by Gina, Steppes of Faith
“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.” Colossians 3:24
I knew about two weeks ago that our church’s vacation Bible school (VBS) needed extra volunteers. It’s called SummerX with the “x” meaning “explosion.” I must confess I didn’t want to help. I had all the excuses: “I already volunteer a lot,” “I need some time for myself,” “I just have too much to do,” and the classic “Oh, I’m sure they’ll be fine, they don’t really need me.”.
I had it all decided. I wasn’t volunteering. I needed a break from being a servant. Even a friend had suggested I not help since I do so much of it during the school year teaching kids to read. So, I thought I had it all figured out.
But God had other ideas, and He proceeded to turn me inside out. In a good way.
An Unexpected Email
I had indeed been a little busy lately. I had just written fourteen articles for a client (a new word count record, woot!) and I was beginning a new editing project for another client, plus Steppes of Faith here. Not to mention trying to keep the kids busy enough to stay off video games (yeah, right) and the usual house upkeep. I wanted to stop being a servant for a while and I was anxious for SummerX to come so I could take a break, maybe even get to the gym or out on my bike.
My husband, Dave, got an unexpected email from our church thanking him for volunteering to lead the Fun Zone at SummerX. Before I go into why this was a big deal, let me describe what SummerX is to you. Be aware, the motto is…
“It’s Not Your Grandma’s VBS”
Many churches put on an event of some sort during the summer. Back when I was a kid, it meant having to put on long pants (not jeans) and sit in an unconditioned room doing simple arts and crafts, followed by listening to a short Bible message told by the most monotone, grandma-like person in the church. By the time you went home after a two-hour class each day for a week, you were ready for a nap because you were so overly bored you could fall over. Can anyone relate?
SummerX is NOTHING like that. It’s the polar opposite, in fact.
Each year, close to 1,400 kids flood our church to jump, scream, get slimed, covered in confetti, have their ear drums burst by a maxed-out sound system, and sweat outside in bounce houses, on slides, and on bungee jumps in 90-degree heat.
It’s definitely not your grandma’s VBS, nor the one from my own childhood. And that’s a good thing. Here’s why.
Many of the kids attend our church, so they know what to expect. And, there are some who don’t attend our church- or any at all- and their parents are just looking for child care.
The unsuspecting kids who come to SummerX walk in figuring it’s going to be just another daycare kind of thing. They soon discover their assumptions were way off.
They see a stage stocked with big game show-like props, giant spotlights and television screens, and huge speakers. Then, the host of the show (a youth pastor) runs out dressed in the craziest outfit ever screaming and revving up the crowd for a game of Minute to Win It using kids from the audience. After that, they sing praise and worship songs and listen to a Bible message. They end inside time with a super loud round of Double Dare: Boys vs. Girls. Then, it’s outside play time followed by more Double Dare.
They discover that church isn’t boring at all.
Servant in the Heat
Dave had volunteered with the outside portion of SummerX twice before, so when the guy who was usually in charge declared he wouldn’t be in town this year the job fell on my beloved.
Dave knew the drill: keep eight huge water coolers full of ice water hauled from 100 yards away, coordinate thirty teenager volunteers looking for public service hours for school, and keep the carnival ride supplier happy.
Yes, that’s right, carnival rides. I’m talking bounce houses, a mechanical bull, swings, giant slide, games, rock-climbing wall, a train, and the ever-popular bungee jumping.
Dave knew the stress of the job, and we knew that he would most likely be the only grownup there. That’s when he looked up at me after reading the email he got from the church to gauge my response. I saw the anxiety in his eyes. I felt my love for him swell up in my heart.
Sigh. Ok, I’ll help.
God Has a Plan
As I said, I was all caught up with my work when this all happened. I can only guess that it was God’s plan to make sure I was free to help though He knew I didn’t want to do it.
I mean, who wants to walk the equivalent of ten miles a day managing thirty teenagers plus 1,400 6–11-year olds in Florida’s 90+ heat for three days with a three-hour Family Night on the final day while towing your three boys behind you? Seriously, most people would think only a crazy person would sign up for that.
I guess I’m crazy then.
It wasn’t a super hard decision, actually. I love my church. The people there are so amazing. So, I knew that even though it was going to be stressful, I would be surrounded by lots of smiling servants. Isn’t it interesting how smiling people make the work somehow easier?
And that’s why I got up Monday morning at 6 a.m., threw on my pink “volunteer” shirt, put my hair in a ponytail, woke up three very sleepy boys, and set out to face a long day without knowing entirely what to expect.
