To me, Vacation Bible School is one of those things that seems to have lost an ultimate purpose because of the change in society in culture. Think I’m mistaken? At one point, VBS was run two weeks during the day. They were done as a series of classes and singing. Now, they’re done for a week, during the evening, with an emphasis on activities, recreation, fun, and conflicted target for the lesson time.
Conflicted, because you do not know whether you’re trying to reach those that are without Christ (i.e. evangelism) or those that come to the church (i.e. edification). Churches have become very insulated– where we seem to want to do more edification than evangelism. Or, if we’re going to do evangelism, we don’t know how to get people in or what to do with our own kids when then get there.
To me, this ministry does need some more thought as to what purpose it should fill. For the past three years, I’ve encouraged my church to abandon VBS altogether in favor of Good News Clubs. The reason? Because I believe that our target was evangelism, and we weren’t bringing in anyone new. I think it’s better to go out into the world and reach them where they are, and then bring them to the church, rather than expecting the current generation of people just to come to the church of their own free will.
To me, I see the new purpose of VBS as a bridge between Good News Clubs and Sunday School. It gets people to the church building, seeing the facilities, the personnel, but it’s not a service. It’s less intimidating than “dumping” new converts into the service. It gives the parents a better feeling, and you can do this in such a way to build excitement and build on to what has happened in the Good News Clubs.
As for target, education wise, it should be geared to beginning discipleship. We should utilize our kids to help us in this task. They can help by learning along with the new children (by helping them with new concepts) or they can help through service. We should also have some sort of adult class (perhaps English as a Second Language if there’s demand) so that we can have something for the adults to do and learn from (another chance for evanglisation) while we have the children.
The longer the time period, the better we achieve this goal. Daytime would take a lot of commitment, so it would have to be something that we worked up to. The goal of this step, in my mind, is to get children and families comfortable with the church and try to break down the barriers (whether they be past religious experience (i.e. Roman Catholicism) or apprehension by having something for new converts or those seeking at the church building that is not on Sunday.