Last week I spent every evening volunteering at Vacation Bible School at Lewis Center United Methodist Church. I spent many hours at Vacation Bible School when I was a pastor, but rarely had a specific job. Because Tom and I are spending an uncharacteristic summer in Ohio, I was able to volunteer to be part of the snack crew.
Vacation Bible Schools are big in the Columbus area. Genoa Baptist Church, the mega-church across the street from our house, just had a VBS with 800 children. Lewis Center caps their VBS at 150 children because the church building is small. We were able to have most of VBS outside but the sanctuary can only hold 300. When we had 150 kids, 90 volunteers, and the parents there for the program, the sanctuary was packed!
I volunteered for the snack crew because I didn’t want to be in charge of a group of kids. I wasn’t sure my energy level at the end of the day would be up for it. Pre-covid, being on the snack crew would have meant preparing individual snacks for each child. But, in our current situation, the VBS director asked people to donate individually wrapped snacks that were appropriate for each night.
This made the snack crew job really easy. There were four of us. We had crew leaders Jean and Melissa, and workers Candy and Karen. The first night we counted out the snacks for each group. The preschoolers had their own Vacation Bible School in an area where they didn’t have to rotate. The older kids rotated between story-time, crafts, games, and video. They lined up to receive their snacks before they went in to the video room.
Jean and Melissa stayed in the kitchen and worked while Candy and I passed out snacks. The snack on the fourth night was home-baked cookies. Jean and Melissa baked the cookies in the church kitchen the three nights before and put them in individual bags. When the kids would come and line up for their snacks, either Candy or I would squirt their hands with sanitizer and then the other person would hand them their snack. The kids carried their own water bottles so we didn’t have to worry about drinks.
One of the things that was new to me about the snacks was all the children with food allergies. It wasn’t something we paid much attention to years ago. But Jean had a long list of kids who were allergic to nuts, eggs, milk, and gluten. Every day she made sure she had a treat for every child, which meant having a special snack for the ones who were allergic. I appreciated her careful attention to this, and I’m sure the parents of the allergic kids did too.
On the last night of Vacation Bible School we had a program for all the parents. After the program there was a special treat for everyone: Sticky Fingers ice cream. Sticky Fingers is a treat shop with cookies and ice cream located close to the church. They dropped off an ice cream cooler with 300 individually packed scoops of ice cream in seven different flavors.
Tom and I had volunteered to serve the ice cream, so the two of us got the cooler set up. Once the program was over, the line formed quickly and looked endless. Tom and I listened to each person tell us what kind they wanted and did our best to find it in the cooler. Cookies ‘n Cream was the first flavor to run out. The lemon and strawberry sorbets were next. Tom and I were surprised how many kids requested lemon. When the line was finally gone, we had about 12 scoops of strawberry ice cream left. Tom picked them up and easily found people who were willing to force down an extra scoop of ice cream.
The thing I enjoyed the most about Vacation Bible School was the program at church the Sunday following. The church was full and noisy with all the kids and their families. The children sang some songs, described their week, and we watched a slide show that had pictures from the week. The catch-phrase for the kids all week was “Awesome God!” and Pastor Matt made sure the kids had an opportunity to shout the catch-phrase frequently in his sermon.
I love Vacation Bible Schools and the joy it brings children and adults who work with them. I especially love seeing children excited about coming to church and learning about Jesus. Nothing is sweeter – not even ice cream!
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14