Power of Jesus drives lessons at VBS

Forty adult and student volunteers at HUMC help make faith fun for 120 participants

It's called vacation Bible school, but there's nothing restful about the fast-paced schedule kept by the 120 children attending this summer's weeklong event at Hinsdale United Methodist Church.

For 2.5 hours each day, children have been keeping busy with a variety of activities, all geared toward strengthening their relationships with Jesus Christ.

Emma Francis first attended vacation Bible school at Hinsdale United Methodist Church as an elementary school student. Now a junior at Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park, she is spending her fifth summer volunteering as a counselor.

"I wanted to be the counselor I always loved having," Francis said of her choice to make VBS part of her summer routine. She said VBS taught her lessons about faith and about how to treat others that she remembers and uses to this day.

Fourth-grader Vincent Logan has attended vacation Bible school five times and has one more summer to go before he ages out of the program. But he's already thinking of returning as a volunteer when he reaches sixth grade.

Vincent said he loves everything about the week, beginning with the songs that begin each day. He also said he enjoys the daily craft projects and the chance to meet new friends. And while he's having fun, he said he's learning about Jesus.

"Jesus can give you power," he said, remembering the overarching lesson of the week.

Jennifer Austgen, director of children's ministries and VBS organizer said the program theme, "Rocky Railway: Jesus' Power Pulls Us Through," explores the many ways Jesus empowers peoples' lives. On Monday, children learned how Jesus' power helps them to do hard things. On Tuesday, the focus was on Jesus' power to give people hope.

Austgen, now in her eighth year running the summer program, said things are a bit different this year. For the first time, the program's 120 participants are split between a morning and afternoon session. Austgen said the goal is to provide more social distancing for the children, who continue to be masked to protect them from COVID-19. Each session consists of 60 children who are divided into four groups. Keeping with the train theme, the groups are known as "crews."

It takes a lot of planning and more than 40 adult and student volunteers to make VBS run smoothly, Austgen said. Some volunteers take care of snack time and lunch for the staff and volunteers, while others mind the registration desk. Others, like volunteer Vicki Greene, bring the day's lessons to the children. A retired teacher, she has taught preschoolers and kindergartners at vacation Bible school for 13 years.

"I kind of put it on their level," Greene said, using playtime as a way to teach kindness and a water play table to illustrate Jesus' ability to help us in troubled times. "Jesus calms the waves," she said.

Austgen said she chose this year's theme partially due to the experiences everyone has had over the last year and a half.

"Jesus' power helps us through the ups and downs of life," she said.

Author Bio

Sandy Illian Bosch is a contributing writer to The Hinsdalean