I have to admit, I don’t know where to fall on the whole Vacation Bible School debate.
On one hand, it seems like a lot of work and a lot of cost. It’s exhausting to organize, it’s exhausting to execute, and it’s a little frustrating when the program is seen as nothing more as free babysitting.
On the other hand, it’s a whole lot of fun. There’s something so cool about transforming the whole church into Egypt for a week and getting a “first-hand” experience of Joseph’s life, especially if it involves life animals! And even if parents do view it as “free babysitting”, it still gets the kids in the door and hearing about God’s Word, right?
Last year, we took a break from VBS to try a few other ideas. Story time turned out to be an incredible experience but Family Movie Nights tanked. I have to admit, it was exhausting trying to convince the church to “try something new”. It was exhausting trying to wrangle in volunteers for these new uncharted programs. It was exhausting to hear everyone complain about how they didn’t really like the new programs. It was perhaps more exhausting than just running traditional Vacation Bible School.
In May of this year, the kids in our Wednesday night program started asking, “When are we going to do that really fun week again?” Suddenly, I felt a little bad for killing VBS. I read this post by Jon Acuff about how his church refuses to do VBS and wondered if that’s how people talked about me and East Lake Road Alliance. I didn’t want to be the “no fun” church. But I didn’t really want to make a big decision just to stay in the VBS club.
So, we came up with a plan.
We’re bringing VBS back! Sort of. Instead of cramming all that VBS fun into one exhausting week, we’re running our VBS program on four Wednesday nights, starting July 11th. Here’s why:
1. It’s less exhausting
Can you tell this is a big motivator in my life?
2. It establishes a pattern of attendance.
I’ve heard that if you get a family to return a second week to church, you’re halfway to integrating them into the church community. Hopefully, the same principle works here. If kids attend every Wednesday night for 4 weeks (and have fun), chances are, they will keep on coming.
3. It’s more cost-effective.
Instead of buying a VBS curriculum, we’re just using the curriculum we always use for our Wednesday night program (252Basics). 252 Basics already built some hype into the summer months by making the theme EPIC LOVE and adding some over-the-top lessons and games (perfect!). We’re adding to this foundation by moving our song and lesson time into the sanctuary so we can use “the big screen” and moving game time outside (who doesn’t love outside games?). I would have bought some decorations for our Wednesday night program anyway, so I just added a few extras to the cart, like this giant whale!
(Get yours at Oriental Trading!)
4. It’s more volunteer friendly.
It’s way easier to volunteer once a week than for an entire solid week, especially if you’re fairly new to the church and aren’t sure if you want to make that kind of time commitment. We have folks that are doing all four weeks, some that are doing just one week, and some that are popping in as they can.
5. It introduces everyone to the current curriculum.
Sometimes I think we don’t get VBS kids to return because we pitch Vacation Bible School as a “one time event”. I’m hoping to communicate to the kids, “This is the stuff we learn about every week. This is the format we use every week. Sure, this is a little over the top, but it’s the same basic idea!” That way, if VBS kids do return for a “normal” week, they are already familiar with “what we’ve been learning” and some of the other basic patterns and terminology of the curriculum. Not only that, it exposes the parents to the curriculum in a fun, nonthreatening way and it allows church members to get a taste of what volunteering for Children’s Ministry would REALLY be like.
6. It stretches out the fun!
We’re going to be decorating the sanctuary in a “Summer Blast” theme, and the decorations will stay up through the whole month. I think this makes buying decorations more worth it, because not only do you use them longer, but they give a great first impression to any guests who come in on a summer Sunday morning. I think it really communicates “family friendly”. If we stuck with the traditional VBS schedule, there might be one or two Sundays of decorations, but with our Summer Blast schedule, we’ll get six weeks. I only spent about $110 in decorations, and I think that’s a pretty good investment!
What About You?
Where have you fallen in the VBS debate? Are you trying some alternatives or sticking with the summer tradition?