19 June, 2007

"Confrontational" VBS causes controversy in Alabama

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!"

18 comments:

Jen said...

"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!"

A little Hell now or a lifetime of eternity in Hell. Certainly there needs to be a balance, but if we don't rightly understand our need for a Savior, then there is no need for "Jesus loves me" either. Why do we need God's grace if we aren't really that bad?

I'm with the pastor. 17 kids gave their hearts to Christ that night. That's incredible for a VBS.

Lee Shelton said...

I'm picturing Phil Hartman as Frankenstein on SNL: "Fire baaaaaaaaaad!"

Pastor Bob said...

Phil Hartman: "Fire Baaaaaaad!"

LOL
Oh my... Now THAT was funny!!

Pastor Bob said...

Jen, I hope you realize this is only satire...

Tim Patterson said...

I like the hot chile snack idea... the hotter the better! =:^0

Sewing said...

Brilliant first post, Elder Eric!

All I could think of while reading this was Jonathan Edwards' Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God: the fire-and-brimstone message; folks running away in shock; and then the beautiful message of divine mercy at the end. Satire it may be, but what beautiful satire for the truth it contains!

Praise the Lord that he has rescued each and every one of us from the lake of fire.

Chris said...

Well, my church has been seeking ideas for a VBS theme this year.....

nora said...

I really love how EXPERIENTIAL this VBS was. Hilarious!

Brother Slawson said...

Awesome!
We were on the same page this week... but I gladly trash my outline for your work.

I was working on VBS satire where the director determined that the average VBS worker over the last three years performed 40 hours of decoration preparation while only having 30 minutes of total prayer preparation. The VBS director was going to attempt to encourage workers to reverse this by having 40 hours of prayer prep and 30 minutes of decorating prep. I was going to label it "Never Going to Happen" But... the "hell" one takes the cake. Personally, I'd actually like to see it happen (maybe without the curry rice!)

Elder Eric said...

I really would love to hear one VBS somewhere stress the realities of sin and Hell. It certainly would make their gospel presentation seem more important to those kids!

Brother Slawson, feel free to write all you want about VBS. I plan to hit the VBS theme a few more times this summer.

Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

You know, as a kid...I ALWAYS heard about how much God loves me and what a wonderful plan he has for my life. God's wrath was a foreign concept to me. To learn that God's holiness means he hates the smallest of sins, was news to me. As a church, we fail our children tremendously...as a whole we have been feeding our children bad theology and then when they get to the youth group or college and they start learning the whole counsel of God, there is a serious fall out rate...I wonder if that fall out rate could be remedied if we teach young children the truths about depravity, hell, God's holiness, sovereignty, and other things. Besides....children are more willing to accept what they are taught. If we are going to have reformation in the church, reformation MUST take place in children's ministry.

Caroline said...

FIRE HURTS!!

Key words there.

Fred said...

I've picked a mascot for their VBS next year: Texas Pete!

Fred said...

On second thought, after her experience in jail maybe she'd be willing to come to VBS and say: that's hot!

Timotheus said...

Magnificent debut, Eric -- only your stock photo has a good bit more than 17 kids in it.

Elder Eric said...

Timotheus,

Good observation there. I'll have to count better next time.

-EE

Sewing said...

That's before most of them ran away, though, scared out of their wits....

Eltinwe said...

Having just completed teaching the Primary class at our VBS this year, this article struck me particularly. I have just forwarded it as a suggestion for a theme for next year to our VBS directors.

It may be that many times a child makes it through VBS without ever hearing about sin or death, but for myself, in teaching this week, I made a point of explaining depravity and discussing sin before discussing being saved from it. Some of the kids seemed to "get" it, at least, but I'm sure I didn't get that coveted 100% rate.