Standing in the Gap in a Society that's Warring with God.

Is Vacation Bible School Relevant?

July 24th, 2007 Viewed 1709 times
This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series VBS in the 21st Century

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.

Who’s the Target?

July 25th, 2007 Viewed 1839 times, 2 so far today
This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series VBS in the 21st Century

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.

Mixed Targets

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?

Are We Too Much Fun?

July 26th, 2007 Viewed 1630 times
This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series VBS in the 21st Century

One of the hardest questions I think that a church activity has to answer is are we trying to be too much fun.  The question that I believe we are trying to answer, though, is scary in its bluntness:

“Why should someone want to come to my church activity?”

Our answer to this question will say a lot about our ministry, what we think of God and the message that we have to give.  What I find interesting is that traditionally the feature that “sold” Christianity was salvation from sin.  Sure, there’s the promise of Heaven, and the chance to escape Hell, but when a preacher came on the scene and proclaimed the Word, people came forward, lives were changed, and a world was impacted.

Now, we have to hope that we can get a famous person to come.  Or we have to stress about what activities we have planned.  We’re concerned about if children think that we’re fun, and we’re moving as quickly as we can out of the lesson and to the times that we think the kids enjoy more: refreshments, crafts, game time, and openings/closings.  Does something seem amiss here?

Tuesday, Michelle Potter, commented that a community that she was involved with held an all day VBS.  The more I think about this, the more interested I become.  If you start to think about parents sending kids with enrollment forms (relieves the pressure of wondering whether the kids will come back), different classes you could have, more exposure, and leveraging the Christians in the community you think– whew– that’s a lot of work.

But after you get over that, you begin to wonder why we don’t do this more.  Partner churches together.  Maybe make it more than one week.  Esp if you have a church school.

Or are we just not really all that serious about reaching the lost as we say we are?

All In One Room or Multiple Rooms?

July 28th, 2007 Viewed 1380 times
This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series VBS in the 21st Century

There seem to be two prevailing styles of Vacation Bible School out there today– one that has the children in the same room for the whole week and one that has them switching rooms every day.

Each of these has benefits for the students and the teachers, but each of them also has potential downfalls.  I am personally in favor of having the children in the same room all week, but I believe that having them switch also has its place.

Having The Kids In The Same Room All Week

The biggest reason I believe that this is the most beneficial way of running a VBS is the bond that can be formed between the students and the teacher.  In one week, you will probably know the names of all the children in the group, you may have a good idea of their spiritual aptitude, if not whether they are saved, and they will know you.

The crafts can be more intricate, because you can spend multiple nights working on them.  The same can be said about helping them to memorize more verses, and to actually show an interest in their lives.

The problems can arise because there is more work needed on the part of the leaders.  You have to be interesting every night (which can get difficult near the end of the week).  You plan all of your crafts, instead of having a one-night easy craft.  You will also get compared against other classes and what they are doing.

Having The Kids In Different Rooms Each Night

The biggest benefit here is in “theme-ing” and lesson preparation.  Because you have a specific night, instead of 7 to prepare for, your theme can be very specific.  You also only have one craft to prepare, one lesson to memorize, and as long as your careful and don’t “peak” too early, it’ll still be interesting by the end of the week, and you’ll probably be ready for any question.

The downsides here is that you may never know the kids names, or reach them on a more than very superficial level since you only will have them for a short period of time, that you will not be able to really know what was taught before to be able to build on it, and that you’re more detached from the kids.

What have you done in your VBS, and how effective do you feel it has been?


Standing in the Gap in a Society that's Warring with God.