One of the biggest questions we must answer when it comes to Vacation Bible School is who the target audience is. There are two audiences that always vie for attention in the Christian church– the churched and the unchurched. The one that you’re targeting makes all the difference in your approach.
Targeting the Unchurched Child
This target has many advantages. They don’t know most of the Bible stories, so everything’s fresh and new. They have interesting questions that churched children may already have the answers to or may never thought of. They may be looking for answers. They may be lost and in need of a Savior. They’re not going to a church, so they could join your church.
In this setting, it’s important to have simple Bible Stories that focus on sin and forgiveness. You don’t need to dwell on the Hebrew and Greek. Your goal is simply to show them their need for a Savior and pray that the Holy Spirit does His work and they come to a saving knowledge of Christ.
Targeting the Churched Child
The churched child is a different ball game. They know all the Bible stories and can probably tell you parts that you didn’t even remember. They are familiar with all the leaders, and don’t have a problem “spoiling” the climatic ending. They generally have already expressed faith in Christ for salvation, and therefore do not benefit as much from the reminders of their faith.
Here I believe that the biggest benefit to them would be in learning life application lessons– or even better, that they would learn how to study the Word of God themselves. Too many Sunday School classes and other places where they hear about God’s Word are focused on the stories, but not how to draw life lessons out of it. These children need to be equipped to be reaching their peers. They could be a valuable aid to reaching the lost, but they don’t need to hear the salvation message again.
If you have a mixed audience you have to choose your topics carefully, or offer separate classes. What you will need to do is always have a strong salvation message, but offer life application messages as well. You may also need to incorporate some discipleship training into your presentation so that everyone can learn to read from the Bible.
What’s the target of your church’s VBS? How well do you think your church does in reaching the target?