If you are reading this publication, it’s because you are already hosting Vacation Bible School or are thinking about offering it next summer. There are as many ways to offer VBS as there are churches.
Why should we invest in VBS?
From my perspective, VBS is one of the best evangelism efforts you can make with your congregation. No matter how or when or where you offer VBS, it gives you the opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with children, teachers, youth helpers, and parents. A good VBS tells participants every day in words and actions that God loves them, they are good, and you love them.
Parents in your congregation or greater community are always looking for quality programs for their children’s summer vacations. What better way to introduce new families to you church? It is easier to enter the front door on a Sunday if they’ve been in and out of it for a whole week. Don’t forget to invite families from the community to other events such as parish picnics, back-to-school fairs, or other offerings.
VBS gives different people in the congregation an opportunity to be in leadership positions, especially young people (see here or here). It also addresses the lack of biblical literacy both in children and their parents. Children are introduced to Bible stories they might not have heard, which you intentionally share with their parents.
Finally, VBS is fun. It is a week when we can be less formal at church, where flip flops are acceptable for all ages, where laughter and joy are in abundance, and where it is easy to live into a ministry we are called to, whether it’s giving out hugs, making snacks, creating crafts, or telling stories.
Who is the targeted audience for VBS?
Traditional Bible School usually offers programs for ages 3 through age 11, which is basically preschool and elementary school ages. The prepackaged materials usually fall into that age grouping, although some may offer resources for a separate middle school or intergenerational program.
Consider the community in which you are located. Are there many families with young children in this community? Is there interest in expanding the coverage to everyone in the congregation for an intergenerational experience?
When do we offer a VBS program?
What is the rhythm of summer at your church and in the community? Most programs are offered in June immediately after school is out. Churches have found that families often don’t immediately go on vacations, and so this time has traditionally been good. Other churches have discovered that the last week before school starts gets the highest attendance.
The traditional time for VBS has been in the range of 9 to noon, or some variation. Some churches offering intergeneration programs have moved to an evening time slot that includes a light dinner, followed by joint and separate activities. One successful model offers programming three nights in a single week, while another meets one night a week during a summer month.
How do we involve the whole congregation?
A church in Richmond creates VBS prayer cards to give to each person in the congregation two Sundays before VBS begins. The cards describe the theme, the participants, and brief prayer. Congregants are asked to pray at least once a day during the church’s VBS program for all of the participants. Many programs also include a mission project that involves the entire church.
You can help families reinforce each day’s activities by providing daily liturgies for family worship. The outline can include a call to worship, each day’s theme, scripture passage, Bible story summary, and prayer.
Add a spark of joy to your church this summer with VBS!
This article first appeared in Episcopal Teacher:
Spring 2018, Focus Issue – VBS, page 3