As mentioned before, I was a crew leader for my church's Vacation Bible School this past week, and it was so much fun and such a blessing. I had six rising 1st and 2nd grade girls in my group, and it was so good to get to know them and talk with them. We had some good conversations related to the lessons for each day, and it is amazing how much faith and comprehension even children that young can have! Every time I work with young children it just makes me all the more eager to be a mother of my own brood of chicks :). Little girls, especially, are so loving and just soak up the love you give them. One of the girls (who doesn't attend my church) was leaning against me yesterday during the lesson and said, I'm going to miss you, Miss Susan. Awww. It just melts my heart :). Six and seven year old girls are still in that stage where they love to snuggle and giggle without fear of seeming babyish, yet they can also comprehend a lot. Their faith, though simple now, is so precious! For of such is the kingdom of God.
Isn't it amazing how selfish little girls can be, though? My crew was very well-behaved, but all (except one) of them were so self-centered! They each wanted to be the first in line, etc., and if they did something "good" they wanted everyone to know! It is so hard to explain the balance between doing good and announcing it! One of the girls really did understand, though (she obviously has been very well-trained by her parents), and she would often do little things for the others, like letting them have a turn first or letting them pick the nicer craft supplies, etc., and she never looked for praise from me or the others. I could certainly learn many lessons from her!
My girls were very well-behaved this week, but I saw enough childish selfishness from them this week - and misbehavior from the other kids - to only seek to confirm what I already knew. Children are not innocent. I mentioned to Mother and Sister Dear that John Locke must not have had much exposure to young children or he would have had to "revise" his blank slate theory, to which Mother Dear replied, Revise it nothing! He would have had to throw it out! Ah, so true.
I'm afraid that the gospel is very often presented to children in a reverse fashion, or at least in a confused, mixed-up fashion. Each day this week, we had a different theme: Monday was Jesus is our friend (proper response: Viva!), Tuesday was Jesus is our life (Viva!), Wednesday was Jesus is our leader (Viva!), Thursday was Jesus is our Savior (Viva!), and Friday was Jesus is our helper. Each theme was good and had a Biblical basis. Indeed, to a Christian, Jesus is his friend, life, leader, Saviour, and helper. . . . but not in that order!
The first three days in VBS it was all about the kids learning to do good things because Jesus is their friend (Viva!), their life (Viva!), and their leader (Viva!). The problem? Sin wasn't even mentioned until Thursday. Until then the lessons focused on what we can try to do to please Jesus, rather than what we have done to offend a perfectly holy God. It didn't show the children just how much they need a Savior, and it didn't tell them that they can't do anything to earn God's favor and salvation.
Every day the kids were given a challenge to complete before the following day - something nice that they had to do to show someone else that they act different because Jesus is their friend (Viva!), or life (Viva!), or leader (Viva!). The next day they would tell their crew leaders how they fulfilled their challenge. Sister Dear overheard one lady complimenting one of her charges after hearing what he had done (to complete his challenge), and she told him, You know what that means? That means you're a good person. *cringe* Think of the message that sends to that little boy!
Oh, well, that's nice to know. Now because of a single, solitary act that I did by coercion, my debt of sin has been bumped off the charts and replaced with a positive credit in the bank of my holiness. I guess I don't need a Savior anymore.
It is so dangerous to present the gospel to children in this manner! The last thing I want for a little child is to come away from VBS or church with the idea that they can somehow be "good enough" for God. That is not the gospel message, and it pains me when kids view the gospel as such. The morally rich (those who think they have it all together) have the hardest time entering the kingdom of God. It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. . . The message of the first three days bordered on a works-based salvation, which is definitely not the message of the gospel!
Thursday we finally used the word sin. During the Bible story we talked about sin, how we have all sinned, and how we are all in need of a Savior. The teacher really did a good job explaining this to the group, and then we had individual time with our smaller group of kids to talk about sin and our need of a Savior. But I think that lesson should have come earlier in the week, before we talked about Jesus being the Lord of our life. How can Jesus be our friend or our life (more important than anything else) or our leader unless he is first our Savior? As Walter Marshall once said, [Christ] knew that we could perform nothing holily, except he made us first partakers of salvation, and that we shall never obey him as a Law-giver, until we receive him as a Saviour.
. . . and that is how I think the gospel is often presented to kids in a backwards fashion. Kids first need to be taught their need of a Savior, before they can be encouraged to obey God with their actions. Our good works are out of gratitude and obedience to God, realizing that we have no hope outside of the mercy of the cross, so they are meaningless unless under the shadow of Calvary. Heaven forbid that the little ones this week should come away from VBS thinking more of their actions to please God rather than focusing most on Jesus's sacrificial actions on the cross to save them from their worst enemy - themselves.