“I Was a VBS Kid!” An Interview With a Former VBS Kid Turned Current VBS Director
Published: April 21, 2023
Do you ever find yourself wondering if VBS truly makes a difference? If Jesus really uses VBS music, decorations, Bible discoveries, and volunteers to transform lives?
It’s natural to ponder these things because we may not see change in kids’ hearts and lives right away. But what if you could fast forward and talk with VBS kids 15 or 20 years from now? Who would you talk with, and what would they remember?
Well, Joani Schultz, Group Publishing’s Chief Creative Officer, had just that opportunity—not to time travel into the future, but to talk with a former-VBS-kid-turned-VBS-leader-extraordinaire. Tune in to their conversation and find idea sparks for your VBS this summer.
Becky Chaplin: A VBS Kid
Ever met a “human sparkler”?
Someone who brightly glows Jesus in the dark, exudes life, and just makes you smile?
Meet Becky Chaplin.
Yup. She’s the closest thing to a human sparkler I know. Becky serves as Director of Family Ministry at Faith Community Lutheran Church in Las Vegas, Nevada. She shines brightly. And she attributes that sparkle to being a VBS kid. You see, Becky grew up with VBS (vacation Bible school) transforming her into the woman of God she is today.
I wanted to know more. How did Jesus become so integral to her life? Why did VBS make such an impression? How can we replicate that spark of love and joy in kids God brings our way?
Enjoy Becky’s VBS journey and discover six things about being a VBS kid that she remembers most. Plus, ignite your own VBS ministry with the “Idea Sparks.” As you read, consider how you can inspire your kids to be “human sparklers” for Jesus, too—right now and in the future.
(FYI: All the VBS theme references come from Group’s VBS over the years. Maybe you’ll remember them, too?)
Becky recalls when she was a preschooler her mom popping in a blue cassette tape (remember cassette tapes?) and all singing “Welcome Aboard!” from Vacation Bible Ship, Group’s very first VBS in 1995! Her mom lit the spark of Jesus’ love by infusing memorable music from their church’s VBS.
2. Memorable VBS Decorations
Over the years, themed decorations wowed little Becky. All those creative environments shouted, “This is FUN! This is different than normal.” Becky bubbles, “This is special for me. To me, VBS is Disneyland!”
Yet sometimes it was the simplest of things. Becky knew VBS was special at her church—because kids got to use “the ramp” once a year. Not only did the fun entrance matter, but the church building transformed into a special place during VBS. They freed up the handicap ramp once a year for little feet to travel! “Fun is the language of kids,” she says.
3. Memorable VBS Themes
Becky could name every VBS theme and her favorite memories. “I remember watching Chadder Chipmunk in space [the video-based daily adventure from Space Mission Bible Camp], stacking all the Bug Safari Bible Buddies [plastic figurines each imprinted with the daily Bible verse], helping my pastor put the lyrics on the overhead projector singing ‘It’s God’s Story’ [HolyWord Studios], bringing the neighborhood kids, and loving all the stations.”
4. Memorable VBS Bible Discoveries
“But my favorite station was Bible Adventures!” Becky still remembers the blue tarp she crawled inside, as a preschooler, to learn more about Jonah in the whale!
“I think VBS made the Bible come to life for me,” Becky reflects. “I grew up in a Christian day school, so faith was a part of an academic setting.” In school, religion was a subject. But at VBS…“VBS opened my eyes that God is still leading us through Bible adventures of our own today! The God of the Bible is the same God of my ‘right now,’ ” she says. “Faith is an adventure; it’s not academic. VBS made me want to create that for kids so they could grow in their faith, too.”
5. Memorable VBS Leadership
Becky’s enthusiasm for Bible adventures didn’t go unnoticed. Her leaders saw how much she loved experiencing the Bible coming to life. And when Becky was 13, they recruited her to be the Bible leader helper.
Mr. Briggs, the VBS Bible leader, believed in Becky. “After the first day in Avalanche Ranch (2007), Mr. Briggs asked if I wanted to lead Day 2. I was 13! I still remember the Bible story (because I went home that night and memorized it all): It was God leading the Israelites through the Jordan River.” Becky followed the instructions to create an experience for kids to walk on soggy towels to simulate crossing the Jordan’s “dry riverbed.” Through barefoot kids’ shrieks, “eews,” and giggles of glee, Becky heard God calling her to ministry!
