More than 10,000 children attended this summer’s Vacation Bible School (VBS) at the Second Baptist Church of Houston. Most had no affiliation with the Church. All attended without the Church charging them a fee. The Rev. Ed Young, pastor of Second Baptist, believes that if he can entice the children to attend and to want to keep attending, many parents will follow.
Three things struck me about this phenomenal event. First, Second Baptist’s VBS dwarfs any program with which I’m familiar. Indeed, their VBS dwarfs any Episcopal Church. Big results require big dreams and large efforts, all sometimes possible with God's help.
Second, Ed Young and his congregation have an intentional plan for growth that has a sound psychological basis. Parents often will support their children’s desire to participate in quality programming. Theologically, I could not characterize this as evangelism, but perhaps as pre-evangelism. People who have no contact with the Church will never hear our message. If Christianity is worth living, then Christianity is worth sharing with those who find themselves spiritually hungry. What does your congregation offer to people that is of sufficient practical value that they freely choose to participate instead of using their time in another way?
Third, Second Baptist decided to adopt VBS as the lynchpin of its outreach strategy after analyzing community needs. What, Ed Young and key leaders asked, was the number one problem for people in the Houston area? Their answer was, The dissolution of the family. Charles Murray in his latest book, Coming Apart, would agree. I don’t know what programs Second Baptist has established to strengthen the families they entice into coming. I quite likely would disagree with Second Baptist about their definition of family. But I’m willing to bet that this congregation has a plan in place designed to strengthen their vision of the family.
Vibrant, growing congregations – Episcopal and other – consistently seek to respond to the genuine needs of the people in their neighborhoods with real love that gives life, promotes justice, liberates, and heals.