“I really don’t think we should have a 5th & 6th grade class,” Julia’s new co-Director said. “I’ve been talking with our 5th & 6th graders and they’re saying they don’t want to come to VBS as students—they want to be helpers.”
Sound familiar? Sadly, this is an increasingly common scenario. But Julia (not her real name), who had a different perspective, called our office for her Coach’s advice. After that conversation, she went back to her co-Director and lovingly convinced her that they should go ahead and have the class.
The next time we heard from Julia was in the middle of her VBS week. “Our 5th & 6th grade class is bursting at the seams and we need more student materials right away. We started with 12, and we’ve grown to 24! The kids are wildly enthusiastic! They’re doing service projects like crazy, they’ve memorized everything in the Logbooks, including the Extra Credit Memory verses, and they’re enthusiasm has been infectious for the younger kids. Thanks so much for your advice. It made all the difference!”
Here’s the perspective our Reachout Coach gave to Julia:
- Though we are swimming upstream from the culture, we can’t communicate to our 5th & 6th graders that they don’t still need the teaching and experience that VBS offers. They do–desperately!
- If a person’s greatest openness to the Gospel is between the ages of 5 and 12, we should capitalize on every opportunity we have before they reach their teen years.
- When our church children come as students, they are likely to invite their friends, giving a fabulous opportunity to spread the Gospel to unchurched kids.
- Reachout’s VBS concept gets 5th & 6th graders excited—they love the incentive provided by the friendly competition and throw themselves into memorizing and doing service projects.
- 5th & 6th graders’ enthusiasm has a huge impact on the younger VBS students. When the “big kids” are excited, the younger ones will be, too.
Then she gave her this advice:
- Divide girls from boys for classroom time. This helps them stay focused in the classroom, yet they still have snack, recreation/craft, and Bible Lesson times together.
- Have female teachers for the girls and male for the boys—preferably on the younger, yet mature, side. A cool and godly 20-30-something girl/guy can have a huge impact on pre-teens.
- Accommodate their sense of being the “senior” students by letting them have a more “youth group”-type room, special snacks, and even an after-VBS outing one or more days. Along with this, remind them that having special privileges carries special responsibility to set a good example for the younger kids. Then watch them rise to the occasion!
If you haven’t planned on a 5th-6th grade class, we hope you’ll reconsider. Don’t allow the world to “squeeze you into its mold.” Do your part in reversing the tide/trend and then watch to see what God will do!