I love this question because on the surface it seems pretty lame that Americans come to a foreign country without knowing the language and bust out some old skool Bible stories and make some token crafts. And while I love the angst that is not so hidden in this question, the reality is that VBS is the bread and butter of a mission trip and if you think about it, of student ministry.
How many times have youth workers gathered together and bemoan the programed model of youth ministry. I mean, what is the point of shuffle your buns, and old skool Bible stories. :) I too love the angst of this question as well. But there is a reason why thriving youth ministries and 90% of all missions trips still do VBS. The reason is simple, it the programatic structure that allows for easy onramps into relationships.
I get that us singing these songs, and not singing them well, doesn't seem to be effective in ministry. I get that us laying down the Good Samaritan story poorly doesn't help kids know Jesus better. But in some crazy way, all these programs, funnel down to the point where there is a student surrounded by a handful of kids doing crafts and sharing life. In the exact same way shuffle your buns, moves to worship, and talk simply moves students to a point where they get to sit around a table with an adult and share life!
Ministry and missions is about being eye ball to eye ball, sharing life, painting a picture of a larger story, a story that centers on the loving and gracious work done by Jesus Christ. Preaching great sermons or simply doing construction doesn't get people face to face. Silly programs, silly songs, and silly lessons allow us to actually connect.
May we not get too bitter or self-righteous in our models of ministry that we throw the baby out with the bath water.
In our context, we are partnering with a church and doing the ministry that they have all ready been doing and that will continue to do when we leave. We want to bless this church and this town in the name of Jesus. The way we are going to have the most impact, be the biggest blessing is to actually build friendships and relationships.
It has been so fun to hear the stories from our students of the kids they are getting to know. Through VBS, and even through our programatic youth group, we are no longer a mass of nameless students working with a mass of nameless Guatemalans. Instead we are individual people sharing our faith and lives with individuals. Pretty cool for an hour and a half work. And this VBS work allows our construction, teaching, visits to peoples homes exponentially more sweet.
I am so proud of my students and for they way they have stepped up and been thriving outside their comfort zone. They are working hard and pouring their hearts out for these kids. And the fruit is already evident.
Time to go and finish craft prep for today! :)
PS: Sorry for the extra grammatical errors and misspellings. Squeezing these in among the many things going on throughout our trip is challenging what little editing skills I have :)