The Work Begins
It was long, hot work, no question about it. Not your ordinary person could have handled it. Still, the teens who showed up to help were troopers. Maybe it was first-day excitement, but everyone was ready to go.
Dave and I coordinated who would be where, we kept the water coolers full, we took kids to the restroom and first aid, continually checked on the teens to make sure they didn’t wander off (which happens often), and we did our best to ignore the blaring techno music coming from ten giant speakers for three straight hours. Then we acted like security guards during dismissal, which, naturally, involved more loud music.
After the first day, my head hurt so bad I passed out. The second day was better, but on the third day I was hurting again, and I still had to go back for Family Night. That was another four hours of doing the same thing only with way fewer volunteers. I had to put my boys to work.
And Dave…well, he stayed for the whole thing from beginning to end. He didn’t come home until dinner time the first two days and not at all on the third day. His third day lasted fourteen hours. Talk about tired!
Then Come the Blessings
Feeling exhausted and turned inside out, smelling to high heaven, covered in dirt, and sunburned, we were ready for it to be over. Our boys were cooked too.
But then I ran into a little girl who was lost at one point that week. I had helped her find her group leader. She ran up to me out of nowhere on Family Night just to smile and wave hello and it melted my heart.
After the outside portion of Family Night was over, we put everything away and dragged ourselves over to the sanctuary to hear our pastor speak.
He gave an awesome message reminding parents that we are all called to raise our kids so they’re ready to be a part of God’s big plan for their lives. It’s a big responsibility, but it’s a wonderful one. And it goes by much too fast. We have our seasons of joy and challenges, but it’s all a part of preparing our kids to be involved in God’s big story.
Dave and I sat there listening, sweaty and stinky. We looked at each other. We looked at our boys, then back at each other. In our exhaustion, we smiled. We are truly blessed.
Then, our pastor thanked all the volunteers. It was because of everyone’s time and dedication that 600 kids accepted Christ that week.
That’s the best blessing of all.
Those Who are a Servant
I’m an active volunteer, but SummerX took the cake. Jesus turned me completely inside out. He made me dig deep into my heart and pour out my time, talent, and resources so that hundreds of kids would find God. As tough as it was, I know I’m not the only one Jesus turned inside out.
Jesus first did that when He taught the disciples how to be great among others. It’s a wonderful model for life and parenting in particular. We find it in Matthew 20:25–28.
“But Jesus called them to Himself and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet, it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave– just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.’”
Being a servant of God’s requires us to move out of our comfort zones so that others will find Him. It’s the people who give of themselves when someone is in need for the glory of God’s kingdom. But it can’t be for selfish gain. And it can’t be done with a grumpy attitude.
I admit I volunteered to help Dave with a grumpy attitude. I sinned against God. I’ve prayed and repented for it, but it doesn’t change how I acted. Looking back on this week, I was reminded how meeting someone’s need not only blessed them, I was also blessed.
I believe that’s what God was going for all along.
See the Need, Meet the Need
God is always looking for more servants. It doesn’t have to be at a huge VBS event or any other grand occasion. Remember, serving simply means giving your time, talent, and resources anytime, anywhere. Here are some examples.
- Does your neighbor need some help trimming bushes? Do you have thirty minutes to lend a hand?
- Does your child’s school PTA need cookies for the Boo Hoo Breakfast on the first day of school? Can you pick up a few boxes the next time you go to the store?
- Does a friend need a ride to a doctor’s appointment?
- Did someone drop a pile of books and can’t manage to pick them all up again?
- Does a mom have a lot of kids in tow and she needs help holding a door open?
- Does your church need greeters? Do you know how to smile and say hello?
- Does your child’s best friend need help with his math/reading/science homework? Can you tutor for an hour?
- Does a parent you know need a break? Can you babysit for a few hours?
Take a look around you. There are so many people in need. How can you help? What can you give or do to make someone else’s day a little bit easier? I was once told to see the need, meet the need. In doing so, we are God’s hands and feet.
It’s Worth Being a Servant
SummerX occurs every July, which means there’s much more to come. Will I volunteer every year? I can’t so for sure, honestly; but, I know that if God calls me to it, I’ll do it. A loving, pleading look from Dave might prompt me too.
Being a servant is worth being turned inside out for.
Have you ever volunteered at your church’s VBS? How did it go? If you haven’t, would you? Share your stories with us. We’d love to hear from you.
I struggled with where to serve God, but I didn’t feel called to do it at church. Was I sinning? I detail my journey in this article I wrote a few months ago. Maybe God will move you to get more involved or change the way you do it. Either way, respond to God. Respond to others. Be a blessing. You too will be blessed.