By Shannon Baker
SILVER SPRING, Md.—Music, hand motions, crafts and Bible lessons. For many churches, all the sights and sounds of Vacation Bible School point to a successful way to reach into their communities and win children and even families to the Lord Jesus.
But it often is so much more. For many churches, VBS becomes a mission trip opportunity for out-of-town churches to assemble teams of youth and adults who can help lead VBS in cities all across the nation.
But it was still more than that. The effort inspired a growing partnership between the two Silver Spring churches.
Relevant Church is a church plant that meets in the building owned by Georgia Avenue Baptist Church. Relevant started prior to October 2015, meeting first at a karate studio in Silver Spring.
But that scenario proved difficult, shared Relevant’s pastor, Stephen McCarty, who explained the church wasn’t even allowed to put up directional signs. Over time, he looked for a more beneficial space for his church plant.
He soon discovered Georgia Avenue Baptist Church would allow his church to meet at their facility twice a week—on Thursday nights for their church prayer meeting (“Sow the Seed, Meet the Need”) and on Saturday nights for their worship services.
“Pastor Steve was familiar to our church members,” shared Tim Bonner, Georgia Avenue’s senior pastor. McCarty had filled in at the pulpit at the long-established church.
“Steve and I get along fine. There’s no competition as such,” said Bonner, who has served as Georgia Avenue’s senior pastor since March 2015. “I’ve known people who have work conflicts on Sundays, so I encourage them to go to Relevant’s Saturday night service. And likewise, Stephen tells people who don’t feel comfortable with Relevant’s style to consider our church’s Sunday morning service.”
Even more, the two churches have shared in ministry by hosting joint ministry opportunities. Recently, they co-sponsored a dinner and movie night together, showing LifeWay’s “War Room.” On another occasion, Montgomery Baptist Association’s Language Missionary Michael Mattar came and preached to both churches about the “Value of A Soul.”
And just this past month, the two churches joined together to sponsor the mini-VBS, “Beach Blast” with Unity Baptist Church, who was introduced to them by the state convention.
Around 40 youth and adults from the Arkansas church joined the two churches in a combined Sunday morning worship service; then, with volunteers from both churches, they went out into the community to distribute flyers and prayer walk.
In the following days, they went to the Glenmont regional park, where they led children’s activities and continued their prayers in the mornings. Much of their efforts were stymied by frustrating circumstances. Apartment managers who initially gave permission for the backyard Bible club rescinded their permission. And the new location, a promised field space in the park, was under construction.
But God still moved, said McCarty. “On the first day, only five kids participated but one made a profession of faith!”
In the evenings, the team drew around 35-40 children (90 percent were outside of the church!) who joined in the VBS experience.
The highlight of the week was when members from a Buddhist family gave their lives to Jesus.
At Monday night’s VBS, the child gave his life to Christ. His mother had stayed at the church to observe. By Wednesday evening, she approached the leadership and said she wanted to become a follower of Jesus as well. Her husband came to pick them up, and learning about her decision, he also made a decision for Christ!
Altogether there were eight decisions for Christ for this week of outreach.
Now, the two pastors are sharing in the follow up to each of the participants.
“It was all God. It was a great week, with a great group of kids,” said McCarty, praising also the team from Arkansas. “A lot of seeds were planted.”
Both pastors agree they were moved when the Unity Baptist Church team, though exhausted from serving all week, went outside, circled the church on their knees, and prayed for about 45 minutes for both of the churches and their community.
“It really stirred my heart,” Bonner said.
Relevant Church also partners with Seven Locks Baptist Church, Rockville, Md.