VBS & Jesus Island
Written by J Punt
It was Thursday evening, June 22, the last night of VBS. The time was 7:56 pm (we were running about 5 minutes behind schedule, as usual).
As I scanned the crowd, I saw happy and tired faces. Many of our kiddos were grinning from ear to ear–they had just won a prize for answering a tough question about one of our Bible stories throughout the week. One of our four year olds had just won a limited edition Bob the Builder hat for shouting ROCK! after I asked where the wise builder built his house. One of our 4th graders had just won a premium, personal-sized flying airplane for explaining that Jesus had predicted that his close friends would all turn away during his hour of great need. Other kids held Shiny Ready! Set! Move! pins, dum dums, or light up bracelets for demonstrating how they had done their best to carefully follow Jesus here, there, and everywhere by listening carefully to amazing stories about him with their Bible Station leaders as their guides.
Our volunteers were also grinning, with smiles that were only slightly forced. It had been a good and long week. Our games leaders were nursing sore shoulders from trying to out-throw our elementary group (a surprising number of whom, by the way, happen to love baseball almost as much as they love Jesus) in some heated dodgeball matches. Our crafts leaders were finally taking a deep breath, wondering how they had just helped manufacture 40+ fully-functioning skateboards out of toothpicks, popsicle sticks, beads and straw. Our group leaders were trying to come up with something to do with themselves for their first night in four days when they wouldn't have to channel their inner border collie to shepherd their respective flocks through such a silly, sweet program. Pastor Lawrence was still trying to get the last bits of whipped cream out of his ears from when he had gotten pied. Pastor Danny was earnestly scratching his chin from where his Peter beard had left him itchy. Everyone, I think, was grateful for the ways Jesus had shown up throughout the week that His church at Waypoint had been completely dedicated to serving the population who holds a privileged place in Christ’s kingdom (Matt. 18:3).
Before I led our final Ready! Set! Move! chant to close out our last day together, there was still much excitement to be had. For starters, I finally pulled out the Ready! Set! Move! Backpacks our kids had been eyeing all week. It was time for a few brave souls to come up on stage, grab the microphone, and attempt to say our WHOLE memory verse for the week in front of our VBS group AND all the parents. Even though I thought only a few would give it a shot, child after child came up and confidently recited:
Let us keep looking to Jesus.
He is the one who started this journey of faith.
And he is the one who completes this journey of faith.
Of course, they each received thunderous applause.
After the memory verse festivities, it was time to sing our theme song for the hundredth and final time. Only this time, kids were invited on stage, the lights were dimmed low, the fog machine was cut on, and everyone became an instant rock star for a few epic moments.
I’m not going to lie, this was a pretty cool scene. As I watched our kids jam the night away, belting out lyrics about their commitment to following Jesus, it made me think of that “core memory” scene in my personal favorite Pixar movie, Inside Out. You know the clip. It’s when, for the first time, Joy sees a newly created memory orb that shines a little bit brighter than the rest. Rather than head to ordinary storage, this core memory travels to a central place and proceeds to anchor a defining characteristic of Riley’s personality.
Maybe it’s a long shot, but in that moment, I was hoping that for a few of our VBS rockstars, perhaps a core memory was being formed. I imagined the night from that four year old’s perspective. After a week of being able to hang out with cool big kids, silly adult volunteers, and a bunch of their little church friends, they got to go up on stage and share what they had learned about Jesus to a sanctuary full of loud cheers. Then, they got to stay up on stage and boogie with their pastors, disco with their dance leaders, and sing their hearts out with everyone in the room–all in the midst of an epic fog and lights show.
Maybe it's the memories like these that the Holy Spirit uses to build “Jesus Island” and place it in the center of our kids’ budding identities. Islands where our kids know they are loved by God’s people, where they know they can have fun with other Christians of all ages, and islands where our kids are continually growing closer to their creator.
I want to thank the entire village of Waypoint Church for making VBS possible. So many people contributed to creating the space where I believe core Jesus memories were formed. I think the extent to which Waypoint church prioritizes loving and discipling our children is a significant factor in the extent to which we are remaining faithful to Christ. In the wake of VBS, I am thanking God for the significant ways I continually see our church step up to that call!