Raising the Bar, Part 3
My last two posts addressed how we can and must combat the increasingly “lite” culture in our churches by offering children engaging and challenging VBS material. Here we’ll look at two very different but equally encouraging victories in the battle for our children’s hearts and minds.
One Sunday morning during worship, our congregation was reading the beautiful and poetic Philippians 2:5-11 passage, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God…” I happened to glance across the aisle, and noticed a young high schooler reciting it from memory. I couldn’t help but continue to watch as she flawlessly recited the verses through to the end. And I knew why. Kolleen had grown up going to Reachout VBS’s, including Upward Bound where she and other “Backpackers” memorized this wonderful hymn of the Early Church. Though it had been many years since she’d attended VBS, Kolleen still had those words—The Word—hidden in her heart.
Can you relate? I can! The Scripture verses I recite today without hesitation are the ones that I, like Kolleen, learned as a child in VBS and Sunday School—especially those Scriptures that were regularly reviewed as I was learning them. The beauty of VBS—if the program has a strong Scripture memory component—is that for an entire week kids are intently focused on what they’re memorizing and reviewing, causing the Word to be deeply planted in their minds. By God’s grace, those verses will also take root in their hearts, staying with them and impacting them for the rest of their lives.
Some would object that if children don’t fully understand what they’re memorizing, especially the littlest ones in VBS, why start them so young? But if we believe what the Scriptures say about themselves—that they are living and active—we can trust God to open minds and hearts to Scripture’s meaning and significance in His perfect time. Our responsibility is to foster and encourage the hiding of the Word in the heart, and leave the rest to God, as this second example so amazingly illustrates.
A pastor I know had been an altar boy in his youth. John had dutifully recited the Scriptures and liturgy in church week after week, even though he never specifically heard the Gospel message explained nor was taught what the verses meant. But when John was a teenager (painting a barn, no less!) the Holy Spirit brought the Word John had recited as a child to life. John flew to put his tools away and ran to meet with a Christian friend to learn what salvation by faith is all about! John later went on to Seminary and has been used of God in a vital pastoral ministry to hundreds.
So let’s be encouraged by all the Kolleens and Johns out there and raise the bar in VBS. Let’s stem the tide of our current culture by incorporating a strong Scripture memory component into our programs. I’ll show you some of the many facets of Reachout’s Scripture memory plan in my next post!