Word of the Week

Normal patterns of ministry outreach for children during the summer for churches is a little thing called Vacation Bible School or better known as VBS. The basic idea is that a summer's worth of educational curriculum is packed into one week of the summer during either a day or night camp at a local congregation. It's usually a great introduction for children and their parents to a local church, an introduction that families may not otherwise of had without the draw of VBS. While fun for kids, it is a lot of work to pull together in terms of volunteers, supplies and promotional materials. And, often churches of small membership just don't have the funds, personnel, or energy to pull something like this off-- as much as they say they want to be welcoming to children.

Such has been the stance of Washington Plaza Baptist for years. With limited resources, there hasn't been money or time or support to get a traditional VBS or something like it on the calendar. As much as the congregation would have desired to host a week of children's fun, there was really no way that we could pull it off by ourselves.

When I arrived at WPBC almost three years ago now, we didn't have a history of children's summer programs at all. I knew in due time this would have to change.

Yet, one of the greatest lessons I learned in seminary about congregational ministry is that it is ALWAYS contextual and the accepted norms must always be pushed just a little. Programmatic one-size fits all curriclum just work if you don't consider the neighborhood. And there ARE things you can do even beyond all imagination!

This is what is true about our situation:

1. We are in community with merchants and individuals directly. Sitting on a plaza alongside restaurants, shops and tenants alike, we have a direct presence in our particular neighborhood-- more than most-- that can't be ignored.

2. While we don't have the visibility on greater social networks or a PR chairperson in our congregation, we are connected to a neighborhood, Lake Anne, that does.

3. While we don't have the personnel to pull off a week's worth of Sunday School like activities for kids, a small committment of time (i.e. one night a month, for a month) IS something we can ask of our congregants. Vacation and busy work schedules can work around this type of commitment.

4. While we don't have a budget line item for supplies, we do have some amazingly talented resources people in our midst who can (and have) written curriculum, found supplies and donated snacks so that we have absolutely everything we need to make a children's event work.

To all of this context and culture, Washington Plaza came up with the idea this spring to further expand our partnership with the neighborhood we've established the past two years through "Family Fun Night" block parties morphing them into "Fabulous Fridays" a modified Vacation Bible School for kids on Friday evenings in July. We are marketing it as a "Parent's Night Out" or "Parent's Date Night" with support from the local merchants who are giving out dinner coupons for any who leave their kids with us. What a beautiful combo!

All the fun began last week as we learned about the story of the Good Samaritan, made crafts, ate cupcakes and chicken nuggets and played some cool games and sang songs. And, I'm sure some of the adults had even more fun than the kids!

This is what I know for sure: as the children are learning about what it means to "Grow in Faith" this summer during Fabulous Fridays, our congregation is doing just the same. We're growing in our understanding of outreach. We're growing in our desire to be a valuable member of the Lake Anne community. We're growing in our passion to share God's love with all of our neighbors. It's a great experience for all.

See y'all tonight at 6:30!