I have a few friends at one of the largest Christian bookstores on the planet. They produce a lot of the Vacation Bible School materials that most churches use. I’ve never asked them how they come with their VBS themes, but I am fairly certain they would have to kill me if they told me.
I think there is a secret bunker 10 stories below the earth’s crust that serves as the command center for the VBS Theme Team. Once a year, the magic rings they all wear start glowing and they know it’s time to travel as fast as they can to the hidden lair to create new themes.
And getting there is not easy. You have to throw away a copy of Harry Potter, the Da Vinci Code and the Golden Compass in an unmarked trash can. An unmarked van will then throw a bag over your head and spirit you away. They blast Carman music on the ride so you are disoriented and make you eat bootleg cookies for energy. When you finally get there, you have to walk through a long cave using one of those candles they give you at the Christmas Eve service as your only source of light.
Once inside, you find yourself in a room with 6 other people (you make person #7 which is God’s favorite number by the way). On the wall, you find the acceptable VBS categories:
You might be in the middle of Ohio, but we want you to feel like you are floating in an veritable ocean of awesome. Real themes include “WaterWorks Park, Tropical Luau, Outriggers Island, Beach Party.”
2. Wild West
It’s buckaroo time. We love cactus. And the desert and gila monsters and cowboy hats and spurs and horses. If you listen closely, you can almost hear God whisper, “don’t eat the glue at VBS” when tumbleweed rolls by on the high and lonesome sandy plains. Popular themes include, “Cactus Canyon and Rancho Avalancha.”
I need to do a post on those weightlifting speakers called something like “Team Nitro,” but in the meantime, power is one of our favorite things to explore at VBS. I kind of hope that when I open my church, an energy drink maker will sponsor VBS. And if they do, I might have to use one of these real themes, “PowerZone Sports Camp, Power Lab or Chosen Champions for Jesus.”
The other day while scooping a massive vat of beets for a charity project, I said something like, “Man, nothing beets serving others.” That is horrible, so by no means do I criticize VBS for using puns. But I have to mention them. This year’s batch includes “SonWorld Adventure Park and Son Harvest County Fair.”
5. Curve Ball
This is the category I love the most, where we just come up with something wild that doesn’t make a ton of sense at first glance, but is still honestly fun to little kids. One this year is “Holyland Adventure: Jerusalem Marketplace.” I’m sure they are using that word differently than me, but “marketplace” makes me feel like I might be making bracelets all week to be sold at the final VBS evening event. And who can forget the bayou themed “Crocodile Dock, where fearless kids shine God’s light.” Because swimming with Christian crocodiles in the swamp is … I got nothing. But my favorite this year is Dino Detectives, which I think is a cross between Encyclopedia Brown and Jurassic Park and the show CSI. Wouldn’t it be awesome if one of the dinosaurs kept taking off his sunglasses like David Caruso does on that show and said things like, “This t-rex wanted to be an all star, but in this pit, it looks like he became an ‘all-tar.'”
I am honestly thrilled that creative folks out there are figuring out new ways to connect kids like mine to God and the Bible. From Crocodile Dock to the desert and “Walk it Out” and back again, kudos to you for some great work.
If I ever do have a church, our VBS is probably going to be called “Bounce.” I’ll outfit all the kids with those big balls you can crawl inside and roll around in. I’ll throw a Bible inside and some goldfish snacks and probably some glitter. Then we’ll just roll them around for a solid week. They might not come home with a Popsicle stick craft, but when else in your life will you be able to spend a solid week inside the safe, fun confines of a big rubber ball, bouncing down hills, eating treats and reading the Bible? That’s weird, isn’t it?