Sunday, May 31, 2015

Old School Bible School

It's that time of year again when churches on every corner have banners and advertisements up for their Vacation Bible Schools.  Most of the churches around here go all out for Bible school just as it should be.  The decorations, themed snacks, very involved crafts, and over the top props.  The kids love it and how could they not?

I was looking through some pictures on Facebook that a church posted and I couldn't help but think how different it is now than it was when I was in Bible School and you know I'm all about some nostalgic strolls back in time, so here goes.

Back then, there were 3 kids, who were selected to hold the American Flag, the Christian Flag, and the Bible.  They were the big dogs for the day.  As the pianist played a "marching in" song, everyone would file in behind the chosen three.  I remember sitting down on the hard, creaky pews.......my legs sticking to the varnished wood.  Bible school was one of the few occasions when we could wear shorts to church, so it was beyond awesome. 

Anyway, there were no palm trees made from paper mache or larger than life jungle animals cut out of plywood or two story rocket ships made of foam core board like there are today.  I don't recall any twinkly lights, large boulders fashioned from crumbled Kraft paper or beach scenes on the stage complete with an umbrella, Adirondack chairs, and wave sound effects.  No, as I recall, there were just the preacher, the music minister, and the podium.....oh, and on a really exciting day, the slide or film projector might be brought in.
 
Just below the chosen three were the six kids, who were picked each day to take up the offering (aka the change we found in between the vinyl car seats and in the bottom of our Mama's purses that morning).  These offering takers were the kids, who were runners up to the flag holders in the complex Bible school hierarchy system.  I, myself, never submitted my name to be considered for any of these spots.  I was shy and wanted to stay as far away from the front of the room as possible. 

After we said our pledges, sang our songs, and took up the mission offering, it was off to our classroom.  We headed down the hall and there was no grassy pathway cut from indoor/outdoor carpeting leading to the room and our names weren't perfectly penned on laminated, themed shapes hanging from the ceiling.  There were no freshly cut stumps to sit on and no real tents set up in the room in which to have our lesson by lantern light.  No, we walked in and the teacher was like......"You see those brown, folding chairs set up in a semi-circle facing the bulletin board?  Go sit in those.....and don't run."  Oh, those metal chairs were so cold on your bare legs and so you'd put your hands under them until it got warmed up. 

We didn't pretend like we were all on safari riding in a jeep and we didn't sit around a faux campfire made with a few logs and tissue paper flames, while we had our lesson.  The teacher wasn't wearing a cowboy hat, didn't use a black light, and didn't bring in any live amphibians for us to pet.  There were no stuffed monkeys hanging from the ceiling and no thoroughbred horses out in the parking lot for us to sit on.  No, she just sat there in the brown folding chair with her Bible in her lap and those old school pictures that she'd pin to the bulletin board behind her when the time was right.  Something like these might have, very well, been your only visual for the whole day, so you had to glean the most from it.....
 
After we finished our story, it was time for crafts.  Not the kind of crafts they do today.  No, there was no going to another decorated room where supplies were laid out for some HGTV worthy craft....like building a coffee table or blowing your own colored glass or something.  Back then, it was "Ok, now pick up your chair and take them back over to the tables, where we will have our craft.  Do not slide the chairs because we don't want to disturb the class below us!" 

This was my favorite time in Bible school.  I was all about some crafts.  The same teacher would reach into the cabinet and get out a stack of construction paper, a few bottles of glue, some popsicle sticks, and a pack of those foil star stickers.  On a really good craft day, we'd all be issued a baby food jar and maybe fabric scraps or a tin can and some old wallpaper sample books from which we'd fashion some really attractive keepsake.....something our mothers would feel obligated to display somewhere. 

On the days that the teacher would mix up the powder tempera paints, we'd be given a man's old shirt turned paint smock to protect our new summer shirts bought down at Sears and Roebuck.  The teachers were always sure to warn you to be careful not to drip paint on your Buster Brown sandals, too.  And if you finished your craft before everyone else, you were given a mimeographed coloring page and an old coffee can full of broken crayons as a time filler. 
 
While the beautiful crafts dried on another table, it was on to snack time.  Let me tell you......there were no Pinterest snacks there.  No, sir.  No themed snacks for us.  No bird nests made from chow mein noodles and jelly bean eggs.  No edible Noah's arks fashioned with icing, graham crackers, and animal cookies.  Not even any gummy fish suspended in blue Jell-O and served in clear cups.

