Saturday, July 2, 2016


I haven't had many chances to post this past week due to my work at church. I volunteered to be a teacher at Vacation Bible School, the second time in three years I've done so. Though its hours are from 9 until noon, it's really more like a four-hour commitment each day. During the three hours itself that I was there, the time flew. When I came home, I was astounded each day how much time had passed that I was out.

I wouldn't say I was exhausted when I came home. But I was sapped of the energy to read or write anything of substance.

There's really only one picture I can share in this post, that of a bracelet one of the girls in my tribe made for me.

Ava made it to match the colors in my retro Mike Schmidt jersey, a jersey I wore every day. 
So, about that Mike Schmidt jersey. When working with younger kids, it makes sense to wear something that will stand out, make it obvious to all in the ZIP code who and where I am. If I had a series of baseball jerseys, I'd wear a different one each day. Instead, I have one retro Mike Schmidt jersey and one old Don Slaught Pittsburgh Pirates away jersey I purchased in 1993 (long story). It's loud. It works. But it prevents me from being subtle.

The subtlety might have been good for the incident that occurred near the end of the closing worship program. I was sitting amidst a flock of 1st graders, Kindergartners, and pre-schoolers for that program. A preschooler in front of me, Lily, was highly distracted by all the kids and space around her, which was cute in a distracting sort of way. At perhaps the quietest part of the worship service, however, she stood up and quite loudly declared "I have to go pee." Instantly there was laughter from kids and audience. One instant later I scooped her up and took her to the side where her mom intercepted me. One friend complimented me on the risk I took that her bladder would hold while I carried her out.

My role was tribe leader for VBS, which meant that I was a teacher or shepherd, of sorts, to a group of 14 or 15 rising 2nd graders. Honestly, I felt more like a stand-in dad than a teacher. I haven't yet mastered how to get kids of that age to engage in meaningful dialogue. But I am good at getting them to focus on a given task, to prevent them from making messes, to maintain decent behavior, and (most importantly) to play nicely with each other.

At the opening meeting, our pastor asked what the purpose of VBS is and my answer was that it's to make the church feel like more of a home to the children who attend. Though it's not the answer he was looking for, it remains my primary goal. I believe strongly in 40 Assets sort of research about the importance of kids knowing adults other than parents and teachers. In the week I'm at VBS, kids who around the age of my two kids in the church or neighborhood are getting to know me and know a church. That remains my goal at this point. The Biblical learnings need to come across more implicitly to the kids.

I'm a little better working with this young age group than I expected. Caroline was that age only a year ago. Sam was there not much longer in the past. So working with 7-year-olds allows me to kick back into a gear that I used recently but don't use much now. I'm operating more as a parent than a teacher, and it's something of a comfort zone for me.

It also helps that 7-year-olds in late June are so different from AP 12th graders in Sept-June that I can't really confuse my day job with what I did this past week.

I'll volunteer again next year. Truthfully, it would be nice to see one other dad serve in my role. It's good for kids to see a man doing work like this. And it was obvious to me that some of the kids looked at me as a rent-a-dad this past week, which warmed my heart. I'm still astounded that Ava gifted me with a bracelet just one day into the week, at how Lily and Liz both felt comfortable enough to correct me when I goofed up lyrics to a song, and that the one or two boys I had to correct during the week understood I did it out of love rather than irritation.

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