Hey, kids! You know what’s better than vacation? Vacation with the Bible! And do you know what’s better than vacation with the Bible? Vacation with the Bible in a school-like setting! Yay! Vacation Bible School! Wait! Don’t run away! We have several flavors of paste you might like!

Yes, here we are once again. Three weeks out of school (or four months for homeschoolers who “learn at their own pace”) and the kiddos are already bored out of their mushy little noggins. What’s a craft- or dune buggy-impaired parent to do?

Vee. Bee. Ess.

From a parenting standpoint, Vacation Bible School is nothing but win (with a possible exception relating to doctrinal beliefs noted later). And I don’t mean “win” in the new, 2011, ironic-hipster way. I mean “win” in an “I love VBS so much I’ll convert to the Church of the Chevy Impala (pre-1971) if the local Garage Temple has a week of child-focused Biblification.” Because, let’s be honest, the kiddos could all really use a week or five of pipe cleaner-based deprogramming from all the previous years’ episodes of “iCarly.” And most VBS programs have yet to incorporate any sort of Spears or Lohan into a morality parable, so that kind of pop culture exposure (think about it) is kept blissfully limited. Double bonus all the way.

Most parents think they are limited to sending their spawn to their own church’s VBS programs. Foolish mortals. With proper planning, your children can spend up to eight weeks surrounded by nothing but God’s Word and construction paper. And with some ultra-proper planning and surreptitious volunteering, your mother-in-law can join them. But how do you separate the Harvards (when Harvard was still a Christian college) of the VBS landscape – like IBC’s own Pandamania VBS running June 27 –  30 – from the fly-by-night-get-your-degree-by-mail-autographed-by-Sally-Struthers editions?

You turn to me.

My last personal experience with Vacation Bible School occurred when I was four years old, back when Gerald Ford was stumbling through the presidency and bicentennial quarters were all the rage. But if we can trust the books of the New Testament, which were quilled somewhere between 25 and 70 years after Christ’s death, I’m pretty sure you can trust my 34-year-old memories. Although, whereas the apostles had the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit directing them, I have Google. Now let’s get to guiding, shall we?

Does the VBS take place in actual church?
This may seem obvious, but if you’re just following directions scrawled on a flyer that was rubber-banded to your storm door along with coupons to Flippin’ Fred’s Pizza, Pasta & Pizzasta, you may well end up at a YMCA, pawn shop or “theological retreat” on the outskirts of Waco.

Does the VBS curriculum reflect your doctrinal beliefs?
You do have doctrinal beliefs, don’t you? If you’ve forgotten, a quick glance at your own church website’s Statement of Beliefs can act as guide, or a stunning revelation that you should attending somewhere else. Assuming the former, compare those beliefs with those to the church running the VBS. Failure to do so could result in your children becoming fanatical about casseroles; i.e., Methodists.

Are the crafts temporary or eternal?
Sure, it’d be great if the things your children learn about the Lord at VBS stick with them through the years. But while the memories may last a lifetime, you don’t want the eight boxes of assorted God’s eyes and pasta sculptures they bring home to do likewise. Luckily, most craft materials are fairly innocuous. Felt is soft. Macaroni is tasty. Paste is tastier. But glitter? Glitter is Satan’s own decoration. An abomination of sparkliness with a half-life longer than a plutonium-encrusted Twinkie. It will show up on your nice clothes just before a big meeting. It will get in your eye just as you’re merging onto the highway. It will alight just in front of the TV and distract your gaze during your 25th annual “Golden Girls” marathon. It will destroy the lives of those you love. Mainly by turning you crazy with a capital Sheen.

Are the teachers nuts?
It takes a special kind of person to voluntarily spend several hours a day trying to get a gaggle of scalawags to finger-paint their ideas of what God looks like. Most of those people possess a level patience that can only be explained supernaturally. But every so often, one of these valiant tot wranglers will wander a few miles of the sanity ranch into the desert of discombobulation. For example, my VBS teacher used to have us go to the classroom door, look down the hall and tell her if there were any “amen comin’.” There were not. At least none visible without the aid of her special mushroom soup.
By taking the time to answer, however superficially, these four questions, you’ll virtually guarantee a summertime full of poolside napping for yourself and marker-stained memories for your little ones. So go ahead and fill out those enrollment forms. It’s what’s Martin Luther would have done had he not been so anti-casserole.