Saturday, July 23, 2011

An Introvert Goes to Vacation Bible School

Church ministry moves more slowly in the summer....except for one week in July. Vacation Bible School. That's when the extroverts come out to shine, and yell a lot. But what about the introverted students?

A couple of weeks Aubry Smith imagined an ideal youth camp for introverts, and it quickly became one of the most popular posts in this blog's history. Today she gives a glimpse into the mind of an introverted VBS camper.

VBS season is upon us – another event geared toward extroverts in the evangelical realm. I love VBS, but it has always exhausted me, whether I was a child attending or an adult volunteering. VBS combines some of the biggest hazards for introverts:

1) lots of people
2) lots of noise and encouragement for more noise
3) lots of new information via the VBS theme, schedule, new people, teaching, material, etc.
4) quick activity change with no time for processing
5) lots of singing, dancing, and other high-energy activities

In this post, I’d like to give an example of the internal dialogue of an introvert child when they attend VBS. As a disclaimer, know that many introverted children love VBS and do gain a lot from it. It’s just a little more difficult for them to function at VBS than it is for an extrovert because of the way VBS is structured. Also, my experience with VBS has been entirely within the Southern Baptist denomination, with all materials coming from LifeWay. I’d love to hear about experiences from other denominations!

[Approaching the church.] VBS! I can’t wait. So excited. Whoa. There are a lot of people here. Maybe I should have stayed home. I’m not sure about this anymore. What if I don’t know anyone in my class? What if I have to talk? I think I want to go home. No, I’ll stay. It’ll be good for me. But I want to go home.

[Approaching classmates] Try to be cool. Do what they do. C’mon, we rehearsed this for an hour last night in front of the mirror. They’ll say “hey,” and I’ll say “hey” with a little bit of enthusiasm and a smile, but not too much. ["HEY!!"] Ohhh that was too much! They think I’m a major dork now. Like I’m a little too excited to be here. Ok, calm down, just be cool. Think of something to talk about…think…think….think…panic………………………I got nothing. Weather! Can’t go wrong. ["Man, it's really hot today." "Yeah, I'm ready to go inside!" and other "general consensus" remarks] Yes!! Nailed it! They like me! Maybe they’ll think I’m normal.

[Morning introduction to the festivities: "How is everyone today?"] Does she really want to know how I am? I’d rather not answer. [Emcee: "Is that the best you can do?? I SAID, "HOW IS EVERYONE TODAY?!"] Oh gosh, it’s really loud in here. Panic. Panic. Oh man, my leader is looking at me like I’m not having fun. Next time, remember to yell so people don’t think you’re hating it here.

[Worship time] Ok, these dance moves make me feel really dumb. I shouldn’t have come to VBS. Should I do it anyway? This doesn’t feel like worship at all, it feels like I’m one of those token losers they show on “America’s Got Talent.” What’s everyone else doing? Dang it, they’re playing along. Ok, I don’t want to look like I hate it here. I don’t hate it here. I just don’t want to dance. Maybe if I go through the motions, but just not as big and animated as everyone else. [Attempts to dance] What do these lyrics mean, anyway? “Rounding up questions/ Driving home answers?” Do they really think they can answer all the questions? I read a book once that…ah! We’re switching activities already?

[Teaching time] Awesome! I love teaching time! I can sit quietly. I’m good at this. Listening…listening… Asking God for wisdom…this is a good topic. In what ways do I need wisdom? Maybe…grr, interrupted again. There’s no time to think here! ["Who would like to close us in prayer?"] Ahhh! Don’t make eye contact, don’t make eye contact, don’t make… [Aubry, how about you?] Is there a hole around here? Ok, prayer. I can talk to God. How can I make this sound really good? Like I know God, but I’m not trying to be holier-than-thou? Think…think…panic…Can’t think of what to say…Wow, everyone is staring at me, waiting for me to start. Ugh. Just rattle off something. ["Dear-God-thank-You-for-today-thank-You-for-VBS-and-all-the-things-we're-learning-about-You-amen."] Oh gosh, that was horrible. I wish I had more time to prepare for public prayers! I should go home and write out a couple of “just-in-case” prayers for later – what?? Changing activities again?? Wait, what did we just talk about?

[Crafts] Ok, I can do crafts. Wow, everyone is really talky. I better think of some things to say before someone asks me a question. What kinds of things will they want to talk about?…..[Leader: "Aubry, are you learning a lot at VBS?"] Ummm…yes…I know I’m learning something, I just can’t recall anything right off the top of my head….think…panic………["Yes."] Oh, great answer, Einstein. Try to think of something to add…..try harder…nothing. Weather? ["But it's really hot today."] Wow, that was dumb. But now she knows I’m not just trying to be rude by not talking. I need to think of some things to say to people tonight when I get home, because this weather thing is ridiculous. I think I want to put more red dots on here to symbolize…ahh! We’re done with crafts already?? I don’t even know what I made!

[Gospel presentation] I don’t know if I totally understand this. What they’re saying is – wow, singing again? I hope I can remember the dance moves.

[Final songs before leaving] Wow. I am exhausted. It’s only 11:30am, but I am taking a nap when I get home. These songs still don’t make sense to me. How did we learn five already? I can barely remember them. Too. tired. to. dance. [Friends laughing and singing] How do they keep doing these songs and dances after all this? They look like they could do this all day, and I’ve been ready to go home for the last hour! There must be something wrong with me. [Leader: "Aubry, is something wrong?"] Well, I’m exhausted but I don’t know why everyone else isn’t exhausted, I’m kind of hungry, I hate dancing, I can’t remember what we learned today, and I’m not sure how to say all of this without sounding like I have 5,000 issues. What to say?? Think!! Panic! ["No. I'm fine."]

[Mom in the car on the way home: "How was VBS today, honey?"] Sort through emotions as fast as you can…hurry!! What did we learn! Can’t remember! What were the songs about!? Ahh!! Think……think….["It was fine. It's really hot today."] I need to collapse immediately. Are there really four more days of VBS? Mom is going to think I’m grumpy. I think I am grumpy. [Mom: "When we get home, I need you to clean your room and put all your laundry away. Then we're going to Wal-Mart, and all your cousins are coming over for dinner."] I am going to die.

Did you have any of these thoughts when you attended VBS as a child? Do you have these thoughts now?

If you have introverted children, how do they handle VBS?

How could we make VBS a little easier on introverted children?

Is VBS different in your denomination?