(Here’s a picture from our morning session on the first day of Middle School VBS Leader training)
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, keeping the Kingdom in mind (and not just your own castle) is essential to lasting, effective and sustainable ministry.
As I wrote earlier this week, we spend a week each summer training hundreds of middle school and high school students in preparation for their work at our annual Vacation Bible School. By opening the invitation to serve at VBS to all students in and around our community (we even have a couple that fly in from out of state to serve on our student leadership team), we find ourselves with an interesting mix of students. The majority of students serving at VBS do not call our church their “home church”. In fact, many have no church affiliation at all – they’re serving because they like kids and a friend invited them. For many, it’s that simple.
During our training, we give our students a chance to commit or recommit their lives to following Jesus. It’s been a conviction of mine that we give students a chance to own their faith in a new and fresh way before 1,000 little kids come onto our church campus to hear about God and the call that has been placed on their lives.
However, our staff has struggled with the follow up aspect of these decisions. For years, we’ve followed up with parents and children’s pastors who have campers making decision to follow Jesus during VBS. I spend the week after VBS calling local churches who were listed at the “home church” for campers who make commitments at our camp. Yet, we’ve never done that with our students – until this year.
For the last week, our Jr High guy, Scott Boss, has been contacting the nearly 40 churches who have students serving at our VBS this year. He’s inviting the youth staff and ministry teams from those churches to come alongside us at our Saturday training event in order to connect with and pray for the students serving on our campus next week.
This is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a while for a couple reasons.
Jesus is bigger than OUR building
By making these calls, and inviting other youth pastors onto our campus to help own what’s taking place here, we’re sending a message to our community – following Jesus and being a part of the Church has nothing to do with what building you meet in. Jesus’ Church is bigger than any one building, denomination or church staff. Our facilities might be hosting this event, but we don’t own it. Jesus does.
Maybe other churches might try it
I know that kids from families who attend our church attend other church programs in town. Odds are, some of the kids from our congregation have made important faith-commitments at the programs of other churches. Yet, I’ve never received a call or email about it from another church in town.
I do know that “evangelism teams” from other churches have shown up at the houses of some of our kids and invited them to their church the following Sunday. My guess is, if other churches are coordinating a follow-up process that includes door-to-door visitation, they could probably find the time to send me an email.
Because a lot of church’s senior pastors grade their kids and youth programs on attendance numbers, I can totally understand why return attendance would be something that children’s ministry teams would want to invest in. However, I’m not convinced that partnering with other churches would hurt attendance – I’ve only experienced it fostering a community and posture that encourages the growth of a ministry. With that said, maybe we’ll see other churches try it out.
We’ll let you know how our little experiment goes.