This year, our church’s Vacation Bible School was a three day event. Those three days were split into five different sections with a different theme, or Bible point. Each time that session’s Bible point was spoken, the helpers and kids had to shout back, “Fear not!”
This year I was a leader of five kids. For some reason, the children’s pastor decided that it would be best to have mixed age groups. That meant that the leaders would have children from various age groups. However, the groups were small, which probably helped out the leaders when it came to dealing with cliques and that type of thing. Two of my kids were in the 6th grade. One was a 3rd grader, one was a 1st grader, and another was a 2nd grader. It happened that I had four kids (all girls) for the first two days, and then the fifth kid, a boy, came on the last day.
[insert some insecurity about my skillz as a crew leader. Skillz? I have no skillz. HALP! Gets all worried about my skillz and what shall I do if they’re naughty?]
As it so happened, I was late coming to the church. Bah. The streets were filled with cars, and the lights were all red. We had a near miss with a car that had just stopped in the middle of the street with its nose sticking out. Some horn honking ensued. But I got there. Alive.
Anyway, as a crew leader, I got a nifty plastic bag that held pencils and pens and some booklets for the Bible lesson. Plus a guide for the leader that held a schedule I DID NOT USE for the first day. Yes, I walked around with the wrong schedule for the first session and my kids were none the wiser. (Don’t tell my kids if you go to my church and are reading this.) The nifty plastic bag was meant to carry any stuff that the kids accumulated along the way. These “stuff” became plastic fireflies with no eyes and only one wing each, squished snacks, and tangled whistly toys.
Don’t forget the nice dark purple shirts that we crew leaders got as part of the deal. The kids wore yellow, we wore purple to distinguish ourselves from the rest of the pack. Unfortunately it didn’t seem to help me… various station leaders (*ahem* Jevon) still looked around wildly and picked random tall people out of my group and asked them, “Are you the crew leader?” Purple shirt, *coff coff* I really liked the purple shirts even though they sure smelled funny at the end of three days.
The first stop of the day was “Sing and Play Swamp Stomp.” Notice the use of alliteration. It’s exactly what it is. The sanctuary was decked out in a nice styrofoam house (wish I had pictures. I don’t) and some really really awesome trees and a dock and a cardboard boat and a happy green blow up croc. You know, the kind that you throw into the pool and cling on when you’re drowning. The kids were entertained by an interesting character named “Skeeter.” He was supposed to be the wild man of the swamp or something of the sort, but I found him disturbing. I mean, he talks exactly like this guy who used to stalk me…
I’m just really glad that Skeeter/Henry didn’t come up to me and ask, “Do you like to sing to Jesus?” Brrrrr.
That would have been too much. Ask me why.
The kids didn’t warm up to the hand motions at first, and honestly, neither did I. It took about a day before we all stopped feeling awkward and actually started learning the hand motions, instead of hiding behind the pews.
Worship leader asked us to introduce each other. The two 6th graders we’ll call J and E. The third grader we’ll call Y. The second grader? C. I knew all of them already. Here I’ll say that C was the kid I was worried about, as she’s rather spoiled and knows how to pull people’s strings. *wince* It’s her fault for having such beautiful eyelashes.
The worship leader introduced us to our Bible buddy, which was some animal. It was Flash the firefly. It had a purple butt and eyelashes. She/he reminded us that God is always with us! So for the rest of that session, whenever the words “God is with us” was spoken, the kids and their crew leaders responded with a resounding “Fear not!”
Then we were supposed to choose jobs for the kids. Pick your choice. You have “Materials Manager” (bag carrier), “Prayer Partner,” “Gator Guide” (I’m not really sure what this is) “Schedule Supervisor” (person who keeps track of where we’re supposed to go, and when) and the person who’s supposed to thank the station leaders (station leaders are the people not in charge of a group but rather a specific station, like the crafts station, the snack station, the Bible story station, etc.) at the end of each stop. I don’t remember who I chose for what, but I do remember that C wanted kept changing her mind. I ended up with some sort of compromise.
Next stop: the gym for some games. The games involved an “icebreaker” game that was actually kind of fun. Each kid was given a skittle, and they were asked to flash their skittles, pretending that those skittles were fireflies. Then they were supposed to find another person with the same skittle and sit down with that person and introduce themselves and the usual “what’s your favorite animal?” My “firefly” melted against my hand in a very nice way. We were inseparable. Truly.
I would have eaten it too, if I hadn’t dropped it.
