When I was a kid there was a week each summer where we did something called "Vacation Bible School" that involved sitting in an old school house that our church owned and hearing stories illustrated by flannel graphs. As I recall, we did lots of crafts, and on the whole it was a fun, if rather basic, experience.
At HDC we host something we call Summer Blast every year. It has, at its roots, the same idea as Vacation Bible School: Bring kids in who are driving their parents crazy at home, give them a week to hear about God and have a great time. But we've come a LONG way from the days of flannel graphs.
First up, when I went to VBS there were somewhere between 20 and 40 kids or so. We had over 1100 in our auditorium (between 1st and 6th grade). If we sang a song, it was most likely either acapella or maybe accompanied by a piano. Summer Blast featured music lead by a kids choir that danced and had hand motions to every song. Two of the days they were accompanied by a live band.
The presentation involved drama and a movie that was written and produced in house. The special effects were simply jaw-dropping when you consider the whole thing was edited by a member of the children's staff at home on his iMac. There was a full sized volkswagon camper van on our stage, among other things.
Each day featured teaching by our children's pastor, who taught the kids from the word of God. My daughter accepted Christ this week at the age of nine. She has heard the gospel many, many times in our home, but it was Summer Blast that at last convinced her that she need to pray to accept Christ. She is obviously not the only one, but definiately the one that I care about the most in this crowd...
One of the really great things about our church is a focus on OIKOS, which is a Greek term for extended household. Essentially the 8-15 people you come in contact with on a daily basis. As part of this OIKOS focus, we actually make registration cheaper for our people if they bring a friend who does not go to our church. The friend is free, and our people pay less. My daughter brought eleven friends with her from girl scouts. Among them were two mormons and a catholic, as well as several that are unchurched.
Many of our staff take the mornings off from their "real" jobs to volunteer serving at summer blast. This is a testimony to what great people we have working at HDC, that they would be part of our programs like this as volunteers.
Summer Blast is my single favorite week of the year at this church. I don't get as much work done as I usually do, but it reminds me of why I put the time in that I do. It's awesome to see so many kids having a great time and learning about God. We've come a long way from flannel graphs, but we still serve the same God.