By Irene A. Harkleroad

If children who attend VBS have half the fun and learn half as much as the trainees did during the state’s two equipping events, VBS will be a resounding success.

On April 1, more than 100 men, women and young people met at First Southern Baptist Church, Tucson, for in-depth training. On April 8, another 200 did the same at Northern Hills Community Church, Phoenix.

In addition to learning how to connect with and minister to children from preschoolers through sixth grade, they learned to transform an ordinary room into outer space, make galactic treats and extraterrestrial crafts, and mastered the five steps to lead a child to Christ.

By the end of the summer they will have guided thousands of Arizona children through “The Gospel: God’s Plan for Me.”

“Our theme this year is Galactic Starveyors: Searching the Visible, Discovering the Invisible,” said Cheri Dempsay, state VBS director. “It’s a great adventure designed to help children discern their own universe and discover the God of that universe. We get to take these kids to the feet of Jesus.”

Mike Molina, pastor of Corona Baptist Church, Tempe, stressed the importance of the team’s focus on each child. He was invited to VBS by a friend and started going to Sunday School. Through the years, his family trusted Christ and, years later, he was called to pastor.

“Enjoy what God is going to do in the lives of the children,” he said. “You don’t know what plans He has for them.”

“The younger generation wants a purpose — a cause,” Dempsay said. “Traditions aren’t that important to them. They want to know the end game and why. We need to get the kids on a mission and help them tie that mission to Christ. We want them to learn to plan their purpose.”

VBS leaders are training future leaders and missionaries, she said.

“We ask ourselves, ‘Is this going to help them know what they believe in and what to do with it?'” she said. “They need to know and be able to share their testimony — their personal experience.”

While the message never changes, the Bible must be relevant, and how it’s presented can change, she said.

“All parts of the program need to be used for full impact, but churches can customize it to meet their own needs,” Dempsay said. “Every component is used to reaffirm the application of the principles.”

She noted one big change this year. In previous years, the gospel message was the climax of the week and saved for the last day. This year, it will be presented each day so that a child who attends VBS only one day won’t miss the opportunity to hear the good news.