Why I Keep Volunteering for VBS

Item #75: “Teach someone how to do something new” – completed July 14th, 2016

I had grand ambitions for this goal when I put it on my list. I was going to teach someone to bake a complicated recipe, fold a fitted sheet, or achieve something equally challenging. What didn’t occur to me at the time is that my teacher nature is always at work. I like seeing people accomplish things and gain skills, and I’m rather obnoxious in my efforts to pass on what I’ve learned.

VBS this year, like always, was a roller coaster. On the one hand, I seemed to have lost all semblance of control over the students who regularly attend my class. The two whose respect I’ve most struggled to earn both decided I wasn’t worth it. Additionally, our team lost.

No one was surprised by that last bit. There are four teams every year: Red, Blue, Green, and Yellow. Everyone wants to be on Red and Blue and no one wants to be on Yellow, which means Red and Blue get the “best” kids: strong, big, sporty, smart, and with deep pockets full of pennies. Green always manages to scrape by, sometimes snagging a victory. Meanwhile, the Yellow team is the scrappy underdog without the miraculous last-minute rise. In the last 10 years, I think we’ve won once. We should call our team “Gold” to make us just a little more attractive. But I always stick with Yellow and I’m loudly proud of my choice. (Even when one of my students tracked me down every night to call me a “tiny yellow traitor”.)

So that side of the week was rough, but the good far outweighed the bad.

Firstly, I had two classes each night which were full of engaged students, which is every teacher’s dream. Sure, the odd one wouldn’t sit still, and they were all motivated by candy, but most of them were eager to listen and ask questions.

Then, despite my bumbling, stuttering self, I was able to work with kids every night who had come forward with questions about salvation. That experience was both encouraging and humbling, and I’m still in awe over what God accomplished there.

On the last night I pulled out our team mascot, a sloth puppet, and carried him around while the kids went wild on inflatable obstacle courses and bouncy houses. Thanks to said sloth, I amassed a little following. In addition to wanting to hold the sloth, kiss him, and shove their fingers in his mouth, several of the kids wanted to learn a trick I had shown them with the lengths of felt everyone got in their team color.

Years ago I picked up this trick to folding long strips of paper or material. It’s a simple back-and-forth fold and I don’t know what it’s called, but the finished product looks cool and, as I like things to keep my hands busy, I often use it. So after I developed sore thumbs pulling out knots, I showed the kids how it worked.

The reason I’m using this moment to count toward my list is because of what we looked like: sitting in the grass, surrounded by screaming children and the constant hum of inflatables, while one child cuddled the sloth and three others slowly followed my directions, heads bent over felt strips. The first couple of kids had asked me to do it for them, but after that I told them I would show them how to do it themselves. For the rest of the night they would dart up to other teachers. “Look what I made!”


  • Calli has a blog again! She apparently liked the results of my venture in anonymity, because she’s blogging under her pseudonym. You can find her here, where she’s already written a post and taught me what a “splash page” is, despite being unfamiliar with WordPress. Have I mentioned she’s “into” graphic design? Now I want to redesign my blog. Again.
  • Side story: The first year I was a lead teacher for VBS, I introduced myself and one of the kids immediately raised her hand to ask, “How old are you?” and then “Are you married?” Since then, I always follow up “My name is Miss Phoebe,” with “And I am 1) not married, 2) not dating anyone, 3) and have no children, and the same goes for my assistant teacher.” On the last night this year, one of the girls from my class started to ask, “Do you have a boyf- Oh, that’s right. You don’t.”

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