Church begun in 1794 holds 1st Vacation Bible School

by Scott Barkley/Georgia Christian Index, posted Friday, July 21, 2017 (11 months ago)

SPARTA, Ga. (BP) -- Island Creek Baptist Church joined in for the first time since its founding in 1794.

The church had a Vacation Bible School.

Children used their creativity in a staple of VBS, craft time, during the first-ever summertime outreach at Island Creek Baptist Church near Sparta, Ga.
Photo by Jenni Carter
Over time, folks from Atlanta-area communities had bought retirement homes on the shores of Lake Sinclair and found a church home at Island Creek near Sparta, Ga.

What they didn't find too much of was children, which had been a years-long concern of pastor Arthur Gunn and others.

"We wanted to grow the children's ministry because we believe they're the future of the church," said Gunn, who became pastor 18 years ago.

So why no VBS before now?

"We never felt there were enough children attending or leaders for a VBS," Gunn said. "We'd been thinking for several years about having one."

Things changed when a volunteer, Lisa Boone, was willing to take the lead.

Volunteers experimented with their creative side in fashioning a campfire setting for the first-ever Vacation Bible School at Island Creek Baptist Church in Georgia.
Photo by Jenni Carter
"She took an interest in the children's ministry and began to work with them," Gunn said. "She'd give children a ride to church if they needed one."

So after a few months of planning, Island Creek held its first VBS over the course of a weekend, June 9-11. Each day from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. more than two dozen children learned about Christ through the theme "Campout: Getting S'More of Jesus."

"I love children and wanted to help out," said Boone, one of Island Creek's members who lives elsewhere -– for her, two hours away in McRae -- but spends weekends at a home on Lake Sinclair.

"I prayed about it. A lot of people talked to me over it," Boone said. "We have eight or nine children attending church regularly and I wanted to hold a VBS."

Gunn's wife Vicki had been encouraging her husband and the church to have a VBS for the past few years but knew he was hesitant.

"When I first came to the church," the pastor said, "we only had a couple of children attending." Church attendance has climbed from a dozen to approximately 130 today.

Island Creek Baptist Church, near Sparta, Ga., held its first Vacation Bible School in the history of the church, founded in March 1794.
Photo by Jenni Carter
"The church is isolated," he said, "but there's a group around the lake we reach out to. Some started attending, then others, after word of mouth got around."

Boone, who attended sporadically, picked up her involvement through the children's ministry and has been named the church's part-time children/youth minister. With grown children of her own, she picks up as many local children as she can with her Chevy Tahoe to take to Island Creek.

Gunn acknowledged some trepidation among church members about the VBS. Would any children show up? Did they have enough volunteers? Did they know what they were doing?

Among the VBS attendees, 10 made professions of faith. Two were scheduled to be baptized July 16 at Island Creek. A third, who was visiting from another church, will be discipled and baptized there. Around half of the VBS attendees, Gunn figured, were local, and the others were visiting grandparents on Lake Sinclair.

The last day of VBS coincided with the church's regular Sunday worship.

"Those who had doubts were pleasantly surprised, especially when the kids came forward to accept Christ," Gunn said. "The volunteers were tickled pink at the way it turned out."

He recommends churches similar to Island Creek look hard at doing a VBS.

"If they have any children at all around, those churches need to try it. Kids absolutely enjoy VBS. Ours were thrilled with it and asked if we were going to have it again next year."

Boone credits church members for allowing God to use them.

"I couldn't have done it without that teamwork," she said. "Everyone worked together perfectly. I've helped with VBS before but never put one together myself."

Not long after church leaders announced the VBS, Boone placed a sign-up sheet for volunteers. At first, there were way more empty blanks than ones with names.

"One elderly couple called me and said they'd like to volunteer, but they just weren't sure," she recounted. "They thought they wouldn't be able to do it."

Boone convinced them otherwise.

"I told them they'd be perfect to help with the children," she said. "They volunteered, and they were perfect."

Scott Barkley is web content editor for The Christian Index (www.christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.
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