I have some friends who put on the most excellent program of all time. It is a well oiled machine with incredible sets, dramas, teachers and group leaders. It is done in the exact way the developers of the curriculum dreamed up. I have some friends who are convicted by the Holy Spirit that VBS is the biggest waste of time and resources. So, for my friends on both ends of the spectrum, feel free to stop reading, and / or check out my good friend, Ryan Reed's blog :)
For me, VBS is the best thing on my student ministry calendar because:
1) I get daily contact with a large group of my student ministry. Besides summer and winter camp it is really hard to get this many hours with a large group of students. It is easy to forget that the number one way to build community and friendship is by logging in hours and having shared experience. VBS does both. Plus it costs zero dollars so every student from every demographic gets to participate without it costing my budget a dime.
2) It is not about them. It seems like everything in their world is about them. And unfortunately everything I do in my student ministry program is designed around them and their needs. But for one week, they just get to serve. Not for community service hours, not for glory, not for anything other then to put someone else's needs and program above themselves. They have to give up sleep and spend 3 hours getting to know and caring for kids younger than them.
3) It is actually for them. As culture continues its massive slide into post-Christendom, VBS is a great primer on some of the most simple truth and well known Bible stories found in scripture. It is easy to think that our students know all these things, but if you actually talk to them, or even tested them, you would realize that they don't know any of these things. And if they do, they have never internalized them. VBS is a chance for them to rediscover some of these truths and think about them in a fresh way.
4) VBS models the life long chain of discipleship. For whatever reason, there seems to be this vibe in student ministry that spiritual life begins and end with middle and high school students. But the truth is that when our students have older college students to look up to and who will pour into them, they are so much more likely to model them and their faith, then us old guys who are paid to model it. The same is true for the kids in children's ministry. Instead of only mom's talking about Jesus, our kids get to see middle and high school students talk about their faith, and in doing so makes faith a real option for them. We should always be talking about the people we are pouring our lives into and those who are pouring their lives into us. This never ends, and VBS helps model it.
Thank you to my Children's Ministry team for a job well done, and for being willing to sacrifice a little bit of excellence for some much needed opportunity and ministry to my middle and high school students!