Sunday, May 01, 2011

Pitfalls of VBS

I get a sales booklet from "Oriental Trading" company, which the latest one was based on VBS. They have all sorts of various props: panda bears, a New York theme and so on. It occurred to me as I am looking at this flier that VBS with all of these cutesy type, secular based themes only serves to ultimately dilute the true reason for VBS. I am not saying they can't be useful, but we do have to remember that the human brain is a great pattern matcher- it even finds ones that are not there. (Remember those 3-D via pattern images years ago?) When you link a Bible story to something secular, like a baseball game or a New York City sky scape, the risk is there that the student remembers "New York" and not the instruction. This risk exists for any combination of secular themes. Why not make VBS an extension of Catechisis? The lessons could involve things much less mundane than rote reading (that only would work for certain ages for a time) and would work to expand on what they have learned up till VBS. Activities would be necessary, but based on the age of the child, that should be a surmountable challenge without a theme (outside of the theme of Christ). Appropriate materials can be procured or made as necessary, but require taking time to do it. That is why there is such a proliferation of "themed" materials to take "the load off" the VBS teachers. Would it be challenging to eschew these things? Of course. But we must take into account setting up VBS and its ultimate goals as it is quite clear now that the modern American Church has serious doctrinal issues. If these challenges are to be anywhere near surmounted, then we need to change how we do things, preferably to the ways that have worked before. Christianity is fairly dull in that regard- everything has been done before, or nearly so. It is also robust in we know how to do it, and a thousand ways of how not to do it. (paraphrase of Edison) Teaching new and innovative things or ways is a fast way to find a heresy. And that is certainly not what you want to teach your kids at VBS...

11 comments:

Pumice said...

I guess a good example of that is what we just went through with all the secular symbols of Easter: Bunnies, eggs, baskets.

Grace and Peace.

liinatael said...

:)

JLTan said...

Back home, some people use VBS as a way of giving children some fun activity, and reduce the child-minding load of the parents. Churches do VBS, partly for the sake of the gospel, party for community service, and partly for fun.

I think the stories are great to tell, but yes, both the stories and the intentions can be misunderstood.

http://noconvert.blogspot.com/2011/06/inferring-truth.html

Sammi said...

I was a VBS teacher for quite a few years at my church as well as had been a student once.
I think VBS is made to give children a spiritual and productive way to spend some of their summer.

If churches told children of the different less 'rainbows & butterflies' version I think parents would become very wary of allowing their children into said program. Most God abiding parents try to savor their child's youthful ignorance as long as possible. Since children are so susceptible to taking a story in a very wrong way I think its safer to keep Jesus G-rated and along the lines of a Disney movie.

sammijove.blogspot.com

VirginiaLutherans said...

VBS must be instructive, otherwise it is simply a day care at a church. Unfortunately, for too many families, it is the later. I wonder why parents would by wary of a program teaching them God's Word. A child is certainly not innocent of sin- I have seen my own sin many times before they are even teachable! No, sin is inherent in the human flesh. VBS should be building up the children and armoring them (yes, as for war!) for preparation of every day life. Secular themes without a good reason and tie into to the purpose is just trappings for the same VBS as last year. VBS without a secure foundation in Christ is simply a day care.

Jesus is certainly not G-rated. How do you explain the wrath of God? Hell? Devil? How do you convey the cost of sin (from a single act of disobedience) that led to the cross to little children? The blood at communion, and what it means? How about the washing of baptism, which I believe Luther called "drowning of the old Adam"? Christianity is not G-rated. It is a mix of sorrow for the ultimate pain and death of sin, and faith in the promises of Christ to remove that pain and death. Children are susceptible, but mostly to the devil. Christianity is work and turmoil. To hide that from your children to preserve "innocence" that is not there is to do them a disservice. Be careful, for the devil lurks for young ones.

Citizen Atheist said...

VBS is indoctrination wrapped in cuddles. It's the Youth of Hitler for religion's sake. Sure - get them while they're young, scare the "hell" out of them and commit acts of child abuse (yes, terrifying a child and telling them that their friends who die and didn't go to church are going to suffer for all eternity is child abuse) in the name of a "loving" god. Psh - let's get with reality and stop trying to force superstition on our children.

VirginiaLutherans said...

You cannot keep people from teaching their children their beliefs. Otherwise you would be just as guilty as I on indoctrination. Our faith is just as valid as your lack. Let's go with reality- the killing, rape, murder, hate and discontent so prevalent in the world. How do you answer when your child says "why do people do such horrible things?" They are misguided? Evil? Sin is my answer. It is also the truth. As far as you are concerned, my point of view is just as valid as yours. So why the hate?

Citizen Atheist said...

1. You are correct - I can not prevent you from teaching your children that unless they take your word for something and don't use their brains they will BURN FOREVER WHERE THE WORM DIETH NOT AND THE SMOKE OF THEIR TORMENT WILL RISE FOREVER, all brought to them by a loving god.

2. I don't indoctrinate my kids. I don't teach them what to think, so much as how to think. I do more good for my kids in this aspect than you do for yours. Plain and simple.

3. I tell children that good people do good things and evil people do evil things. For good people to do evil things - that takes religion.

4. Hate? Who said I hate? I believe you have misunderstood my strong disagreement and solid opinion for hatred. Was that a stereotype you were following or are you playing the victim role?

Inspector Clouseau said...

Nice blog work. I came across your blog while “blog surfing” using the Next Blog button on the Nav Bar located at the top of my blogger.com site. I frequently just travel around looking for other blogs which exist on the Internet, and the various, creative ways in which people express themselves. Thanks for sharing.

VirginiaLutherans said...

Interesting comments as the dichotomy of good and evil tends to be a theological topic. Both good and evil, without an objective center, are relative. Reasonably speaking and using extreme examples to show the point, the Nazis in Germany during WW2 were just as good, in their own eyes, as the Soviet forces. Both were locked in deadly combat against one another, and yet both would have considered themselves good. Both of their countries philosophies were and are evil, and this can be said with objectivity based on their actions. Standards set outside of ourselves are required to provide the necessary order.

Objective truth must exist. For example: “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But he who heeds counsel is wise.” (Proverbs 12:15) A little later on “2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the hearts. 3 To do righteousness and justice Is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.” (Proverbs 21:2-3) So where does objectivity in right or wrong come from? The Law. The Law is an objective standard that all people are compared to and it shows our failure to merit anything on our own. Christ takes away the punishment of sin through his sacrifice. He gives it away as a consequence of faith, of which He provides! This is the action of a merciful God, not the god of derision, vengeance and hate you seem to imagine. I don’t know why you have such a negative view, but you obviously have not taken the time to consider that your experiences are based on a singular point of view without broader context. Christianity teaches requirements for humanity (first of the Law, and then of works borne by faith in love) for temperateness, justice, and mercy. I don’t know of any reasoning or teaching that says those things are evil, save the one from the devil.

As for hate- you said so yourself, with your own words, based on the definition of the word. I pray that you might understand the source of this hatred, and ultimately the source of salvation from it.

VirginiaLutherans said...

Inspector Clouseau- thanks for visiting! I hope to see you again.