Lock-In Vacation Bible School (VBS)

February 09, 2015

By the Rev. Helen Mansfield, Pastor, New Community UMC, Oakhurst
So the first words out of my Sunday school teacher's mouth were, "Are you nuts?" I had just proposed that instead of a week-long Vacation Bible School (VBS), which we just do not have the volunteers or resources to do, I proposed we do a lock-in with the kids. Lock-ins are hugely popular with the youth, so why couldn't we give this a try as a way to do a VBS?
So we scheduled it for December 19, the last day of school before Christmas vacation. Eight kids ranging in age from two to ten were signed up and we were ready to roll. Some of my colleagues who heard about what we were doing also thought I was a little nuts attempting to do this in the middle of Advent. Let me tell you, it was my favorite event during Advent
Kids were dropped off at 3 p.m. on Friday and picked up at 3 p.m. on Saturday. We started by reading Pete Seeger's version of Stone Soup and learning the song. We asked them if they wanted to make stone soup for dinner, but they all said "we didn't bring anything!" Just prior to their arriving we had hidden bags of chopped vegetables, and soup bones throughout the sanctuary, and we did a scavenger hunt for them. Each child got to add their bag into the soup pot and we played games while it simmered. Then we roasted hot dogs over the stove to add to our soup, and the kids did all the dishes and cleanup together. An unplanned part of the evening included some of our local homeless folks seeing there was something going on and we invited them to eat with us. 
After dinner, we headed back to the sanctuary to set up our tents, and they got to meet Doug, a homeless person who sleeps on our front porch. We set up our tents in the sanctuary, got ready for bed and then they got to hear John's version of the story of the loaves and fishes. A seven year old boy said, "Hey, that's kind of like stone soup!" Nothing like listening to elementary school aged kids talk theology. Some thought Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes, some thought it was all about sharing, but space was made for all of their interpretations. 
In the morning, the kids learned how to make pancakes, and again, they did all the clean-up. We heard the story of Abram and Sarai, and how we are blessed to be a blessing to the world, as well as the story of how whenever we care for the least among us, we care for and show Jesus how much we love him. There were the usual crafts after each of the stories. Then we headed over to help haul all the leftover bags of clothing that our clothes sorters bag up for 7th Generation and for the prison at Chowchilla.
I had our 18 year old Sunday school teacher and two youth help me, and I have never done such a low key, fun and stress-free VBS.  Grand total costs were under $50. We plan to do this each vacation period and probably do more around teaching more about the particular season.  Parents loved having 24 hours for themselves during a really hectic season, and the kids are still talking about the VBS and asking when they get to do it again.