Yes. Kids’ delight walking over those soggy towels flashes through her mind every time she thinks of why she went into ministry. “If I can create an experience where they could feel God guiding them under their feet and connect it to their hearts—that’s when I knew I wanted to do this every day…every single day. I got to walk kids through and guide them in God’s Word.”
6. Memorable VBS Volunteers
I asked Becky why she thought VBS was so influential in her life. Without hesitation, she admits it was “Relationships. People. If I didn’t have a station leader invest in me, or a VBS director trust me to lead, I may have lost that pivotal moment where I thought ‘this is what I want to do with my life.’ ”
Advice From a VBS Kid
Then I wondered what she would like leaders to know from her “now” perspective. Here’s what she said:
“Take a deep breath, close your eyes…and ask yourself: What’s the first memory that pops into your head when you think why do you do VBS? What’s your ‘towel moment’? Remember WHY you do what you do. God has created you for this purpose, for such a time and place as this.”
“You never know. Someone can come up to you in heaven you never met and say, ‘Thank you for doing VBS and being part of my story. VBS changed my life—and it changed my forever.’ That’s the ripple-effect impact VBS can have—an eternal one.”
With a twinkle in her eye, and the flash of a VBS response phrase, she said, “That makes me say, ‘Wow, God!’ ” Now that’s a VBS kid!
Fun Facts: Becky loves VBS so much that as a college student, she ordered a set of Kingdom Rock Bible Buddies for her college dorm room! And to this day, VBS Starter Kit tins surround Becky’s office. “They inspire me,” she says. “My dream is to collect them all and use them as centerpieces at my wedding one day!”
Top 10 Idea Sparks to Brighten Your VBS This Summer
Chatting with Becky sparked ideas to share with you! Consider how these 10 idea sparks could brighten your VBS this summer.
Idea Spark 1
Make sure VBS music gets home. Provide music free or for purchase. Music is the easiest way to infuse faith into families. Millions of kids can’t be wrong, so check out kid favorite music videos from Group VBS.
Idea Spark 2
Include preschoolers in your VBS plans. Your efforts with little ones can be the profound first step in a child’s faith journey.
Idea Spark 3
Go the extra mile. Enlist creative types to unleash their decorating skills. Show kids how much they mean to your church. Then have some fun surprising kids with special places at church (ramps, closets, hallways, “unusual spaces”).
Idea Spark 4
Notice kids. Watch what individual children are most drawn to. Becky’s brother was an active outdoorsy type, so he connected to the Bible point in games, while Becky connected to the points in Bible adventures.
Idea Spark 5
Recruit teenagers. Believe in them. Young people are a gold mine. And you never know what experience may ignite their spirit of serving God for a lifetime.
Idea Spark 6
Lead Bible experiences that evoke emotion. We never quite know how or when God calls a child. (Think Samuel.) Group’s VBS and Sunday school curricula are especially designed to move Bible truths from the head to the heart, so God even used soggy, damp towels to call Becky to ministry!
Idea Spark 7
Thank your “Mr. Briggs.” Chances are, you’re in ministry today because someone believed in you and gave you an opportunity to try out your skills. It’s never too late to say thank you. So bless someone with your gratitude.
Idea Spark 8
Reevaluate your measure of success. Is it numbers? No. It’s relationships—relationships with volunteers, kids, and their parents.
Idea Spark 9
Remember and reignite your WHY. Never forget YOU are making an eternal impact!
Idea Spark 10
Imagine how fun it will be in heaven when you hear all the lives touched by your efforts. Then offer a prayer of thanks to God for such an awesome privilege!
How will VBS music, decorations, theme, and Bible discoveries, plus teen and adult volunteers spark Jesus’ light and love in the lives of your VBS kids? May Becky’s sparkle bring light to your leadership and remind of this truth: What you do really does matter. Just ask your VBS kids.
Still looking for a VBS program? Check out Group’s Stellar! You can also find more ideas here.
Joani Schultz is Group’s Chief Creative Officer. She leads the teams that create Group’s Sunday school curriculum, vacation Bible school, books, childrensministry.com, and online training. She’s the author of numerous books, including Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore, and The 1 Thing.
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