What I Learned From Volunteering at VBS

Day one of leading a group of children at VBS. At 17, I’ve never been anything but a “camper” in vacation bible school. But today, I walked into that church and stood in my square of duct tape, with two 11-year-old helpers, and waited for my kids to show up. I had seven kids. Seven five-year-olds, to be exact.

Five minutes into day one, and we already had tears. One of my five-year-olds didn’t want his mommy to leave.

Two minutes later, I was introduced to the shyest little boy I’ve ever met. While the other 339 children and 130 leaders sat down on the floor, quietly listening to the little skit, this little boy stood, with the saddest look on his sweet little face.

The rest of us just stood in our duct-tape square and sang and did the hand motions and watched the video and listened to the MCs’ banter. (What else could we do?)

Next was snack time. But of course, what five-year-old wants to eat hot dogs at 9:30 in the morning? Two out of seven wouldn’t sit down. Four out of seven wouldn’t eat.


On to craft time. I liked craft time– it was a challenge, but a welcome one. And… all my kids got involved! How proud I was of my five-year-olds for making the best cardboard foosball tables ever!

Next was Bible time. The theme of the week was how God loves all races and cultures and peoples (hence the foosball table, because of course we were learning about South America that day…).

Finally, game time. We all had a lot of fun during games, despite none of my team understanding what a relay race is. (When they said “go!”, I’m pretty sure at least four of my kids started running for the finish line.)

Day one was wonderful. But by day two, three… and especially, day four… you might say my eyes were opened.

Five-year-olds are delightful. Potty breaks, however, are annoying. As is having to repeat about a hundred times to stay inside the duct-tape square, instead of standing three inches outside of it. Not to mention the little boy who whined “I don’t want to be here” every ten minutes… And when half the group is walking fast and the other group is walking super slow… Well, I realized that my patience was running very, very low.

And such became the theme of my week. I am not patient!

I love children, I really do! I just really prefer that they conform to my exact plan and set of expectations (noticing a theme in my life… see last week’s post). And when they don’t, I get very frustrated.

It’s not just at VBS that my impatience shows. More often– most often?– it shows up at home. I am quick to anger, quick to speak (and not always nice words), and very, very slow to listen with my younger siblings. And as I realize this, it makes me really sad. Have you ever been disappointed in yourself? Discouraged that you’ll never be able to change? Ashamed that after you’ve been saved for years, you still trample all over God’s grace by getting angry at the drop of a hat?

That’s me right now.

How much I agree with Romans 7 right now!

21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

Romans 7:21-25

I want so badly to have patience with these kids… and I was praying, asking God to give me His love and patience for them… and I agree with the law of God, which condemns my impatience and my anger. I agree with God that my actions are sinful, but I still act that sin!

This isn’t something I can wrap up with a neat little bow, because I’m writing from my journey today. Today I was impatient… today I need Jesus… today there is grace for me, both to pardon and to empower.

On the last day of VBS, we had a giant carnival with a dunk tank and ice cream and snow cones and popcorn and bouncy houses and pony rides. It was a wonderful end to a really wonderful week! I was so thankful to have the opportunity to learn a valuable lesson… not of my own strength, but of my helplessness… and of that throne of grace where our God is always ready to give mercy and grace in time of need.

1 thought on “What I Learned From Volunteering at VBS”

  1. Of course you’re impatient. My flesh, your flesh are impatient, selfish, wanting something for me, and wanting it now! Of course we need Jesus. Patience is found only in Him. Patience is a fruit of His Spirit. We need Him, but we need not keep on needing Him, for He is always available, always ready to meet our every need for walking as He walked. When we’re “keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus” then we don’t need Him because we are already partaking of Him who is water of life and bread of life and 100% adequate fuel for godly living that glorifies the Lord. “Much more we are being saved by His life.” But we can only lay hold of His grace, His power for abundant life, by laying hold of His grace. It’s His way. He could do everything for us but His perfect plan is that when we with our newfound free will choose to do what little is required of us, i.e. fix our eyes on Him, and set our minds on things above where He is seated, then He will do the rest. He requires so little, and gives so much. Hallelujah!


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