PERRY — Few churches can celebrate a 25 percent return on their “sweat equity,” or ROI – a return on their spiritual investment.
Volunteer workers at Houston Lake Baptist Church are rejoicing to see the fruits of their labors from last week’s Vacation Bible School, which saw a surprising 25 percent of the children who attended make professions of faith in just three days. Lisa Wright directed the kickoff to the church’s summer programming, noted Minister of Music Danny Stubbs.
“One of the inroads to such a successful VBS was participation from one of three day care centers who we invited. We have had all three to bring children in the past, but I have not seen such a strong response when we only had one center to participate,” he said.
Stubbs said the center had such a large number of children wanting to attend that two vans were needed to transport the youngsters – with one van needing to make a second trip. The day care centers have a slightly older population during summer months so that meant many of those children were in the third-to-fifth grades. The overall age range for VBS was K-5th grades.
What was especially satisfying, he added, was that 23 of the 25 children who accepted Christ were not from families who attend the church, with half of the entire group raising their hands that they had no church home. With an average daily attendance of about 100 from the 117 enrolled, that meant a fourth of the children accepted Christ.
Ringing of school bells announces the beginning of VBS
The proverbial ringing of the school bells signaling the end of class and beginning of summer had hardly faded on Tuesday, May 30, before the children began arriving the next morning. The spiritual education was packed into three days … Wednesday morning, and both Thursday and Friday morning and afternoon sessions. There was no Wednesday afternoon session due to the standard evening schedule.
“We fed them breakfast and lunch, then fed them spiritually from God’s Word,” Stubbs continued. The children were at the church from 8:30 when breakfast was served, then remained through lunch and until the day ended at 4 p.m. A praise team from the church’s children’s choir lead the songs and all the accompanying motions.
Stubbs said Pastor Fred McCoy, with his “heart for evangelism, spoke briefly to the children each day as he laid out the plan of salvation.” McCoy used a variety of Gospel sharing approaches, ranging from the baseball diamond illustration, the Roman Road, and the wordless book which has proven so successful at the church’s tent ministry each fall at the Georgia National Fair.
A Friday invitation saw a harvest few were expecting.
“We wish we could have that kind of response every day but it’s just so hard to get unreached people inside the church for an event of any kind. Visiting prospects is far more difficult these days; they just don’t come to the door even when you know they are home because you hear the television,” he said with a serious, yet half-hearted, chuckle.
The church plans to get to know the families through the children who attended and be able to visit in their homes.
After landmark successful VBS, ministering to families now the focus
Each child who reported they did not have a Bible went home with a paperback Holman Christian Study Bible. In addition, all the children received a packet with a church logo pen, a letter and pamphlet introducing the church with an invitation to visit, and their craft activity of the day. Parents of the children who accepted Christ were given a more personal letter explaining the decision, affirming the child’s interest in spiritual matters, and offering to answer any further questions.
Stubbs noted that one year the church took VBS to a day care center. However, that proved to be a little more difficult than expected. It was decided the ministry could be more effective by inviting the centers to come to the church. And last week’s VBS affirmed that decision.
“I’ve only been on staff here for four years but this is the largest response I’ve seen,” he added. “Our volunteers worked hard and the VBS ran like a well-oiled machine.
“We are now ready to jump all over this with followup. We are thrilled to death and praising the Lord for what happened in just three short days.”
The children left, knowing their offering will go to teach other children and their families about Christ halfway around the world in Moldova. The church has a longtime partnership with the former Soviet republic and takes an annual summer mission trip to the eastern European country. Georgia Baptists had a five-year church planting partnership with International Mission Board personnel there in the 1990s.