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For the past several years I have been very pleased with the music that was included in the Vacation Bible School programs produced by Concordia Publishing House. Starting with the 2006 Treasure Cove and then 2007’s Quest for Truth, I was quite pleasantly surprised to find that they included music that, while fun and up-beat, was actually Lutheran. That is, the music actually taught scriptural truths beyond an occasional reference to God’s love or Jesus’ forgiveness. It helped that they included several hymns on the CDs. I was so happy with the music that I made sure to have plenty of extra copies of the CDs on hand for families to take home. I was happy to have kids (including my own) learning these songs by having them play over and over in their family minivans.
It appears that those days are over. I started noticing it last year. I noticed that the music was a little less singable for the kids, and contained less content. I also noticed that more of the songs had a lead singer rather than a chorus of kids. The songs were okay, but not great.
Just this week I reviewed the music CD for this year’s Planet Zoom. It seems that they have decided to take a completely different direction with the music this year. I listened to the entire CD and there wasn’t a song in it that I would really want to teach anyone, because they don’t actually teach anything. The predominant message of the songs is a generic reference to God’s love, followed by lengthy calls to get busy telling people about Jesus. “Buzzin’ in the Hive” talks about getting busy in God’s kingdom and doing what God gives you to do. “What Can I Do for Jesus” speaks for itself. It says that God’s done so much for us but doesn’t mention what he has done. That gets to the heart of the difference here. What I noticed before was that the music was specifically focused on Christ-for-us as opposed to merely Christ-in-us.
I can’t tell you how disappointed I am. I had made it a point to send feedback to Concordia letting them know how much I appreciated Christ-centered, distinctively Lutheran VBS materials, especially in the music. I will be sending them feedback this year, but it will not be positive. And even though I haven’t evaluated the rest of the materials, I won’t be ordering or using this VBS program.
I understand that they’re trying to sell VBS programs. I also understand that you can sell a VBS program to more churches (including non-Lutheran churches) if you make the content, music included, more generic. I remember thinking with some of the previous programs that I wonder what non-Lutherans would think of this music because it was clearly Lutheran language that taught beautiful scriptural truths.
If you are concerned about using music that teaches the faith in your Vacation Bible School, I can’t recommend Planet Zoom. If you are still deciding, I would encourage you to carefully evaluate the music BEFORE ordering or deciding. And if you find the same things I have, I encourage you to let them know what you think.
Most of the stuff of VBS doesn’t last long. The crafts will get thrown away, along with their leaflets. They might keep a souvenir or two, but might not remember what it was trying to teach. But music is something that sticks; it is supposed to plant truths deep within us. I have hoped that if anything goes home with the kids and sticks, it should be the music. But it’s got to be good.