to heaven” sermons that are given to elementary kids are scary and a slippery slope to me. It is a concept that can lead people down a road of believing they are saved because of that prayer they said when they were 8, when in fact there’s no life change and they aren’t following Jesus at all.
My kids are at a VBS this week and although I want to sign them up for every VBS in town to give me some free time I look at it differently these days. My kids are all at a crucial stage in their life and their faith and for me the free 15 hours in a week is not worth them hearing a gospel that offers Heaven in exchange for a prayer. I love my kids hearing about amazing bible stories and how Jesus changes lives and changed our world, but I don’t like them sitting in a room and hearing a message that ends with them raising their hand if they want to accept Jesus into their heart and go to heaven. Who wouldn’t sign up for that?
So this year we are only attending one VBS at a local church with reformed theology. It’s a sticky subject because I fully believe that someone can come to know Jesus anywhere, anytime, under any circumstances because I believe that God calls his children to him and then we respond to his voice. Is it possible for this to happen at VBS? Absolutely, a child can turn his life over to God at these events. I pray that my kids hearts are changed and running more towards Jesus after this week, but too many times churches can depend on the action of reciting a prayer to determine someone’s salvation.
Here’s a video that I love from David Platt where he addresses the concept of calling people to a prayer and then marking them off as being saved. I would love to hear your thoughts on this as well. Do you send your kids to VBS?