After each game, the game leader would hand out pieces of paper with questions that the crew leaders were supposed to ask their kids. The questions were pretty good… they weren’t too deep that the kids would stare blankly with question marks all over their faces. They were easy enough so that the youngest kids could answer them. Plus they didn’t take too long to answer so we could move on to the next game.
I liked that my kids showed eagerness in answering the questions. No putting people on the spot, and no awkward silences. No “You answer. No, you answer. Oh please, go ahead. No, really, I mean it.”
Next stop? I think it was the “Dockside Drive-in.” The place where the station leader shows a video about Chadder Chipmunk (who was voiced by a girl despite him being male) and then talks about the lessons that Chadder had learned along with his friend Fraider (who is acted by a real guy). Each segment is probably about 10 minutes long. In this one, Chadder wants to write for the school newspaper. Decides to go to the bayou to find a picture of the rumored Monster Croc. Meets a fraidy-cat called Fraider who suddenly finds himself signed up as guide to find the Monster Croc. Problem is that he is scared of everything…
Chadder then tells him that “God is with us” so we don’t need to be afraid! Then Chadder drops M&Ms on the ground so they won’t get lost (smart idea, that). Unfortunately Fraider eats them. (Figures.) Segment ends with them hopelessly lost.
Honestly, Chadder Chipmunk is a cheesy film. But the kids loved it. They really did. They couldn’t wait to see the next segment! Strangely, I found myself wanting to find out, too.
Proof that cheesiness does not mean something’s bad.
Then a move on to the Bible Bayou. Here Jevon and his wife told a Bible story in various creative ways (you rock, guys!); in fact, I’d give them plenty of points for creativeness. Good job with the fake British accent there, Jevon. The lesson here this time was about Moses and the burning bush, complete with special effects. Fascinating bush, with the orange paper and burning sounds!
Afterwards, Jevon told us that no, the tape recording playing God’s voice was not in fact God. He asked, “Was there a time you were afraid and God reassured you of His presence?”
One of the sixth graders, a precocious kid, piped up. “I had a surgery some time ago, and they cut into the wrong part.”
Oohs and aahs from some of the younger kids.
“I was in pain for five weeks! And one day I prayed to God, and it didn’t hurt anymore!”
Jevon spoke. “Well, that’s great, Justin! You can see how God took care of you! Is there anyone else who would like to share?”
“Actually, the surgery was done over here.” Kid pointed to his… well, you know.
Everyone giggled. Especially the small children. Jevon cringed.
Oblivious (or not), the kid went on with his story. “And it was because some part refused to come down–”
Jevon stopped him at that point. I don’t blame him.
Craft time next. The station leader asked us what Bible story we’d learned about. One of the younger kids eagerly answered, “There was a kid who had surgery in a very BAD part. In fact, it was in his PRIVATES.”
I don’t think that was what she expected to hear…
We made fireflies out of tiny plastic bottles and foam wings. They were supposed to be keychains, to be taken home at the end of VBS. The crew leaders were supposed to put all crafts in the provided plastic bag. Unfortunately, a few hours later, the fireflies had no eyes, and the kids frantically stuck their heads into the bags in an effort to find the eyes. They were unsuccessful. “GAHHHH WHERE ARE THE EYES? THE EYES?” C even told me that I had to give her my firefly’s eyes because she was younger than me.
Either way, we all ended up with very blind fireflies.
I’m pretty sure we went to the snack shack next. We made “burning bush in a bowl,” which involved taking a couple of tortilla chips, putting them into a clear plastic cup, and topping those with a few leaves of lettuce, some flakes of cheese, and a cherry tomato. It was easy and quite fun to make and eat. I am glad that my kids aren’t too picky. I made Y eat my cherry tomato (I’m allergic to tomatoes) and she was quite happy to do so.
On the whole, I had an exciting afternoon. The kids were awesome. I felt highly impressed with their good behavior, and they made me feel as if I wasn’t such a bad crew leader after all. I might not have been the best crew leader, but they definitely made leading easier for me.
What’s a crew leader supposed to do? I’m supposed to be myself, and be there for the kids, even though I might be feeling less than up to par. And do a LOT of praying. Because prayer is incredibly important.
Those kids were my God-sightings. They gave me hope.*
It’s not as scary as one would think. I was called to do it. Just buck up and go ahead. You don’t have to be perfect, or have years and years of training. You don’t have to have been a Christian forever, either.
As I said, I was called to do it. That means that I was given the means to do it.
Don’t be afraid.
*More about God sightings in the next post