Our daughter attended Vacation Bible School at my sister's church this week. It was a camping theme and she had a great time. She played with friends, decorated a canvas backpack (apparently it's a "Bible bag"), received some McDonald's coupons, learned some songs and dances. She liked the songs so much that she convinced me to give her $5 to buy the CD-Rom with the songs and bonus computer games on it. It all made me very sad, I was on the verge of crying when I went inside to pick her up on the last night. That's a weird emotion to have when a Christian mom goes to a Christian Church to pick her happy daughter up from a week of Christian activities. So why was I sad?
She didn't learn any Christian lessons.
I know that they taught Christian lessons. Each daily note they sent home had the verse that they studied on it. But when I asked my 8-year-old daughter what she learned, she could only answer "songs. And dances." She also related that they got to climb up a library bookshelf, and when they reached the top, they yelled "Jesus is alive!"
I probed further: "but what was the story they told?"
Silence. And a sheepish grin.
After a minute of pondering, she remembered that they acted out a play that "explained the symbols in the Izod." I giggled and said "you mean icthus?" "Yeah! that's what I meant!"
I explained to her that I'm not a big fan of that sort of VBS because, while it was very fun and fancy, Jesus wasn't a fan of fancy things. He believed that we should be humble and good and generous. There are so very many really compelling stories in the Bible. Those stories, and Jesus himself, don't need marketing teams and glossy pictures and overhead screens and giant speakers and cotton candy and goldfish in a kiddie pool.
My favorite part of this whole exchange? She totally understood me, and my disdain for the fancy. She's a terrific kid. I told her that I should be doing a better job of teaching the bible's stories, and she said that it sounds like a decent idea. (Our church does Godly Play on Sundays and she's learned a lot, but there's a huge amount of ground to cover-- no danger of running out of lessons.)
We've committed to go to VBS at two more churches in town this summer. Here begins my new mantra: There are worse things they could be doing. There are worse things they could be doing. There are worse things...