Vacation Bible School sounds innocent enough, it started with good intentions: Christians wanting to reach children with the good news of Jesus.
Christianity Astray reports:
Unofficially, it’s possible to trace the roots of VBS as far back as the 1870s, when the Methodist Episcopal Church offered summer Sunday school institutes to the general public near Lake Chautauqua, New York. In 1873, Bishop John H. Vincent proposed the movement should include educational and cultural programs, and soon other Christian groups across the country followed suit with their own summer retreats, many of them offering services for children.
Vacation Bible school as we know it today got its start more than 20 years later on New York City’s East Side. Mrs. Walker Aylette Hawes of the Epiphany Baptist Church noted a rapid increase in the number of immigrant children in the slums. In July 1898 she rented the only place available—a saloon—to run a Bible school for six weeks during the summer. Hawes structured her program around worship music, Bible stories and Scripture memorization, games, crafts, drawing, cooking, etc. The school caught on: Hawes was presiding over seven separate schools by the time she retired from her work in 1901.
Note – no effort to involve or reach out to the parents of these street urchins. A culturally relevant program that would be attractive to young children who were dead in their sins. (This remains the foundation of many church-based youth programs, a century later.) This approach not only extends the recent invention of adolescence, it encourages adults to behave as if they were small children. This year’s promotional materials from Lifeway are a prime example:
How did parents and the church train children before such hip, cool, fun, and unbiblical programs were developed? I’m glad you asked. Here’s a sample of one tool that was used from the 17th century and is still in use in some churches; it’s an extract of the Shorter Baptist Catechism:
Q. 43. What is the preface to the ten commandments?
A. The preface to the ten commandments is in these words, I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
Q. 44. What does the preface to the ten commandments teach us?
A. The preface to the ten commandments teaches us that because God is the Lord, and our God, and redeemer, therefore we are bound to keep all his commandments.
Q. 45. Which is the first commandment?
A. The first commandment is, You shall have no other gods before me.
Q. 46. What is required in the first commandment?
A. The first commandment requires us to know and acknowledge God to be the only true God, and our God; and to worship and glorify him accordingly.
Q. 47. What is forbidden in the first commandment?
A. The first commandment forbids the denying, or not worshiping and glorifying the true God as God, and our God; and the giving of that worship and glory to any other, which is due to him alone.
Q. 48. What are we specially taught by these words before me in the first commandment?
A. These words before me in the first commandment teach us that God, who sees all things, takes notice of, and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other god.
I ask you – which method of instructing children is God honoring?