I don’t recall anything I was ever taught at the VBS’s of my childhood. And I was surely always there. My mother was typically one of those faithful volunteers at our tiny, close-knit church that would put in endless hours behind the scenes before the big week. Year after year, I would get an exclusive sneak peak on the theme, music, craft projects, etc. Yet when I file through the memories of VBS past, I can’t seem to come up with any specific lessons or Biblical truths that stuck.
I can, however, tell you about the free cookies and Kool-Aid. But most importantly, I can tell you about Melody and Norm.
I will never forget the summer that Melody was there. She was fairly new to our church family when VBS rolled around. She was young, single, bubbly, and on fire for God . . . so you know my mom and her fellow VBS chiefs were on her like ants on a spilled ice cream cone. They thought they hit the jackpot when they discovered that Melody also played the guitar, and felt comfortable leading worship. So that’s exactly where she got plugged in. As a 3rd grade girl who loved to sing, I remember watching her on stage, and truly believing that she was a rock star.
My connection to Melody was initiated during that week at VBS. But that’s not where the relationship deepened. Melody must have been one of those rare gems who actually concluded the week feeling energized and ready to do more, because she ended up volunteering to be a chaperone leader at our kids camp later that summer. I can still picture her sitting cross-legged on the floor of our girls’ cabin, playing her guitar and singing beautifully, my friends and I joining in. I remember her taking the time to explain the words to the song we sang, “Create in me, a clean heart, Oh God, that I might serve you.” That summer, Melody helped me understand how to worship, and not just sing.
And then there was Norm. He couldn’t have been any more different from Melody, but the impact he made on my life was even greater. You see, Norm was the real deal. I know this because all throughout my time spent at that dear, little church of my childhood, he was there. He was my small group leader on Sundays. But he knew his ability to influence actually existed in what happened outside of that dingy, little classroom. He came to my softball games. He invited my family over to his home for dinner. Our families even went on canoe trips together.
So to Norm, helping out with VBS each summer was a no-brainer. Sure, he would have to take a week’s vacation in order to volunteer. But he saw it as a perfect opportunity to remain consistently present in the lives in which he was already investing. Perhaps, at the time, Norm didn’t realize the hugeness of what he was doing. But I can tell you, first hand, his influence on my life was enormous. I may not remember a single scripture verse he had me memorize, but it was through him that I learned how valuable I really was. Norm saw me as a child made in the image of God. To him, it was worth his time and energy in order to show me that God loves me and has a purpose for my life.
Now, as a 34-year old, the imprints of Melody and Norm are still evident. At my church, I lead worship for kids, and I also lead a small group. And every single summer, I sign up to be a VBS volunteer. Not because I feel obligated. Not because someone desperately begged me to help. And not for the free cookies and Kool-Aid. But because I have experienced, first hand, how God can use people—volunteers like you—and the relationships He orchestrates, in order to show kids who He is. I assure you, your presence is vital, and the impact you are making goes far beyond what you can see.
By Ashley Litton