So you have decided that you want Vacation Bible School to be a place where children learn respect in simple things. After all, if the children do not learn to respect people, who they can see, how will they ever learn to respect God, who they cannot see? (see I John 4:20)
Next, you are going to have to agree on a common title of address. If the rules are not kept simple, they will simply not be kept. This is something that you and your VBS helpers will need to discuss together, as well.
If the decision is agreed upon easily, be thankful. You may encounter some strong feelings on the matter. Be sure to proceed prayerfully, of course, and be ready to set the matter aside temporarily if you happen to discover that you have several people with strong opposing ideas.
Just so that you are forewarned, here are several possible methods of address, reasons for choosing them, and objections I have encountered.
1. “Mister”, “Misses”, “Miss”: This is probably the most common solution in schools, at least in the United States. For this reason, it may seem a logical solution that would be natural for the children to adjust to at VBS. It also may be a term that many adults are used to being addressed by in daily life, as well.
One problem with these terms is the possible confusion over which ladies are “Misses” and which are “Miss”. It may be considered a minor mistake for some if improperly addressed; but for others it is very offensive. A possible solution is to replace both terms with “Ms.” (pronounced miz); but this tends to add a bit of coldness and unnecessary formality when used outside of the business world.
In my experience, there are two groups of opinion on whether it is a compliment to be called by “Mister”, “Misses”, and “Miss”. One side feels that it is a sign of respect in a world largely devoid of respect. The other side feels that the term automatically classifies a person as “old” and that “old” is undesirable. The latter may also find the terms stuffy and overly formal.
2. “Brother” and “Sister”: This seems the most logical to me as a church, mostly because it is Biblical. We are a family, all God’s children. I think of Ananias, one of the earliest Christians, saying “Brother Saul, receive thy sight.”
Some people react to these terms of love and respect with the same distaste as “Mister” and “Misses”, however. Some Protestant Christian ladies, in particular, oppose to being called “Sister” because they think it sounds too “Catholic”. (While we have nothing personally against the Catholic people, Protestant views by definition should differ widely from that of the Catholic church, which explains why some fear the possible confusion.)
Others feel that the terms are too “familiar”, and that they are more appropriately used between peers in a church setting. These people often substitute “Uncle” and “Aunt” for children addressing adults. I have even heard these terms used commonly for the children of adult friends addressing the adults in a purely secular setting.
3. “Teacher”: I have primarily heard this used in a church setting, particularly for younger children to address their Bible teachers. As such, it may be appropriate in Vacation Bible School.
The problem I see is that it becomes a bit awkward when “everybody” in the church becomes “Teacher”. What do you do with the helpers who are technically not teachers?
Also, the term “Teacher” does not give the children a tool to use outside of VBS like many of the other terms will.
Once you have settled on a title that everyone feels is appropriate, there will be one more matter to decide…. Be sure to check back Thursday for the conclusion of “How Should Children Address Adults at VBS?”
~Which terms of address do you prefer? Do you know of others in common use that are not addressed here?
~Which do you believe translate best into the Vacation Bible School setting?
***Hasten Home is excited to announce the release of a new, original set of Vacation Bible School materials. It talks of God’s law, the Ten Commandments, and teaches the children the awesome truth that God wants to give us both the heart and the power to obey. You may purchase VBS–The Land of Milk & Honey from our store, or if you have questions, just send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Milk & Honey” in the subject line.***