By Dawn Zurmiller
FULTON—For the past nine years, Michele Auer has been the Vacation Bible School (VBS) director here at Southside Baptist Church in a situation that just continues to amaze.
The first year there were 27 students enrolled and 32 workers. This year the church has 35 workers … and 125 students!
Veronica Ballard is now VBS co-director with an eye on taking over next year (she hopes to have the theme selected by January). Both women seek to share Jesus Christ with a community of young people.
“My favorite part of VBS is seeing the kids’ faces light up during the Bible time,” Ballard said. “I have had the privilege of teaching the Bible classes for the past two years. Making the Bible come alive, and helping the kids understand it in a new way, is such a blessing in my life.”
Auer said every year they choose a local ministry or mission to help.
“This year it was Coyote Hill Children’s Home (in Harrisburg),” she said. “Every year I am amazed at the kids’ desire to help out. They brought in all kinds of items for this ministry.”
Although Auer and Ballard were the VBS directors, they refuse to take credit for its success.
“I am always faced with an overwhelming feeling when I see our teachers/ workers throughout the week,” Auer said. “My heart nearly bursts with awe, excitement, and amazement when I think of all the hard work they put into the week. Each worker and their efforts is what bless me the most.”
How has this VBS grown so much in the past few years? Pastor Ron Baker said planning and scheduling have been crucial.
“The last two years we have had it immediately after school is out to avoid summer school,” he said. “Afternoons allow us to miss conflicts with ball games, practices, etc.”
“Mornings didn’t work for us because I couldn’t get some of the workers I needed,” Auer said. “So we tried afternoons. It worked really well and we grew in numbers steadily after that.”
Southside VBS is a fun-filled week of interactive Bible learning, missions, music, recreation, and theme-related crafts and snacks. However, the week also impacts families for Christ.
“We have had several families start attending our church because of VBS,” Baker said. “We recognize many families already have a church home, and we applaud that, but for those who do not, we give them an invitation to Southside.”
Ballard happens to be part of that success story.
“My family actually came to Southside through the VBS program four years ago,” she said. “We were traveling to Columbia for church and really struggling with the drive and not having any local connections. We saw the ad for VBS and brought our children. The teacher really reached out to us and made us want to see what Southside was all about. Four years later, I am co-director of the program that changed my family’s life.”
Besides impacting families, VBS allows individual children the opportunity to hear the Word, repent, and be saved from an eternity apart from Christ. Baker said this is his favorite part of VBS.
“Over the years, we have seen numbers of kids come to know Christ through VBS,” he said. “I try to have some type of interaction with every child at some point during the week’s activities.”
With 10 percent of VBS participants in a typical year being identified as unchurched, it is clear to see that Southside VBS is touching its community in a way that can be an inspiration to other Missouri Baptist churches.