By David Dawson
SPRINGFIELD — The staff at Springfield Baptist Church wasn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. They were just trying to find a way — or more accurately, several ways — to improve an already-successful event: Vacation Bible School.
Three weeks after the fact, it’s clear to see that they met their objective.
The validation of their success can be seen in the 27 professions of faith that were recorded in the span of less than a week during early June.
“We are in the midst of a breakout at our church,” said Springfield pastor David Evans. “The Lord is moving and it’s been awesome to watch.”
Springfield Baptist Church has a long history of hosting VBS, and the summertime tradition is a much-anticipated event at the church. But this year, the staff at Springfield wanted to take VBS to an even higher level by putting a renewed emphasis on outreach.
So, in addition to the traditional staples of VBS, the church elected to incorporate several community-wide events into the week.
This list included a block party at a local park, a VBS “crossover” event (that was held in conjunction with Crossover Nashville, the Southern Baptist Convention’s yearly evangelistic outreach ministry), and a Sunday morning service in which the VBS participants performed songs and were recognized for attending.
These events — coupled with Springfield’s youth camp the week after VBS — led to a sequence of praise-God moments: Nine children gave their lives to Christ on Thursday of VBS, nine more people made professions of faith during the VBS-themed Sunday service, and nine more came to know the Lord during youth camp.
“It was four major events of outreach, and they were all set up with the mindset that we had people praying and people who had been trained in evangelism (stationed) at each place,” said Evans.
Evans noted that Meagan LaFoy, Springfield children’s minister, worked tirelessly to help bring the events together. He said LaFoy’s energy and determination were the driving forces behind making this year’s VBS such a memorable event. “The Lord used her mightily,” he said.
Evans said he is a firm believer in going out and meeting people where they are as opposed to sitting back and hoping they come to church. This is why he encouraged the church to host multiple events.
“Our belief was, let’s not just sell out to one thing, let’s try as many things as we can,” said Evans. “That way, if one event gets messed up or doesn’t go as planned, maybe another one will work.”
Evans said he adopted that strategy from Tennessee Baptist Mission Board evangelism specialist Steve Pearson. (Evans served as evangelism director at the TBMB before joining the staff as senior pastor at Springfield in 2019.)
“(Pearson) used to say to me all the time that ‘you catch more fish by having more hooks in the water,’ ” Evans said with a laugh. “So, that’s the approach we took for VBS this year.”
The movement of God at Springfield Baptist Church — which was featured in a video that aired during the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville — has resulted in a substantial increase in baptisms in recent months.
“If you look back at our records, you’ll notice that a couple of years ago, we baptized 10 people,” said Evans. “Before that, the church baptized eight, and the year before that, six. … But now, we’ve been seeing baptisms this year on a regular basis; I mean, about every other week we’re baptizing somebody and or people.”
“And look, for a lot of churches, it’s a blessing to see one person baptized,” he added. “So, I’m certainly not discrediting that. But I knew the potential of this church and and I knew what it could do if it was revitalized.”
The church was willing — eager, even — to see that happen, Evans said.
“The church has been working really hard,” he said. “They’ve been doing a lot of things to get hearts right with the Lord, a lot of repentance, a lot of restructuring.”
Evans noted the church’s willingness to try new things — even when it meant tweaking a time-honored tradition like VBS — was a key ingredient to seeing new believers come to know the Lord.
For instance, hosting a “VBS service” on Sunday was a new twist.
“In years past, we’ve had the VBS service on Friday night, and then just had ‘regular’ church the following Sunday,” said Evans. “This is the first year that we decided, well, you know what, we’re going to put the VBS celebration service right smack dab on a Sunday, and we’re going to set it up as a harvest event.”
Evans said the service was packed, and that multiple professions of faith were made that day.
“By having it on Sunday — a gathering event where you got kids on a stage — we knew there were lost people that would be coming,” he said. “So, in addition to having a ‘report’ on Vacation Bible School, we also had a clear, gospel invitation as well.”
The church also hosted a community-wide gathering at the park (with “jumpies” for the kids and other booths and games) as part of its VBS festivities. “It was like a fall festival during the summer,” said Evans. “We had the blow ups and food and all of that. So, really, it was a big gathering, an attractional event, where we had strategically set up places in the park for people to either read the gospel, hear the gospel or interact with somebody about the gospel.”
Springfield’s VBS also served as a segue — or perhaps even a springboard — for the church’s youth camp, which took place the following week.
Soon after youth camp, the church hosted “Night of Champions” and the momentum continued.
Evans noted that the main goal of each event always remained the same.
“We were bound and determined to share the gospel with someone who was far from Jesus,” said Evans, “and to reach them by any means possible.” B&R