July 22, 2018 |VBS Celebration Wrap-Up
This Sunday we celebrated a week of Vacation Bible School that was packed full of blessings. Over 170 different kids attended at least one evening and over 60 volunteers served throughout the week. These kids worshiped Jesus, memorized Bible verses, and learned what it looks like to be a part of the Church that God created in Acts. And Sunday’s unified worship service was an hour-long rehearsal of what our kids experienced all week.
 
We sang songs that were unfamiliar for many of us, but there was no mistaking the kids knew and loved the songs. We had a dancing cow on the front row. And I preached in a deflated dinosaur costume with a busted zipper because the kids met their offering goal of $1000 to purchase two generators for a mission partner (actually they collected about $1200).
Sunday was a Sunday unlike any other Sunday we’ve every experienced. Some loved it. Some not so much. And that’s okay. Whether you liked it or not, Sunday’s service wasn’t about any of us. It was all about Jesus.
 
Sometimes we major so much on what is important to us that we miss what’s important to Jesus. I think it’s possible to plan Jesus out of something in an effort to appease ourselves. Let’s not do that. If I’m honest, I really was not looking for wearing a dinosaur costume while preaching. And when I put it on two minutes before I was to preach, and the zipper didn’t work, I seriously thought about ditching the idea all together. But I remembered the reason I said “yes” to it in the first place (for the kids) and I did what wasn’t exciting or comfortable for myself for a bigger reason.
 
I’m not saying Jesus wanted me to wear a dinosaur costume. What I’m talking about is a commitment I make every single time I pray before I preach. Every time I preach a sermon, I pray the same “pre-sermon” prayer. I’ve prayed this prayer for years. It refocuses me to why I preach. I pray, “Jesus, this is about You, not me. I want this sermon to be my worship for you. So it’s not for me or anyone else that I do this. I preach for You. So hide me behind the cross and let them see Jesus in me as I preach.”
 
This is my paraphrase of what John the Baptist said in John 3:30 when he told Jesus, “You must become greater and I must become less.” It’s simply a declaration that we need more of Jesus and less of us in everything we do. This isn’t a denouncement of our personality or preferences entirely. Our voices and desires matter. There just should be more of Jesus than us in everything we do.
 
That’s what I witnessed Sunday during our VBS Celebration Service. It wasn’t us trying to do something to make everybody happy. It was all about Jesus. It was all about our kids knowing that their worship to Jesus was valid too. It was all about our church communicating to our kids that they are just as much apart of the Body of Christ as we are. It was all about Jesus.
 
This Sunday our services will be back at our usual service times (8:15am and 10:30am) and they’ll be back in the usual location (worship center). We will have our worship team lead us and I will not be wearing a dinosaur costume. We will study Galatians 4:8-20 and our kids will have Jr. Worship in the youth center. Things will be pretty much as we are used to them. But let’s make sure that everything we do is all about Jesus. Whatever we do, let’s make sure we “do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17).
 
In Jesus Name,
 
Ashton
 
July 15, 2018 |Ten reasons VBS is an INCREDIBLE opportunity for our church

Each summer one of the most fruitful and effective opportunities our church has to minister to our community is Vacation Bible School.  I’m sure that when you think “VBS”, fond memories flood your mind from your childhood.  Churches around the globe have hosted these summer events for more than a century.  

The concept was born out of concern from a compassionate doctor’s wife in New York City.  During the summer of 1898, Mrs. Walker Aylett Hawes accompanied her husband on medical mission trips to the city.  While her husband offered medical treatment to children, she noticed that a number of the children were being treated for injuries as they played in the streets and she decided they needed something safe and fruitful to occupy their time.  Thus, she rented a hall on the city’s East Side to host what she named the Everyday Bible School.  When churches heard of the project, they began adopting the concept for their own cities around the United States and around the globe.  

For more than one hundred years, churches have found VBS to be an incredible opportunity to minister to children and families in their community for many of the same reasons that began the idea in the first place.  Last night our church opened our week of VBS with 102 children and 48 volunteers.  Most of these kids and most of our volunteers are not regularly involved in our children’s ministry.  As I worshipped with this group last night, I had lots of thoughts that gave me reason to keep on encouraging our summer VBS efforts.  Here are a few of the thoughts that reminded me that VBS is an incredible opportunity for our church.  

