Vacation Bible School has become a summer tradition for many people. In fact, many children attend VBS at multiple churches throughout the summer. Living in the Chattanooga area provides multiple opportunities for children to be a part of the exciting VBS experience. With VBS taking place at multiple churches almost every week of the summer, you may find it odd to learn that my wife and I do not, and will not, send our children to VBS at other churches, nor do we encourage the parents in our church to allow their children to attend VBS at other churches.
Why? There is one main reason. I have seen firsthand how salvation is often presented in the VBS setting…it is often tragic. Here are a few thoughts I have on VBS and how it often fails to do what is intended.
First, understand that there is a difference in trusting in a prayer and trusting in Jesus for salvation. More attention is often given to the child repeating a prayer than to them understanding what Christ did for them and what it really means.
Second, children can be easily manipulated into ‘making a decision’. I have heard VBS workers ask, “Who doesn’t want to go to Hell?” Many kids raise their hands (I would as well). They are then told that they need to pray a prayer to keep from going to Hell. I have even seen prizes given to those who “get saved”. This kind of manipulation is simply a poor substitute for the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, and does not lead to true salvation.
Third, children are eager to please. If they think that saying a prayer will make the adult happy, they will readily do it even if they do not understand what they are doing. This leads to a false assurance of salvation.
Fourth, I have seen very few VBS programs that are designed to follow-up with those making professions of faith in the weeks that follow the VBS. The command of the Great Commission is to make disciples; not just converts.
I realize that there are children who have been saved through VBS. I also realize that there are churches that are careful to avoid these dangers. But I am not going to take a chance on my children attending VBS where salvation is so wrongly presented. I do not want them to be confused and messed up for the next 25 years thinking they are saved because they were manipulated into repeating a meaningless prayer. It is simply not worth the risk.