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A CHILD-LIKE FAITH

Lessons Learned at Vacation Bible School

By Belinda Elliott
CBN.com Daily Life Producer

CBN.com I don't know what I was thinking. When a lady from my church approached me to teach a class for our Vacation Bible School, it seemed only natural to accept. After all, I had spent most of my teenage years helping with the Bible school programs. I had led devotions, played with puppets, handed out snacks, and aided with crafts. Now, in my early 20s, I was practically a Bible-school veteran. Plus, she specified that an assistant would work with me. "Sure," I told her, "teaching a class would be great."

I was very excited at the idea of having my own class. This year I would be the teacher. I would structure the classes and plan the lessons. And I would ensure that my class would have the best end-of-the-week skit in Bible-school history. Then I learned which age group I would be leading. Do three-year-olds even go to Bible school? At my church, apparently, they did. I began to get nervous.

After weeks of planning lessons and preparing visual aids, I greeted the first day of Bible school with confidence. I assured myself that I was well prepared, and that my assistant would help me. I felt like I could handle anything.

A class of thirty-three three-year-olds soon changed my mind.

My structured, precisely timed, and well-planned lessons were discarded within the first thirty minutes. The room quickly turned chaotic. Three-year-olds were running around everywhere, and my faithful assistant was nowhere to be found. She chose to stay hidden for the rest of the week.

The experience was quite an ordeal. I never knew kids could be so creative with classroom objects. Bibles became baseball bats and bazookas; paper workbooks became telescopes, megaphones, and hats; chairs became castles made for crawling under rather than sitting in; and crayons became a gourmet meal.

Rather than reciting the stories and lessons that I had rehearsed for days, I found myself repeatedly pleading with the children. "Danny, please sit down." "Johnny, please let go of Amy's hair." "Erin, please take the sidewalk chalk out of your mouth, and put it in the toy chest where it belongs."

To an onlooker it may have been difficult to determine who was really presiding over the chaos. When one child instructed me that she was now the teacher, I partially believed her.

That first day provided me with quite an education. I learned that bathroom breaks are a group event for three-year-olds, as are field trips to the water fountain and excursions to the nearest window. It was during one of these excursions that I discovered the panic button on my car keys really does work through glass "at a distance of fifty feet or less." The off-button doesn't work nearly as well.

The day produced other important lessons. The average attention-span of a three-year-old is 15 seconds. Reciting Bible verses provides an endless source of fun and entertainment. Kool-aid really does stain. How-to craft instructions don't tell you how-to…anything. And, sing-along Bible tunes are only performed correctly if you sway back and forth, turn around in circles, and shout the words as loud as you can.

By the second day, I had decided to approach my bouncing bunch of three-year olds with a new strategy. I gave up on producing an award-winning skit for Friday night's program, and I settled for simply teaching the children to memorize the week's Bible verse. I devoted most of the first half of class to the roll call, since the shiny star-shaped stickers on the attendance chart held the children's attention more effectively than Daniel or the lions ever could. And I decided to use the youngsters' endless supply of energy, rather than try to suppress it.

By the third day, I had things running smoothly, though I was anxiously anticipating the moment when my teaching career would be over. However, the day started off differently than the days before it. Several of the students greeted me with beaming faces and shiny new quarters that they had brought for the offering, which we would be sending to an orphanage. They joyfully put down their toys and gathered in the floor for storytime. They cheerfully sang the Bible school songs at an almost-normal volume, and chanted the week's memory verse in perfect unity. Were these the same children?

Our prayer time was even better. Gathered in a circle with every little head bowed, and hardly any little eye closed, the children eagerly awaited their turn to pray. The requests were simple. Many were for family members. Some were for beloved pets. One was for a four-wheeler. But they were all laid before God's throne sincerely and expectantly. None were thought to be too large or too small, and all were presented with as much joy as if they had already been answered.

That's when I began to understand. My week of teaching Bible school was not really about teaching at all. It was about learning. It was learning to approach God and His Word with the passion, energy and innocence of a three-year-old. It was learning to generously share my quarters with the people who need them. It was learning to take everything to God in prayer, from the well-being of my favorite pet to my largest dreams. It was learning to know the Scriptures so well, that at a moment's notice I could recall them, word-for-word, from the depths of my heart. And, it was learning to sing God's promises joyfully, although the world around me might be dark. Ultimately, it was learning to have a child-like faith.

The next week, after all the craft supplies had been neatly stored and the left-over cookies had been distributed, I ran into the church's VBS coordinator. She reported that the week had been an overwhelming success, and she thanked me for my help.

"Can I count on you to teach a class again next year?" she asked. I couldn't help but accept the offer. "Sure," I said, "but only if I can teach the three-year-olds."


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