If I think back – I can sort of remember attending VBS. I’m thinking it was well before Lifeway would have mass produced a themed VBS in a box, so all decoration was made by the ladies that usually organized and ran the whole thing. I remember being in a big room, all of us were in the front, leaving the back section deserted. They would take the roll of who was there – this particular VBS, there were two bowls on the edge of the raised floor just in front of the pulpit. Girls were supposed to a marble in one bowl and boys in the other. Girls always outnumbered the boys as far back as anyone could remember, but everybody was always encouraged to bring more friends to see if the boys would ever win.
Then one of the adults would turn on the cassette player and try to teach us the motions that went with the music. We all knew that there would be a big performance on the last day, but it never seemed that we could keep up with the music, the motions, and each other at the same time. After that a snack and then everybody would split up, half to do the crafts, half to the attend the Bible teaching. Truth be told – I don’t really remember anything specific about any of this part.
VBS was one week, inconveniently always in the summer, and really nothing special – especially if you were already a regular attender. That church had a second program which had some things similar to VBS, but it was every Wednesday – an after-school club where we’d show up, learn something from the bible, build a craft, and sing some songs – it always ended in a big meal and one game that everybody played together. I remember one where we taped together two foam plates, decorated them like UFOs and threw them around to see which table’s design was most sound. If you were lucky, older kids would be option to learn how to create a Bob Ross style painting.
But once you’re at a certain age, you don’t attend VBS … you’re supposed to help run it. We would be assigned to assist the adults with making the snacks or preparing the crafts ahead of time so that the children could finish them without having to use tricky materials like the hot glue gun. By now, churches were buying Lifeway’s themed VBS in a box, so much of the preparation had been done for them.
I guess that’s where the outgrowing begins, when you’re no longer a young child – the all important future of the church – and it slowly stops being for and about you. Most churches tend to lose large numbers of young adults just at the end of High School. Even more in the years after college slowly drop out. Some churches retain them better than others with good ministries, but some churches lose them because of not-so-good ministries.
It struck me how this trend carries on well into older classes. It’s not just the 20 somethings that seem to feel as if they’ve outgrown younger ministries, but the 30 somethings, 40 somethings, and 50 somethings can feel much the same way – even more so given that few churches really represent or minister to such a wide age gap very well.
Perhaps that’s why so many people of all ages are leaving behind churches that seem to have seven year old children and septuagenarian elders, but nothing for the in-between people where they don’t feel singled out, completely ignored, or uncomfortable by generational differences. If you ask me – the church that doesn’t live in the present won’t have a future either.