When the church hosted Vacation Bible School several weeks ago, pastor David Evans and the church leaders tweaked the program: They set up a system that allowed the teachers — instead of Evans — to talk directly to the children who had shown interest in making a profession of faith.
In several instances, the teacher was able to guide the student through the decision and walk them through the sinner’s prayer.
It was a life-changing moment for the student — and the teacher, too.
“Let me tell you, there was so much power behind that,” said Evans. “For some of our teachers, this was their first chance to lead someone to Jesus. And brother, it was just so exciting to hear them tell their stories. I’ll be honest, it just tore me up. I was in tears, and so were they.”
Evans said the concept of giving the teachers the opportunity to lead children to Christ wasn’t exactly a revolutionary idea.
“Truthfully, when you look at it, it’s just a little tweak to what we’ve always done,” he said. “It wasn’t a reinvention of VBS by any means. But man, did it make a difference in the lives of those who were a part of it.”
Evans said he believed that allowing the VBS volunteers to have these evangelistic opportunities was a great reward for all of the effort and hard work that they had poured into the ministry.
“I guess you could say that this was a way of ‘spreading the wealth’ around to our VBS leaders,” Evans said. “Sure, I could have been the one who talked to the children and lead them to Christ. But we wanted the teachers, the volunteers, to have that joy and to experience that unforgettable moment. We didn’t want to steal that joy from them.”
Evans said if any of the teachers had indicated that they were uncomfortable having a gospel conversation with a student, then he would have been happy to step in. But that did not happen, he said.
“I let them know that, if I was needed, I would harvest the fruit,” he said with a laugh. “We weren’t going to let the fruit go bad. But what I really wanted was for them to have the awesome, awesome joy of knowing how to harvest the fruit themselves since they had spent the week planting the seeds.
“And, let me tell you, they were so excited,” he added. “They said to me, ‘Pastor Dave, that was so much fun! And it was such a blessing.’ ”
Evans said he believes many of the VBS leaders now have the “evangelism bug,” and they are likely to be more open about sharing their faith in the future.
“Several of them said to me, ‘I don’t know why I’ve not been doing this,’ ” Evans said. “And in my head, I thought, ‘Ding, ding, ding! You’re right.”
The subtle change to the VBS format happened on the fourth day (Thursday). After the younger children were dismissed from the “general assembly” portion of the schedule, Evans presented the plan of salvation to the older children.
“By that point, the week of VBS had already laid the groundwork — I mean, the ball was already teed up for me — so I presented the gospel to them, very clearly, very straightforward,” he said.
Each of the children received a small card to fill out that included some basic information and boxes that they could check to indicate any decision they might want to make.
“Everybody in the sanctuary fills out the card,” said Evans. “All the kids, all of our leaders, all the adults, everyone. Including me.”
After the cards were filled out and the children returned to class, a group of church leaders sorted through the cards, arranging them by class. The teachers were then notified that one (or more) of the students in their class had indicated they were ready to make a decision or wanted to at least learn more about it.
From there, the teacher would then have a conversation with the child — and would have the opportunity to lead the child to Christ.
“By that point in the week, these kids had built a relationship with these teachers,” Evans said. “Some of the kids might not really know me (personally) — they just know me as crazy pastor David, the happy, laughing, guy. I’m not in their room, teaching them and praying with them each day. The teacher is the one that has crafted that relationship for the past three or four days.”
In the days following VBS, Evans said he heard many amazing stories.
“Giving these VBS workers the opportunity to be the person who led these kids to Christ was incredible,” said Evans. “Again, it seems like such a small, small adjustment to the ‘normal’ way of doing things. It’s not like you pay for four years of college to figure this thing out. Maybe there are thousands of churches who do it this way — but for us, it was the first time.”
Evans said the “new” model that Springfield used for VBS is an example of what he hopes will happen at every event and ministry at the church.
“My job is to set a culture for evangelism,” he said. “My job is not to do the entire task of evangelism. I’m not the sole evangelist. My job is to help other people be evangelistic and to train them. It’s my job to bring our church with us.
“What we did at VBS — just that one little principle — showers over all that we do, the best that we can,” Evans said. “It’s changing the culture of our church to becoming an evangelistic type church. We’ve got to have an evangelistic culture here. And this was a great step.” B&R