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YOUTH VBS PREPARES TEENS FOR LEADERSHIP, MISSION OPPORTUNITIES
Many young Christians today will give unselfishly, work tirelessly, and sacrifice greatly to be a part of accomplishing important tasks for our Lord. Youth VBS can help prepare them.
Now is an exciting time to work with students. Many youth of this generation are searching for ways to live out their faith by being involved in any number of hands-on mission experiences. They have taken seriously Jesus' command as found in Acts 1:8, and are willing to go next door, across the country, and around the world to share the love of Christ through both work and witness.
God is moving in this generation. He has used many people and even events such as YouthLink 2000 to call students to commit to a summer or semester of mission work before they graduate from college. And believe it or not, the VBS at your church can help to develop and encourage these on-mission students in serveral ways.
Two main avenues generally offer opportunities for student involvement in Vacation Bible School. The first is made available by conducting a Youth VBS that meets separately from Children's VBS. This school would focus on a subject area relevant to teens and employ materials geared for adolescents.
Youth VBS could meet at night. Such a schedule might greatly enhance the number of teenagers who would choose the second avenue of student involvement in Vacation Bible School - that of being workers and helpers in children's VBS.
Let's take a look at how both of these avenues could help to prepare and involve mission-minded students in significant ministry.
YOUTH VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL
A separate study for youth can help them develop as leaders as they are challenged to grow spiritually. Part of maturing as a disciple is realizing the need to take the truths that we have been taught in God's Word and to integrate them into our lives. Youth VBS could be designed in such a way that spiritual truths taught in a classroom setting are then applied in a "real-life" laboratory of ministry. Traditionally, Youth VBS materials provide this type of integration and application.
For example, teachings on serving others could be followed by some "random acts of kindness" in which students would pool their money together and then search for someone whom they could bless by purchasing their meal, filling their car with gas, and so forth.
This type of practical application of Bible truths helps tenagers to plug into the act that God has gifted them and equipped them to perform works of service in His kingdom. It can help them recognize the responsibility they have to contribute to God's ongoing purposes. In addition, such studies and practical applications can illustrate to teens that they are a vital part of today's church and not just the "church of tomorrow."
TEENS AS WORKERS IN VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL
Another great way for students to develop both leadership skills and a missions mind-set is for them to volunteer as helpers in the VBS that is conducted for the children of your church and community. Many churches could not have VBS if it were not for the large number of students who work as teachers, teacher assistants, and recreation leaders. For many students, this is the first "real" responsibility they have been given at church. They often learn more of what it means to depend on God for leadership, guidance, and patience as they work with their young charges. Often, significant lessons about unconditional love and acceptance also are learned in meaningful ways in the crucible of Vacation Bible School.
Teenagers get to experience the joy and gratification of serving God through working in VBS as they teach through both their lessons and their lifestyles. Their work and scarifice may be rewarded with hugs, kind words, and the indescribable satisfaction of ministry to others. God also may use a student's experiences as a VBS helper to plant seeds of a calling to fututre areas of service in His kingdom.
Using teens as VBS workers also follows the pattern Jesus used as He developed His disciples into full-time followers. He performed works of ministry in front of His disciples. He performed works of ministry with them, and then He sent His disciples out to do work of ministry.
In much the say way, as teens are trained and supervised in the ministry of Vacation Bible School, they can be sent out to share this ministry with others. Two ways this can be accomplished are through mission Vacation Bible Schools and Backyard Bible Clubs.
MISSION VBS AND BIBLE CLUBS
These projects can be viewed as "VBS-0n-Wheels." These schools and clubs could meet in almost any setting and be a segment of a youth mission venture or the sole ministry activity in a mission endeavor locally, regionally, or around the world.
One possibility to consider is to save as much of the teaching materials, decorations, and other items from your church's VBS each year and then plan on using it again in a mission Vacation Bible School. Teenagers who already have been trained have a week's worth of experience and could serve as leaders - with adult supervision.
The mission VBS could take place outside your community or you could partner with a church that might not have the resources to conduct its own Bible School. Bible Clubs could be held in neighborhoods and in local apartment complexes.
Today's teens are interested in being on mission for God. Consider using the VBS at your church to encourage these mission-minded leaders.
Written by Scott Stevens and originally published February 2002 in The Sunday School Leader. At the time of writing, Stevens served as Youth Ministry professor, Howard Payne University, Brownwood, Texas, and Minister to Students, First Baptist Church, Early, Texas.