Adult VBS Studies Control Freaks, Procrastinators, the Unforgiving

Fran Obar, left, and Karen Watts work on their mustard seed keychains

Suzette and Scott FosterCochran Chapel’s Vacation Bible School offers ‘Parables for Today,’ art projects and food

Oh, to be a kid in Vacation Bible School again — the stories of Jesus, the snacks, the arts and crafts, the friends …

In a twist on the summer tradition, Cochran Chapel UMC in Dallas fulfilled that nostalgic yearning for more than 50 adults on Aug. 7-9, 2017.

“I thought VBS is a great disciple tool. And why should children have all the fun?” Pastor Jeff Hall said. “We made a conscious decision to focus exclusively on the adults.”

His assistant, who never went to VBS as a kid, signed up right away to get in on the fun. One member, Patty Tipps, invited five friends, and all of them came.

Rev. Hall and Rev. Dr. Alyce McKenzie of Perkins School of Theology, author of The Parables for Today, put together three nights that each focused on a pair of complementary parables.

“We wanted to present this as how Jesus’ parables speak to today and the meaning for a contemporary audience,” Rev. Hall said.

Crafts built on the parables of the Five Bridesmaids and the Sower, Seeds and Soils.Indeed, the topics might hit uncomfortably close to home: control freaks, procrastinators and the discontented and unforgiving.

The students gathered each evening at 6 for a “simple supper.” At 6:30, Rev. Hall led worship time that included a video on a parable. At 7, half of the VBS students went to “art,” while the other half went to Dr. McKenzie for a deep dive into a parable paired to the one in worship. Thirty minutes later, the two classes switched places.

Night 1, Parables for Control Freaks, looked at how “the reign of God is not under our control,” Rev. Hall said. In worship, he presented the Parable of the Sower, Seeds and Soils, then Dr. McKenzie delved into the Parable of the Mustard Seed. “What does it mean for those of us who struggle with issues of control?” Rev. Hall said. It’s about how learning to trust God can be frustrating but “ultimately liberating.”

Night 2, Parables for Procrastinators, “was on how God shows up when, where and in whom we least expect it,” Rev. Hall said. He presented the parable of the humble Tax Collector and the smug Pharisee who prayed in the temple, and Dr. McKenzie examined the Parable of the Bridesmaids, five of them prepared with oil to light the way of the bridegroom and five of them not.

Night 3, Parables for the Discontented and Unforgiving, examined God’s forgiveness and justice. Rev. Hall took the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, who is forgiven much but won’t forgive others. Dr. McKenzie presented the Parable of the Prodigal Son. In class discussion, she asked students what they thought “of the father’s parenting — was he enabling the younger son?” She found the answers drew out people’s life experiences.

Carli Johnson-Scott, an activities director at a nursing home, led the art sessions. Students left with mustard seed keychains, decorative bottles of oil and banners featuring pigs.

“Her crafts are the kind of things you hang on to,” Dr. McKenzie said. “It wasn’t just like you make a noodle necklace, as nice as they are.”

The students “were very receptive, like sponges,” she said.

Tipps, a Realtor with Ebby Halliday, said she enjoyed seeing church members “in a social setting. You got to know more details about the people in your congregation. It deepened some relationships.”

Her favorite part of the evenings was “probably the in-depth study of parables with Alyce. If we do it again, I’d like a little more time for that.”

Talk about complementary. Dismissing it as “teachers always think that,” Dr. McKenzie said she wished she’d had more time for her sessions.

Alyce McKenzie introduces the class to the topics

Published: Tuesday, August 29, 2017