  1. Unity.  VBS is by no means a one-person operation.  It takes a church to pull off an event of this magnitude.  Kara and Matt have spent months planning, designing, and organizing VBS.  They had a crew working for a week to decorate and set up the rooms.  There are no less than 48 people serving in various roles each night during VBS.  And even if you are not physically present during VBS, you’re hopefully praying for the ministry that takes place all week.  It’s so much work to make VBS happen, but it’s so good for the church.  Few ministry opportunities unite the church as does VBS.  
  2. Multigeneration worship.  Sunday mornings typically are age segregated.  We have children in one room and adults in another.  We do this for very good and logical reasons.  We want to be effective in communicating God’s word in a relevant and appropriate way to people of all ages.  But during VBS we set aside our ages and we all worship with our children.  We sing their songs and we dance right alongside them.  It may be louder than we’re used to and maybe less dignified than we like; but, to join these little ones in praising God is a blessing.  When people of all ages worship God with children, we communicate to them that their worship is just as pleasing to God as our worship.  
  3. Gospel witness.  The reason we do VBS is to share the Gospel.  VBS is so much more than a week of fun.  Every volunteer is a minister communicating God’s love in unique ways.  Sit back for a moment and consider this truth … no less than half of the kids who attend VBS do not regularly attend church.  But for five nights they will learn songs that worship and glorify God.  Many kids who attend VBS do not own a Bible.  And yet when coming to VBS, they are given a Bible of their very own and they will memorize numerous Bible verses, including John 3:16 (“For God loves the world…”).  Some of the children attending VBS do not have Godly influences loving them into a relationship with Jesus; and yet, for five nights, they will have about 50 such influences.  God is pleased as we invest the Gospel into so many children.  
  4. Ministry training.  VBS is like a week of intense training for our children’s ministry.  Most of our teachers and group leaders who serve in our children’s ministry during the school year are involved in VBS.  So VBS becomes an opportunity for Kara and Matt to coach our children’s ministry team with practical skills that will be beneficial for the rest of the year.  
  5. Volunteer trial.  Many of those who serve during VBS do not regularly serve in our children’s ministry environments.  Some are devoted to other ministries, and that’s great.  But for others who have not made a commitment to ministry, VBS can be a wonderful week to try children’s ministry without the long-term commitment.  If after an intense week around elementary children you still love kids, let me urge you to tell Kara that you’re willing to serve on her team this fall.  However, if you’re not sure whether you’d like to work in children’s ministry, a week of VBS is a good opportunity to try it before you commit to a year.  
  6. Fellowship.  Sometimes I feel like an hour each Sunday is not enough time for the church to spend together.  That’s why one of my favorite parts of VBS is getting to catch up with church members who I don’t get to see much on Sundays.  VBS is a shared experience.  Those who serve together during VBS will make memories and share stories that will be talked about for many years.  I love the conversations that start, “Do you remember that one time at VBS…”  You never feel more like you’re a part of the church than when you serve alongside one another like we do at VBS.  
  7. Community focus.  Few ministry events bring people to the church than will VBS.  We have worked hard to invite our community to VBS this week.  VBS reminds us of what our church is called to do.  We aren’t a church just for the churched.  We exist because people living in our community who need to know God’s love.  We exist to love people into a relationship with Jesus. 
  8. Support missions.  Each summer our VBS collects an offering and uses that money to support a mission.  And the team makes giving toward this mission incredibly fun.  This year the kids are giving towards the purchase of generators for the ministry of I.D.E.S. (International Disaster Emergency Service).  If they meet their goal of $1000, I may be preaching in a dinosaur costume this Sunday.  
  9. Jumpstart fall ministry.  We are strategic in scheduling VBS a few weeks before the start of school because VBS serves to reenergize our children’s ministry when school starts.  Since our children’s ministry takes a summer break from midweek youth groups, VBS reminds families who do not attend church that we’re getting ready to restart our programming in just a couple of weeks (Our midweek groups resume August 15 at 6:30 pm).  
  10. It’s Fun.  Let’s not discount the opportunity for fun.  VBS is packed with wild-n-crazy, joy-filled, belly-laughing fun.  And I’m not just talking about the kids.  I love seeing grown men having fun like the kids.  There’s something special watching Mr. Byrum playing kickball with a group of kids.  Or seeing Michael Barclay dance right along side of the children.  Or Jim Conrad stooped down and celebrating with a child who has memorized yet another verse in the Bible.  VBS brings the kid out in all of us.  

VBS is an incredible opportunity for our church.  And for these reasons (and more) we’re going to bring VBS to our Sunday service this Sunday.  Sunday, July 22 at 10:30am we will host a VBS Celebration Service in the Youth Center.  This will be a unified service in which our two services will be together.  You can expect this service to look just like VBS.  We will sing the songs our kids sang at VBS.  We will test their memory work.  We will even reveal if the kids met their offering goal (and you may see me preach in a dinosaur costume if they do).  

Why are we doing this?   It’s simple.  We want our kids to feel like they are just as much a part of our church family as we are.  And we want their parents to feel welcomed to be a part of the church family as well.  

I’m excited about the work God is doing through our children’s and youth ministries.  God has started an incredible opportunity for our church to reach the next generation with the Gospel.  Our history is rich with stories in which we have ministered well to our kids.  Let’s remain faithful and available for God to finish what He has started.  If I don’t see you tonight at VBS, I hope to see you Sunday at 10:30am for our VBS Celebration Service. 

In Jesus’ Name, 

Ashton

P.S. 
Even though we will have only one service at 10:30am this Sunday, we will still have Sunday School classes at 9:30am.

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One Response to “Beyond Sunday”

  1. Nancy perry says:

    Thank you. It’s a pleasure to go to church now.You not only preach from the Bible but also from your heart. If I didn’t know any difference I would think you were Dr Stanley son. I watch him 3 times each week. Keep up the great work and I will be their every Sunday if Lords willing
    God Bless you and your family.

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