FRESNO — There’s a sound of dozens of voices singing loudly, “In the wild, in the wild, explosion of emotions when we see what we see … .” The halls are decorated with a variety of cartoon-style wild animals and jungle-themed decorations, and each classroom has a life of its own when filled with children. The sound of children’s voices and their carefree dancing warm the auditorium as the energetic teenage volunteers model movements to accompany the music.
Before long, worship, the recitation of the flag pledges, viewing of teaching videos and Bible memory verse recitation have concluded and students and leaders move to their respective classrooms for the Bible lesson. Children wriggle impatiently in anticipation of craft, recreation and snack time. Before long, parents have arrived to take home tired and happy kids.
Vacation Bible School is a tradition long observed by many churches in America. California Southern Baptist Convention congregations are no exception, and often use VBS curriculum created by LifeWay Christian Resources. The LifeWay theme for 2019 is “In The Wild.” The curriculum teaches children about the gospel and love of Jesus in a simple way they can hold in their hearts forever.
VBS is an educational program hosted, usually in the summer, by churches to teach children about Christ and the gospel. Volunteers from the congregation, and sometimes other churches, work together to put on the event.
New Heights Church in Fresno held their VBS from July 8-12 in the evening. They used “In The Wild” and embraced the theme wholeheartedly, from decorations and activities to snacks and “crazy hair” competitions. VBS was held in the evening since many volunteers work during the day, making it difficult to staff a morning VBS.
“We love leading children to the Lord because God loves them, and sharing God’s love with them is the most important thing,” Ruth Smith, New Heights VBS director, said.
According to Pastor Dale Fink of Oak-view Baptist Church in Auberry, VBS is in the DNA of their church. They held VBS July 15-18 in the morning.
The teenagers and young adults in the congregation, many VBS veterans themselves, worked together to pull off a memorable week for the youngsters. Oakview boasted an attendance of 43 kids and 38 volunteers, a few of whom migrated from other churches to help out.
“We love the teenage helpers. They are given responsibility and I love seeing them step up to the challenge,” Fink said. “We get to have fun in ways that we normally do not.”
Oakview was not alone in this year’s venture —Pastor Mansel Trimble and Corrin Nielsen, from Golden Valley Baptist Church in Madera, helped out.
“I’ve been volunteering for VBS since 7th grade and now I am a junior in high school. I really like being with the little kids,” Nielsen said. “My church had their VBS earlier in the summer, but we heard they needed some help so we decided to come lend a hand.”
Trimble brought smiles to Oakview by playing “Hans” in the daily skit used to teach children about Jesus. He had already worked at one VBS this summer, but was excited to be helping out at Oakview.
“Being a part of the Body of Christ is so much bigger than my church. We love partnering with other churches and helping out other churches, and we love VBS,” Trimble said.
The spirit of churches helping each other spread far. New Heights shared their curriculum and decorations with Oakview to help save money and resources while still giving children the best experience possible. The curriculum also was shared with several other churches throughout the summer.
Dove Christian Ministries in Oxnard held their VBS July 15-19 in the evening.
It was put on with help from both members of Dove Christian and other area churches. Sherann Kim, CSBC student evangelism specialist, recruited several people to help including Sara Gutierrez and two CSBC summer missionaries.
“I came because help was needed,” said Gutierrez, who served as a worship leader. “Sherann told me that Eva’s church was doing VBS and they needed us” (Eva De La Rosa is CSBC’s women’s ministries specialist and lives a member of Dove).
“My favorite part is when you finally get to the point where the kids are doing the moves to the songs,” Gutierrez added, “when they’re singing along and requesting songs.”
A common theme in VBS is the hard work from the volunteers that make each school special and memorable.
“I love the volunteers who have gone above and beyond to make this VBS happen,” Kim said. “I’ve been impressed by their devotion to the kids, and their desire to see these kids come to Christ through Vacation Bible School.”
VBS has a long tradition in many churches, with a history of successfully reaching the youngest generation and introducing them to the love of Christ and the gift He freely gave.