John Alan Turner

Speaker, Author, Mentor, Coach, Facilitator

Vacation Bible School

It's November, and the dog days of summer are a distant memory now. So, I figure that gives us a chance to discuss something in a calm and reasonable manner. At least that's what I hope. I'd like to discuss...Vacation Bible School.

It’s no overstatement to say that Americans may very well constitute the largest unchurched people group outside of India and China. As many as 240 million Americans are unsaved, unchurched and unevangelized, and that number is growing.

Now, I understand that the best programming in the world can’t lead a person to conviction and conversion – people have this notoriously stubborn thing called their sin nature and, when it gets combined with their free will (sorry, Calvin), it makes them so hard to convert that only God himself can do it (sorry, Arminius).

I also understand that the effectiveness of our evangelistic work is terribly difficult to guage. A lot of good, no doubt, takes place beneath the surface, as the seed of God’s Word penetrates the soil of a human heart, germinates and begins growing long before any visible shoot appears. When a person comes to faith (or when faith comes to a person – whichever you prefer), rest assured much work has been done – seen and unseen – to prepare the soil, sow the seed and cultivate things before any harvest is reaped.

That’s extremely biblical language for evangelism, by the way. Jesus taught in an agrigultural context, so that’s the metaphor he used. I have never been a farmer, so it feels strange for me to use that terminology, but there it is. I trust you can understand the word picture.

So, having said how difficult I know it is to measure the effectiveness of our evangelistic attempts and having said how our best attempts to evangelize others could never make someone get saved, I still believe we ought to be rethinking some things when it comes to sharing the message of Jesus with those who are currently outsiders to the Christian faith.

For example, Dr. Ed Stetzer of the North American Mission Board has done a ton of research on how churches conduct outreach. He found that the number one outreach program – used by nearly 85 percent of Southern Baptist churches in 2008 – is...Vacation Bible School.

Eight-five percent. Vacation Bible School. Really.

Of course, having grown up where and when I did, I have fond memories of Vacation Bible School. Puppet shows. Memory verses. Booster, booster, be a booster and all that.

But can someone tell me honestly why in the world we need 85 percent of the 42,000 Southern Baptist Churches in America (that’s 35,700 churches, btw) doing VBS?

Does your church sponsor a VBS? If so, can you help me understand why?