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Game Day VBS a success at ‘The Met’

HOUSTON (BP)–“Game Day Central: Where Heroes are Made” may have been the theme for this year’s Vacation Bible School, but for one church, the heroes were already there.

Metropolitan Baptist Church, known as “The Met” around Houston, hosted 1,000 children and 300 volunteers for its Vacation Bible School this summer. Those volunteers are the “heroes” that made the week a success.

“Our volunteers who help in VBS are what make it work,” Julie McClesky, director of The Met’s preschool ministry, said. “They are wonderful and gifted. There’s no way this week could happen for the children without them. They give up a lot of time and energy to make this all happen.”

The Met used the Game Day Central VBS curriculum from LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Volunteers and children alike were excited about the sports theme for the July 9-12 outreach. High energy was apparent — and encouraged — in all age groups. From footballs to bowling pins to pompoms, all kinds of sports were represented.

Sandi Lawrence, life development director at The Met, said it was fun seeing how “into it” the teenage boys and men helping with VBS were with this year’s theme. “They really liked the sports,” she said.

VBS participants also were enthusiastic about the music.

“They always like the music,” Janice Keifer, preschool director for VBS, said. “I loved this year’s music. The music and the motions were so much fun. I like that every year the music points to Jesus.”

Whatever the size of the church, volunteers are crucial to the success of VBS as every child needs personal attention from a caring adult, history has shown.

The Met relies on repeat volunteers to make its yearly VBS run smoothly. Many of the volunteers are schoolteachers who don’t necessarily teach in their small groups during the school year but are ready to pull out all the creative stops for VBS.

“So many of our volunteers have done this for so many years that they begin thinking early about what they want to do. So when the time comes to start our prep, they are eager to get started,” Lawrence said.

Many of the big, bright, theme-appropriate decorations for VBS at The Met came from LifeWay’s VBS resources while the volunteers created others, such as huge sports-themed banners. They used sports paraphernalia for their activities and wore sports-themed clothing. Some of the decorations were shared with local churches.

“We’re intentional and try not to leave anything to chance,” Lawrence said. “Preparation and planning make for a good experience for the children, the parents and the workers.”

Keifer, the preschool director, said registration for 1,000 children could be a logistical nightmare.

“It’s a huge responsibility, but VBS Tools [LifeWay’s computer software for handling VBS data] has made it simpler for us,” she said. “Just being able to pre-register most of the children helps. We’re able to adapt the forms so they work better for us.”

Stacey Shockly, the volunteer who handled preschool registration, said she began signing children up in February and registered them into the week of VBS. Having the registration information from the previous year available made it simpler this year.

“I didn’t have to re-enter everything on every child,” she said.

Not every volunteer teaches in a classroom or leads music. Some, for instance, have snack duty. Operating like a NASCAR pit crew, timing is everything for a VBS snack team at The Met. Sports-themed snacks and drink cups are out in a flash. Twenty children encircle the tables, have their snack and drink their juice. Within minutes of that group’s departure, the snack team descends on the tables to wipe off, sweep up and lay out a new table setting for the next snack group’s treats.

But VBS is about much more than fun, games and snacks. It’s about telling children about Jesus.

On Thursday morning, the fourth- and fifth-graders assembled in the auditorium at The Met with children’s pastor Gene Wright and children’s ministry associate Thomas Hernandez.

The decision to receive Jesus is “a decision you have to make,” Wright told the group of about 250 children. “Not your mama or your daddy, not your friends — just you.”

Wright led the children in a prayer, asking for salvation. Eighty children indicated they had prayed to receive Christ.

Wright and a group of volunteers took the children aside, filled out a card on each one, and gave each child a letter to take home telling their parents about their decision.

Lawrence said someone from the children’s ministry will talk with each child individually to make certain he or she understands.

“Some absolutely do; others may not be quite clear,” she said. “We want to know for sure they are certain about what they did before we proceed.”

The children’s ministry then hosts a gathering for the children and their parents to talk about baptism.

“We don’t baptize any child without the parent’s permission,” Wright said. “But we do encourage parents to allow the child to be baptized. That tends to settle the salvation issue for the children. It’s like the follow through on the decision. Once a child is baptized, you don’t often see him coming forward saying he ‘prayed the prayer’ again.”
Polly House is a corporate communications specialist with LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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