We were old school.  "Ok, everybody go sit down and we'll pass out the iced oatmeal cookies and the Dixie cups of cherry Kool-Aid."  There was nothing organic and nobody thought about food allergies or gluten.  As the week would crescendo, you might get a chocolate sandwich cookie......not an Oreo, mind you, but a store brand chocolate sandwich cookie.  Finally, the snacks would peak on Friday as the teacher would pass out the twin pop popsicles.  There was no color requesting, though, because there just simply weren't enough reds to go around.  Someone had to get orange and it might as well be you.  Then, there was that year our church bought the snow cone machine.  Can you say Christmas in July?
 
Before it was time to go home, there was only one more stop.  Recreation.  Again, no themed games, because, well, there were no themes for our Bible schools back then.....except Jesus and, well, there aren't many games that can be played with a kickball that emulate Jesus.  I suppose it's hard to take away any measure of spiritual growth, while attempting to hit other children in the head with a rubber, inflated ball in order to acquire points.  There's nothing "Jesus" about that.  So, what they did in the 70's, you see, was say, "Here's a ball.....go play and we won't try to draw any parallels between this and the lesson we just covered".  This gave the teachers time to sit and visit and eat their vanilla ice cream cups with the wooden spoons, the upper echelon of snacks reserved for the teachers only.

After we all worked up a sweat and smelled like a herd of goats in a summer rain, it was time to gather our things to go home.  We'd go check to see if the glue and paint on our craft had dried sufficiently to take it home.  Oh, you always prayed it was so.  There was nothing worse than having to leave your craft behind to dry.

I have fond memories of Bible school.  I looked forward to that every year.  It wasn't as fancy and decked out as it is today.  I suppose if we did it the old school way now, these iPad/Xbox/iPhone kids would likely fall out of their undecorated chairs and hit their heads on the undecorated floors, completely overwrought with boredom.  I guess you just have to rock along with the times. 

Either way, working in Bible school is a big job and whether you did it back in the days of paste jars, felt boards, and butter ring cookies or you're doing it now with your cellophane waterfalls, crape paper jellyfish, and choreographed songs, you're doing important work!
 
"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."  Luke 18:16

Have a great Monday, y'all.
Glad to be back in the saddle!

  

                          




 

10 comments:

  1. Awww, close to sounding like summer "school". Crafts, sports, etc. when I was a kid. Saturdays was for Catholic bible classes too. Learning about God and his goodness. You know Joni, commenting about kids now with their electronics reminds me when my parents saying how things were back in the day. Now we are too. Glad your Internet is up and running. Good post Joni, have a nice day at work. Kathleen in Az

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    1. You're right, Kathleen! I suppose it's like our version of our parents'.... "I had to walk uphill to school in the snow....both ways". Hahaha!. I hope you've had a good week so far!

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  2. I'm sitting here chuckling and stopped to thank you for taking me on a trip down memory lane. It's like you were there with me, well except we always had grape koolaid with our iced oatmeal cookies and a REALLY great Friday meant a fudgsicle!!!! Rebels we were I tell ya! :-)

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    1. Hahahaha.......your church decided to break from the rest of the denomination and go grape, huh? I don't remember ever having fudgsicles, but an occasional ice cream sandwich wasn't unheard of. Good times, Michelle.

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  3. I never attended a themed Bible School either and I always loved it! The first theme that I ever saw was when my son was 8 (before that he was deprived because....well, NO THEME!!) But that first theme was great. So good they did it for about 4 years. It was a Hebrew village in Jesus' time. They made clay bricks, jewelry, baskets, and cardboard sandals. They all wore robes (sheets or bath robes) and head coverings. They paid for their purchase in the marketplace with lima beans from a leather pouch they made. They marketplace was tents made of sheets and sticks. They ate foods of the time. Each day a Biblical character visited them, Moses, Noah, The Good Samaritan..... The kids loved it so much that when they aged out, they kept coming to help with the little ones! It must have been good because my son is 36 and he still talks about it.....and has his little leather pouch with gold painted lima beans. After those 4 back to basics years, they went Hollywood with Bible School and it wasn't nearly as much fun.

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    1. Oh, wow! That sounds awesome! I've never heard of a Bible school theme like that, but it sounds like a great idea! Thanks for sharing that, chubmoma. May have to pass that one along.

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  4. Ha! My children are at VBS this week - it is the most slick, produced over-the-top program I've ever seen! One year, my son won an ipod in the attendance drawing...an ipod touch! In my day a bicycle was top prize, or even one of those "award" Bibles. Sheesh!

    One thing I do love, is that the children sing the music for the rest of the summer. That's my favorite part, I think.

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    1. Wow! Your church has some awesome prizes, Missy June!

      And, yeah, those songs do get stuck in their heads.....and then in yours! :)

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  5. Good description! And...ours went for two weeks! For family night, we would sing/say the books of the Bible and say our memory verses from the week. Good memories! :)

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    1. I don't think we'd ever find enough volunteers for 2 weeks now, Denice! Now that's what you call commitment! :)

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