MOBILE, AL - At Mt. Carmel Independent Baptist Church, Vacation Bible School (VBS) is different.
Rev. Thad Wallace, pastor at Mt. Carmel, describes his church's summer program, "At almost every VBS, they tell kids about Jesus, but they never tell'em about sin. The kids leave thinking that Jesus is their 'friend,' but they have no idea that He is a God to be feared. The kids never hear about Hell. Well, we're changing that."
This summer, the theme of the Mt. Carmel VBS was "Feeling the Fire." Most parents figured that the VBS would focus on the power of God, and maybe mention something about Elijah on Mt. Carmel, or the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Sally Morgan, mother of seven-year-old Stephen (who attended the first three days of VBS at Mt. Carmel), said "No one ever told us that the theme of the week was Hell. I mean, if they wanted to mention it that's fine, but to dwell on it just scares kids."
Pastor Wallace told TBNN that he wanted his "Confrontational VBS" to be different. For example, the snacks were chili, chips with hot salsa, and curried rice. Most of the activities also made children feel the heat. Despite the high temperatures of Alabama in the summer, the kids' activities all took place outside. Wallace reported, "We had them outside playing tackle football, and picking up trash on the church grounds. When they came in for a break, we served hot tea."
Parents were also concerned about the VBS theme verse this week. Penny Wolcott told us, "Revelation 20:15 just doesn't seem appropriate to me. Wouldn't John 3:16 have been better? Now my child knows only one bible verse, and it has to be that one?"
We at TBNN looked up Rev. 20:15. The verse says, "And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."
According to pastor Wallace, "We decided that Hell would be the key. This drove our themes for the first four days of the week." Below are each day's themes:
Monday - "What is Hell?"
Tuesday - "You deserve to go to Hell."
Wednesday - "You can't ever get out of Hell."
Thursday - "Fire hurts."
When the VBS leaders handed out a Chick tract entitled "Scream" on Tuesday, that was the final straw for some. Mrs. Wolcott again, "I sent my child to VBS to learn that Jesus loves him. All he came home with was fear of Hell and some lame crafts. What's that all about?"
Pastor Wallace was disappointed that only 17 of the 52 children who started the VBS came to the Friday finale. "On Friday night, as we all sat around a very hot campfire (see above photo), we told them about Jesus. I was sad that so few kids came, but, boy, did we get a response from those 17 kids. Whether or not they were Christians before, they all made decisions for Christ. A 100% salvation rate is alright by me."
Mrs. Wolcott summed up the week by saying, "Summer VBS is for fun. My son will never set foot in this church again. We'll go back to our church (Bethany UMC) for our VBS next week. I'm sure he won't have to hear about Hell there!"