It’s that time again! …VBS or other summer programing that often feels a lot like catch and release fishing. Some churches partner with other small churches to host and run a week-long program while others host a Saturday program monthly. Some will host a week with the conference mobile camp and others will host a week of VBS on their own. Some will be the only game in town while others will engage students who attend a different local VBS each week. Some students will be “our” students: those who are engaged regularly in the life of our congregation. Many will be guests or regular guests: caught for a week and released until next year.
Let’s be honest, it can be discouraging. Some churches have even quit VBS all together, because they never get new members out of all that work (among all the other reasons). On the other hand, if they were to engage regularly, we might be tempted to catch and release some students (and even some adults); sizing them up and weighing the cost of their “unique dynamic”.
Check out Matthew 4:18-25. Just as Jesus called the disciples, so He calls us. It took Jesus about three years to train these guys in person, and they still didn’t really get it. So His spirit remained with them to the end as He remains in us, continually teaching us how to fish successfully: loving each one as Christ loves them and drawing them in to relationship with Him. Notice in verses 24-25 that no mater what need for growth or healing they bring, Jesus doesn’t throw anyone back.
Mark 10:13-16 contains the familiar story of the disciples shooing away the children. Jesus says “let them come”, and reminds us that we can learn something from them about how to receive the Kingdom. You know this story, and that’s why you’re trying. So why do we struggle with this catch and release? Perhaps there is something we must remember about the disciples: they fished with nets, not poles and a line.
When these early fishermen drew in a catch, they caught the whole school of fish: young, old, and everything in between. When we develop programing for new generations, we must also consider ways to cast the net around their parents and others who are close to them if we are going to have any hope of really catching these students.
What tools are you fishing with? Do they need mending, or do you need to try a new method all together?