The school year is wrapping up, and kids and parents alike are looking forward to a change of pace this summer. For many of us, summer means a more relaxed schedule. But for many area churches, the pace is beginning to pick up as they prepare for one of the biggest community outreaches of the year – Vacation Bible School, aka VBS!
My childhood memories of VBS are kind of hazy and sepia-toned. Popsicle-stick crafts, sitting on benches outside singing “Deep and Wide” and “Rise and Shine,” listening to Bible stories told with the assistance of a flannel-graph board, and having a blast. What we lacked in technology was more than made up for by the love of the church volunteers and the fun of being with my friends.
In many churches, VBS in the 21st century has an entirely different look! The crafts, music, Bible stories, and fun are still there, but with a decidedly modern twist. Here is your FAQ guide to VBS in 2014.
What Can I Expect?
- High energy, professionally packaged – Many VBS programs are prepackaged by Christian publishing houses such as Lifeway or Cokesbury, making it easier for churches to plan and also to train the many volunteers it takes to put together this kind of event. Music is high-energy, written specifically to go with this year’s theme, and it generally comes with a music video to help teach the words and motions to the songs. Small churches may have a couple of dozen children in a VBS program. Large churches may have several hundred.
- A variety of activities – You will still find crafts, music, games, Bible teaching and sometimes missions, as a part of every VBS program. Children are assigned to a class based on their age, and then follow a school-like schedule of activities throughout the morning or evening.
- An integrated theme – VBS programs have a theme that all of the crafts, songs, and activities relate to. Some of the themes at area churches this summer are “Agency D3 – Discover, Decide, Defend,” “Scavenger Hunt: Finding My Place in God’s Story,” “Workshop of Wonders,” “International Spy Academy,” and “Weird Animals.”
- Solid Bible teaching – It’s called Vacation BIBLE School for a reason, and the point of all this fun is to help children learn about the Bible. Generally, there is one story or one group of Bible characters focused on, but nearly all church VBS programs bring it back at some point to the central character, Jesus, and how to know and follow him.
I don’t belong to a church. Would this still be good for my kids? Why?
Vacation Bible School is a great activity for your children, even if you aren’t a regular church member. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Good timing – the earliest VBS programs in our area start a few weeks after school gets out (right around the time kids are getting “bored” with summer vacation) and run all the way through early August.
- Great way to learn about a church – If you are looking for a church to attend, VBS is a great way to see what a church is like. Many churches have Adult VBS too, where parents can meet for a Bible study of their own while the children are involved with their activities. Also, many churches, such as Spring Valley Baptist, follow VBS with fun programs for kids throughout the summer.
- A safe and healthy environment. The teaching is uplifting and encouraging, and most churches have volunteers go through a background check to ensure the safety of the children participating.
- A fun and effective way to introduce your children to the Bible – everything from the songs to the crafts to the games reinforce the messages of the Bible stories taught.
- Free and open to the community – It is not necessary to be a church member, to attend church at all, or even to be a Christian, to enroll your kids. And nearly all are free, or charge a very nominal fee to cover some expenses. It is a service and outreach to the community almost entirely run by volunteers who love God and love children.
Where can I find a VBS program near me?
- The best place to find VBS programs in our area is in the VBS Preview calendar on WMHK‘s website. You can find ten to twenty churches (or more!) offering VBS in a given week.
- Watch for the church signs – most are already announcing them.
- If you are interested in finding Southern Baptist VBS programs, you can visit the Lifeway website and search for your area.
And a couple of other reminders and tips:
- If you want your children to attend more than one VBS this summer, you can! Consider programs with a different theme, so they can learn something new, or with the same theme, so they can learn the songs and Bible verses better.
- Do you already have your children enrolled in camps or other daycare during summer? You can still find a VBS that fits your schedule! Many VBS programs are in the morning, from 9 .am. – 12 p.m., but more and more are offered in the evening, such as the VBS for the Northeast United Methodist Church, which runs from 6 p.m. – 8:15 p.m. the second week of July. Times are indicated on the WMHK VBS Preview. Schedules vary too, with some programs beginning on Sunday night and some beginning Monday morning. Most run five days.
- Ages vary – VBS programs are open to children as young as 3 and as old as middle school, but each church will have its own cut-offs, so check it out.
- Most churches will allow you to bring your kids the first night and register them there, but many also have online registration. Call in advance to make sure there are still openings.
School is almost out, and Vacation Bible School is a great activity to make part of your children’s summer – and their memories!
Comment below to share your own memories of VBS, or to share a link about a local VBS program!