For this week's installment of VBS news, see below:
ROANOKE, VA - Anyone passing Gethsemane Assembly of God cannot miss the words on the church sign marquee: "Welcome to Vacation Babble School." The sign often requires a daring double-take from drivers because of the obvious similarity with the much more common "Vacation Bible School." Dwight Knox, senior pastor at Gethsemane, explained his church's VBS this way, "At Gethsemane, we want to stress to our kids that they have been gifted by the Holy Spirit to serve the body of Christ. We have decided to gradually put an emphasis on all of the spiritual gifts, and we agreed that there is no better place to start than with speaking in tongues."
We at TBNN asked specifically about the name "Vacation Babble School." Pastor Knox indicated that there are two reasons for the name. "The first reason is that we just thought it would be 'catchy' sounding. Second, because we will be teaching kids how to speak in tongues, the word 'babble' seemed appropriate."
Cindy Proctor, the Gethsemane Children's Director, told us all about their VBS curriculum and schedule. It is outlined here:
9:00 AM - Group Assembly (Each day at this time, the Pastor Knox will model speaking in tongues to the children.)
9:30 AM - Children break up into age groups and head to 4 different 30-minute rotating stations. The 4 stations are entitled:
-"Learn to speak in tongues."
-"Learn how to interpret tongues."
-"Learn how to build a private prayer language."
-"Recreation" (Only speaking in tongues is allowed during kickball.)
11:30 AM - Group Assembly (Students are randomly chosen to perform speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues in front of the larger group.)
We asked Ms. Proctor how, exactly, the curriculum would be taught. She told us, "For speaking in tongues, the kids will be encouraged to just say whatever comes to mind. If nothing does at first, we tell them to just pick a two or three syllable word, and then say it backwards quickly four times. For example, 'banana' backwards is 'ananab.' After one or two tries, the kids get it."
Ms. Proctor continued, "As for interpreting tongues, we teach the kids to be very quiet and listen to what is being said with both their heads and their hearts. Whatever comes to mind must be the correct interpretation. Quite honestly, we don't stress this gift too much because most churches don't bother with interpretation. As for private prayer language, that is private so it is difficult to teach. We just tell them that if it is private and it feels good, then do it. Recreation is, well, to both get exercise and to force the kids to speak their new language."
Some local parents have complained to TBNN that they were confused by the church sign. Susan Woods, mother of 9-year-old Tiffany who attended the first day at the Gethsemane VBS, told us, "I assumed that 'Babble' referred to the Tower of Babel in Genesis. I just figured the church would be focusing on bible stories from the Old Testament. To be frank, I was looking for free day-care for my daughter for the mornings this week. I had no idea she would come home speaking gibberish. I keep finding her mumbling to herself all over the house. What am I supposed to do now? We attend a Baptist church after all, so we don't speak in tongues!"
Pastor Knox informed us that this VBS has gotten more attention than any in the past. "We have had a lot of people asking about us. We must be doing the right thing. Next year we'll keep some of the speaking in tongues classes, but our emphasis will shift to another spiritual gift. We haven't decided yet, but I think we will focus on healings and miracles. That should bring the kids in to the church."