Reviewing V.B.S.. Literature
Donald P. Ames
(NOTE: My apologies for this material getting in so late. I waited quite a long time for the kit from Quality Publishers, which never arrived. I was then slowed down by plans for our up-coming move to Leland, Illinois. Next year I'll do better. - DPA)
To say that I am not overjoyed over the selections available this year is probably an understatement. It is a shame that conservative brethren cannot put out a sound system of rotating VBS literature, but no doubt the cost of producing such would be prohibitive. Some of the material published (i.e., Sweet's) looks about as inviting as that from the denominations, and all kits this year manifest a growing looseness toward the word of God.
Gospel Teacher: "Doing God's Will"
Of the three kits we finally received, I suppose this one is least objectionable. It deals with the thought of doing-the. will of God in the world, in the nation, in the church, in the home and in our individual lives. It has some excellent material on attitudes toward authority in the high school booklets and, over-all, contains some very good material. All three kits include a book for the adult class as well, but this kit has no teacher's manual for the adult nor high school class. The cut-outs are pre-stamped for easy removal in the lower grades, and the material is attractive.
On the other hand, most of the work in all the classes below the high school age must be done in the class room itself, which places a tremendous job of preparation upon the teacher, and very little study for the kids. Refreshments are recommended for the classes, and in the high school student booklets both the bus ministries and "mission VBS" (VBS held at other churches by larger churches) are promoted quite strongly. I did not find this in the lower grades, and perhaps it might be a good occasion to discuss what is wrong with these projects - if you do not have a lot of outsiders present to be influenced by the booklets. Thus, I find this kit least objectionable, but hardly feel like recommending it.
Lambert: God's Way Is Best
This kit is attractive, and deals with why God's way is best today for the home (morality, divorce, etc.), church, worship, in serving others and for happiness. It too contains an adult booklet for those who wish to have an adult class. The cut-outs for the lower grades are not pre-cut, but it does contain some very good material on why we need to be concerned about morality, pre-marital sex, divorce and remarriage today; as well as getting involved in the work and worship of the church.
However it seems as if Lambert felt called upon to go out of their way to include material so conservative brethren would not use their material - or have lots of problems if they did! The Nursery and Beginners booklets advocate and contain a letter to be taken home to the parents for special fruit to be brought for a fruit basket for the class (church) to take to a needy family (not necessarily Christians). The Junior book advocates strongly the idea of universal benevolence - including caring for strangers, orphans, widows, etc. The Intermediate booklet further promotes the idea that church benevolence should involve aid for the old folks home, orphan home, campaigns, disaster aid, blood banks, etc. These are riot ideas included only in the Teacher's Manual, but strongly pushed in the Student booklets too. I cannot in good conscience recommend them, despite some otherwise good material contained therein (what is it someone once said, even rat poison is 98% wheat and only 2% poison).
Sweet: Jesus, My Best Friend
Sweet Publishing Co. continues their heavy promotion of their own bank account. T he entire kit is full of ideas that are essential to follow their laid out program - all of which must be ordered separately (from them, of course!). The program would fall through without the use of their puppets and film strips (order separately). T he songs are special, designed to emphasize special points in the lesson (order separately). T-shirts are heavily promoted in all student booklets (order separately). And the organizational set-up that is recommended (like last year's). looks more like the president's plan to run the entire government than a simple VBS, with special committees, leaders, directors, teachers, supervisors, etc. In fact, it comes across almost like something expected from a large Baptist or Methodist denomination than something designed as a vacation Bible school. The teacher's manuals are full of lists of books to be bought and read to do a good job - all new and not readily available, of course.
Heavy stress is placed on "mission VBS" in the manuals. The lower grades are suggested as being divided into departments within the class-room (auditorium?) for centers for blocks, art, books and puzzles, home living centers and discovery centers (I could not find a Bible center recommended). Refreshments are urged in the grades. Responsive prayers are encouraged in the Junior student books (sort of like a chant, with the teacher reading a phrase, then the students reading another in response; doesn't sound like the type prayers Jesus taught in Matt. 6). The Teen booklet denies the authenticity of Jn. 7:53-8:11, but acknowledges it does sound like teachings of Jesus. It also implies that Jesus directly functions in our lives in some mystical way today as He responds to our "direct call." T he adult class also has a book (at least that seems to be the only place I can conclude the book is to be used for) entitled "T he Power T o Be" by Thomas Olbricht (who formerly, if not still, was on the board of the ultra modernistic journal Mission). It passes along the name of Good News For Modern Man as if it were a good, acceptable translation of the word of God (which it is not!), and is full of doctrinal error, such as claiming that Mark wrote his gospel strictly from memory of what he had heard from Peter, and at that, possibly after Peter's death! It also denies that there-are any rules to be kept in the course of following Jesus, but rather that Jesus was more interested in molding lives of love than setting any guidelines. It also advocates the idea one should not discourage "gifts" of the Holy Spirit today, even though you may not personally feel they are valid. T here was more, but that was about all I could stomach in one setting. Sweet has continued to move toward denominationalism to the point I would not trust any literature coming from them without careful examination first.
Despite repeated promises, nothing to date has been received from Quality Publishers. I do not see how it could hardly be worse than what has been offered thus far. Last year they did have a good kit ("Praising Jesus") in their rotating series and, personally, as of date, I would about as soon discard all three kits and urge our readers to try it or maybe even set up a program of Bible study worked out by the elders and teachers for the age levels and coordinated to coincide with the other classes of their own choosing. If and when Quality Publishers does release their kit, perhaps it will offer a decent alternative.
Unfortunately, I find little thus far this year to recommend.
Truth Magazine XXIV: 25, pp. 405-406