Do you ever wonder why your church does Vacation Bible School (VBS)? Seriously! Sure, it is fun and there are some great chances to enjoy the kids. Oh – yes – and also there are those cool snacks! But really – why do VBS?
In real terms, as most Southern Baptists know, Vacation Bible School is still, with all of the other things going on in church life in the 21st Century, the most effective tool we have to reach boys and girls for Jesus. For churches that want to make it happen, it can be a major opportunity to reach kids, families, and their community for Jesus.
Sadly, this doesn’t happen the way it should in many churches across our state and country. We must maximize all that we do with and for children in VBS by connecting with parents and families.
God’s Word says that parents are to guide, train, direct and disciple their children (Gen. 18:19, Deut. 6:4-9, Prov. 22:6, Isa. 52:13). God’s Word is true.
For children who come from non-Christian homes, that job falls heavily on the type of Christians that run VBS. For children who come from Christian homes, that job falls to the parents, many of whom are not doing that job.
What keeps Christian parents from not filling this role? Time can be short in busy schedules. Other factors include: stress; a lack of awareness; lack of commitment; or no faith foundation or spiritual growth in their lives. Culture always works against them, too.
We live in an era when many adults see things of the church and faith as “foreign” topics with which they are completely unfamiliar. In that context, there can be little or no common ground between these parents and the church.
VBS is wonderful, but how can it be all that it can be? It is only at church, only at VBS during this special, amazing time of the year, that many children and families can experience all that God wants to accomplish because of a church’s full commitment to this unique summertime event.
Only at church can they hear the story of salvation and come to know about the living Lord Jesus. Only at church can truths be introduced which will give them much more than a great week in the summer. It could change their lives – and their eternities.
Planning VBS takes commitment. We must accept the responsibility, embrace the privilege, and plan so that excellence can happen. Churches must be willing to commit to some significant concepts in order to have a greater impact.
Parents get involved in other areas provided for their children. Churches should require the same.
Consider a few things that churches can do in order to make VBS this year a connecting tool for their community. Each area will require its own plan, but it is worth the effort. Here are a few things I have picked up along the way as a member of the State VBS Training Team for the Missouri Baptist Convention (I also serve as adjunct professor of Christian Education for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary).
Is your church ready? Is there church-wide support and involvement in preparing?
Is the church staff committed to help make it happen? The pastor, staff members, and laity should have a sense of ownership, an excitement, and a willingness to become personally involved.
Are there budgeted funds to purchase needed materials? Is the learning environment clean and welcoming?
Are parents willing to make this a family experience? Can they come to learn and to participate?
Will someone teach either the adult VBS material or a parenting class?
Can someone plan at least one family activity related to VBS? This could be a kickoff picnic, a mid-week hot dog roast, or an ice cream party at the end.
Will other parents from church be willing to participate in all activities in order to get to know those parents who aren’t usual attendees? This is key in that one-on-one relationships built during the week can be nurtured the rest of the year.
Does your church see these children as worthy of ongoing ministry? Is there a plan to pursue them and their family members? Are Sunday School teachers involved? VBS teachers should be encouraged to partner with other church leaders.
Are we praying? We know God wants these children and families to know Him. Let’s invite Him to lead us in this eternity-altering effort. Pray for each part of this important experience – the preparation, the leaders and teachers, the church members who will host kids and families, the children who will attend, their parents and siblings, safety and good experiences during the week, a commitment to follow-up, and for God to be honored by the way we do His work.
Do these things and you will have your best VBS ever. More importantly, children, parents, whole families, and your church body will know and love the Lord more than before. That is what makes VBS the best week of the summer!
JEANNE BURNS /
Adjunct professor of Christian Education, Midwestern Seminary