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A Letter from the Associate Minister for Discipleship to Pittsburgh Presbytery

Why We Work So Hard
July 16, 2015

“One day children were brought to Jesus in the hope that he would lay hands on them and pray over them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus intervened: ‘Let the children alone; don’t prevent them from coming to me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.’” Matthew 19:14 The Message

Dear Friends,

Summer is usually a time to kick back and relax! School is out and the “livin’ is easy.” This is as it should be!  However, it is also the season when many of our churches get wound up for one or two weeks of VBS, or even an all-summer day camp. We know things are busy up at Camp Crestfield! (Praying for you and the staff, Betty)

I have found it interesting that even though many of the traditional practices of our congregations in terms of Christian Education, worship, and mission, have changed and evolved into newer forms, or have been abandoned altogether, Vacation Bible School has remained a steady, repeatable constant.

To be sure, the numbers have gone down in some churches. But others are hitting 200+! In my childhood, our mothers baked the cookies, stirred a pound of sugar into the cherry Kool Aid, dyed the macaroni for the crafts, and even volunteered to teach the lesson.

We sang about Noah’s “Arkie, Arkie!” and belted out, “Do Lord, Do Lord, Do Remember Me!” We added a few songs about “Great Green Gobs of Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts,” and “John Jacob Jingle Heimer Schmidt” -- songs that I feel certain were not approved by the office of Theology and Worship back then, or any time since.

Today, by contrast, we see changes in the availability for purchase of any number of brightly-cartooned, pre-packaged, fairly-expensive, church-landscape-altering, VBS products, complete with banners, puppets, sound tracks, videos, CD’s and daily recipes for both healthy and theme-based treats!

But, in the end, it is still the same workable and successful invitation to let the children come because Jesus told us to do so! Treat them like children. Love them; feed them; play with them. Teach them; pray with them; wipe their noses and their tears. Laugh when they laugh; mediate their disputes. Admire their arts and crafts. Show them off to their proud parents. Invite them, and the whole family, to church on Sunday.

Early in the Twentieth Century, an English pastor was asked if the sound of children playing outside his study window in the church was not a dreadful distraction from the serious business of sermon writing.  He responded, “On the contrary, when I hear the children at play, I remember why I work so hard.”

If your job at VBS is to pour the juice, or just to line-up the juice boxes, do it with the love of Jesus. That juice box matters. That child matters. You matter. Our work for the Gospel of Jesus Christ matters. Remember Jesus said this:

"Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple -- truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.” Matthew 10:42 NRSV

Our reward is to be about the work God calls us to do in Jesus Christ. Work that we do together with great joy!


The Rev. Dr. Beverly W. James, Associate Minister for Discipleship to Pittsburgh Presbytery

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