Does your church use VBS as an outreach tool? Apparently a lot of churches do.
According to a study (http://www.ellisonresearch.com/releases/20070103.htm) that was just released, “The most common is Vacation Bible School, or VBS, which has been used by seven out of 10 churches for evangelism in the last year.”
8-27-06 — Reaching Families . . . With VBS!
One VBS Idea . . .Magazine articles reassure busy parents with the cliché that kids need “quality” time, not “quantity” time. Even if that’s true, how can the church help overscheduled families plan quality time with a spiritual focus?
Karen Lynch, children’s minister at White Oak Christian Church (Cincinnati, Ohio), recognized the trend in many churches toward family weekend worship services, but wondered how to involve families in other church activities. While speaking about the paradigm shift in a Ministry to Families class at Cincinnati Christian University, an idea hit her. “It was a God thing!” she says. “I stopped midsentence while I was lecturing and said, ‘VBS!’”
White Oak began the new family VBS this summer, scheduling it from 6:30-9:30 pm, Monday through Friday, during the second week of the church’s regular daytime VBS programming.
Lynch and her team designed every aspect of each evening to encourage communication, interaction, and fun for parents and children. After an opening praise time with up-tempo music (during which families sat and worshiped together), everyone moved downstairs for a picnic-style dinner provided by the church. While the group enjoyed the boxed meals, volunteers presented the missions emphasis for the week, then dismissed the families to rotate among a craft center, games area, Bible Adventure (presenting the Bible story for the day), and Casa de Familia (where each family worked together to create its own scrapbook of the week).
Grandparents led three to five families as a group, shepherding them from area to area, enjoying the meal with them, and building relationships. “Often these were older people who didn’t have kids or grandkids in the program,” says Lynch. “It was a great way to get them involved, and it provided an informal structure that allowed parents to concentrate on participating in the activities with their children.” (As a side benefit, the White Oak team required fewer volunteers for family VBS because parents and often grandparents accompanied each child.)
Lynch hoped this new program would reach adults as well as children with the love of Christ, and she estimates 30 percent of the parents attending the family VBS were non-Christians. She also planned the program to coach Christian parents. “Many people want to be spiritual leaders for their children, but aren’t sure how,” she says. At Friday’s closing session, the church gave each family a 30-day devotional book to use at home, and White Oak kicked off a new family worship service for elementary-age children and their parents the next Sunday.
. . . And a Second One!Standard Publishing designs its VBS curriculum (http://www.vacationbibleschool.com/) to be user-friendly, but also leaves room for each church to adapt the material in creative ways. Plainfield (Indiana) Christian Church used this year’s “Trading Places” curriculum and added unique elements to enhance the experience.
“The material included a daily Bible story as well as a second story about a specific country and its people,” says Wendy Wagoner, director of early childhood. “We wanted the kids to easily understand the different stories, and also wanted them to visualize what it means to really trade places with those in other cultures.”
To achieve these goals, the team created an “airline terminal” from a garage on the church property. They created signs to designate each of the building’s doors as entryways to different countries, hung a huge map of the world, and added other simple decorations to aid the transformation from a plain building to a place of imagination.
Each day the kids gathered in the terminal to hear a “flight attendant” share facts about the country of the day and an introduction to the character telling the story. After the story, leaders coached children to think of ways they could make a difference in that part of the world through praying, giving money, sending missionaries, and more. The experience ended with each child receiving a sticker representing that day’s country. “We designed name tags to look like passports,” Wagoner says. “They wore their name tag each day, and after every ‘trip’ they added a sticker to their passport.”