May 20, 2024

Is Vacation Bible School Relevant?

This whole week I will be helping out my parents with their church’s Vacation Bible School.  VBS is an interesting, yearly event specifically because I’m not sure exactly what role it has in the modern church.

At one point in time VBS was a time for children to be able to get Bible education during the summer.  It was held during the day and could even last for up to two weeks.

It was also during the time of the big tent meetings, of prayer in schools, and a general acceptance of God.  It was an outreach of a church, and it gave everyone a chance to hear Bible stories.

The current incarnation of VBS (at least those that I’ve been involved with) is different.

  • It reaches primarily those that already know– why should you go to VBS at a church if you’re not religious?
  • It reaches kids from like minded churches– it does not seem to be reaching new people, but parents who shuffle their kids from place to place to be entertained.
  • It does not have good follow-up for those new people that come.
  • Since it has an audience of mostly churched children, it is too elementary in the faith to actually promote growth.
  • It’s become almost formula, with multiple different “vendors” creating material in multiple different formats (same lesson through out the week vs. different lesson every night).

So, let’s not just talk about VBS and what it has become, but let’s discuss some of the challenges of the modern VBS, and take this week where I’m working at a VBS to suggest ways that our churches could do it better.

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6 thoughts on “Is Vacation Bible School Relevant?

  1. In my community VBS is often a way to reach unchurched children. Often VBS is free and lasts all day, so community parents who would otherwise be completely uninterested in church see it as a way to get free daycare. I think that’s fine since it reaches children who normally couldn’t be reached due to their parents disinterest.

  2. Wow, an all day VBS. That’s something I’ve never come across. It makes sense if you have the people, and it could certainly benefit the children and community– much more than just a few hours. How much work does your church do to prepare for something that big?

    I could see a lot of potential to reach a lot of different church backgrounds– you could reach the churched and the unchurched and meet needs– wow. What a concept.

  3. My most memorable VBS was one that was not “canned” or a copyrighted package deal. We sang songs, memorized Scripture, made artwork, played outside. If we had memorized all of the verses by the end, we got an ice cream social! This was the dark ages of 20 years ago…ahem.

    Yeah, that was spiritually lite and there were no unchurched children present, but it was a fun social time. So, the question I’d pose is,

    “Is VBS a social time or a spiritual time? Or do they necessarily need to be separated?”

  4. I’m not really sure how much work went into getting everything ready since our family were guests rather than volunteers. (The church we attended then was much too small to host VBS — when we moved away they no longer had enough children even for Sunday School.) However, it seems to me that since many churches already have daycares or preschools, an all day VBS shouldn’t be too difficult. I know our current church runs a school, though I have been home-bound all this summer so I don’t know if or how they did VBS.

  5. VBS curriculums certainly cost a bundle these days…I’m for Anna’s idea of a church coming up with their own VBS. We have puppets, which would add to the fun…but if I suggest it, I’ll have to plan it! Lol. But I’m not wrapping my head around that right now having just finished directing our church VBS program last week!

    I appreciate VBS. I know we had quite a few children from other churches in addition to our own, and we also had 3 that desperately need Christian influence…who from all appearances seem to come from highly dysfunctional families. The poor things reeked of neglect and just ate up all the Bible stories and love we could give them.

    I think having a summer Bible club that meets once a week during the summer would be beneficial. (of course, it would kind of be like AWANA, and summer is a break for the AWANA workers) But I wouldn’t throw VBS out yet, it sure is a great encourager, I’ve seen it in both my older girls. They just embrace the guidance and really seem to take it to heart.

    God bless your own VBS experience this week!

  6. So far, it’s going well. Though I think that because we’ve done the “move from room to room” each of the past years the kids expected to move, and that’s made some of the children think that staying in the same place is boring. Or maybe it’s just their speaker!

    In any case, I still think there’s a long way we can go to make it the best it can be.

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