• 43°

VBS: Teaching kids about service

Students of all ages in vacation Bible schools around Suffolk are learning the importance of generosity and helping their fellow man.

Recently, attendees at Oakland Christian Church’s Bible school donated hundreds of supplies to the Western Tidewater Free Clinic, a local organization that provides free medical care to area residents with little or no health insurance. With donations of 15 reams of paper, 5,000 staples, 14 boxes of tissues and 31 rolls of toilet paper, the cabinets and storage closets at the Meade Parkway facility aren’t likely to go bare anytime soon. In addition to the supplies, students donated $600 for the clinic.

“I was helping some people because it feels good,” vacation Bible school attendee Kimmy Curliss said after delivering the supplies last week.

My own memories of vacation Bible school, though vague, don’t include any incidents of helping people outside the church. I remember games and crafts at my grandmother’s small Baptist church in a repurposed 7-Eleven in Hampton, but unfortunately, I don’t think those Bible schools included any service-learning initiatives.

Thankfully, we did enough community service, missions projects and food drives at my Christian school in Smithfield to give me more than enough doses of “servant’s heart” medicine.

The Oakland church wasn’t the only one to include service-minded projects this year. At a joint Bible school put on by West End Baptist Church, Suffolk Christian Church, Suffolk Presbyterian Church and Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church, a dessert auction was held to benefit Casa Esperanza (House of Hope), an Eastern Shore mission that serves migrant workers.

In addition, vacation Bible school at Metropolitan Baptist Church this year involved cleaning up a nearby park and handing out canned goods in the neighborhood.

Though the in-church parts of vacation Bible school — games, lessons, crafts and music all centered around a theme that often has something to do with safari animals or the deep ocean — are important, more churches should follow the lead of those aforementioned and incorporate service learning into their lessons. Whether it’s collecting food for the needy, gathering supplies for a nonprofit or money for a charity, cleaning up parks or cutting grass for the elderly (not that any grass in the area has needed cutting recently), a service component benefits both the children and the community.

Any church that needs an idea for what to do to benefit the community doesn’t need to look very far — nonprofits in the area are struggling in this economic climate, and plenty of people are, too.