By Sue Sprenkle

SATANTA, Kan. — Imaginary waves lapped at their feet as the young teenagers surveyed an obstacle course dotted with blue papers. The goal was to walk on water — the blue paper — without falling into the sea. How else could faith be tested on a biblical scale?

It wasn’t a straight and easy shot. The course zigged, zagged and went on top of second-hand, worn-out furniture. When Oscar San Juan’s foot touched blue, the paper slid across the floor, spilling him into the imaginary sea and back to the start. After several attempts, San Juan tiptoed from paper to paper with arms stretched out to keep balance and finally crossed the finish line.

“I love Jesus and I love VBS!!!” the seventh grader shouted, pumping his fist in the air to celebrate.

This was the second year for Vacation Bible School for junior high students at First Baptist Church, Satanta, Kan. VBS director Crystal Taylor decided to step out of the norm. Instead of having seventh and eighth graders serve as volunteers at VBS, the church provided a class for the young teenagers.

“We had so many junior high kids just showing up randomly to hang out every year. It was almost too many to keep them busy and out of trouble,” Taylor said with a laugh. “Some of them wanted to keep going to VBS so we started a class.”

Taylor found that Lifeway also produced student curriculum for youth VBS – the VBS 2019 Student Learner Guide at https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/vbs-2019-student-learner-guide-P005804877

With the Wednesday night youth group already meeting in a different building, it was natural to just have VBS at the same time as the elementary aged one. This allowed decorations to be shared and even some of the rotations — recreation, snacks and missions — while at the same time giving the youth some needed separation from “kiddie” activities.

The much deeper Bible study impressed Bethany Wood as she prepared to teach it. She said youth VBS quickly became one of her favorite things simply because the teens discussed the lessons and really got into the Bible on a deeper level.

“It provided a fun way to mentor and do discipleship,” Wood said. “This age group needs a solid foundation like this. I would have loved this when I was their age.”

This foundation and bonding as a youth group normally happens at church camp. But with more than half of the school district’s students receiving free or reduced lunches, most can’t afford it. Youth VBS was an affordable way for the church to create a similar experience: small group Bible studies; crazy games and recreation; music and time spent with friends which all lead to a closer relationship with Jesus.

Sitting around the table eating snacks, the junior high students discussed their favorite things from the week. One student said music time was her favorite, and everyone nodded in agreement. Another said recreation time was his fave. Everyone agreed again. One seventh grader held up a mini corn dog and announced that snack time was his favorite.

“I’m a growing teen,” San Juan explained, stuffing his mouth. “Food is life, brah.”

Everyone laughed and cheered.

“But seriously,” San Juan continued, “I just love learning about Jesus and being with my friends.”