Vacation Bible School started out as a simple week of Bible training for children that, over time, has become a carnival ride of themed and live interactive learning; but let’s strip away method long enough to consider the bare bones objectives that will help us stay on course with the purpose for which we have been called. People in the community may see it as a chance for free babysitting, but we have been given the directive to provide substantive and truthful answers to little minds that inquire, and the sobering reality is that we are accountable for every moment given and every resource afforded. As you make plans for your church’s Vacation Bible School, please take the time to do a little soul searching and consider VBS: What It Is, and What It Is Not.
1. VBS IS NOT… entertainment.
Throughout the years many VBS programs have made flashy graphics, eye-popping decorations and silly games the focus. And while none of these things in and of themselves are bad, they are definitely not the focus of VBS. VBS is about revealing God to children, not 5 days of entertainment.
VBS IS… an opportunity to reveal God.
Deuteronomy 29:29 says that “the secret things belong to God but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children…” We are entirely missing the point of the VBS exercise if the children put in our care walk away without taking home at least one revelation of who God is. We have all of creation and His written word to work with, so there is no excuse.
2. VBS IS NOT… just a theme.
Every VBS comes with an overarching theme. This helps bring continuity to each day, teaching, and activity. But the point of a VBS theme is to build a bridge to sharing the Gospel with your kids. It is always important to remember that your VBS theme is a tool to accomplish your ultimate goal which is sharing the Gospel.
VBS IS… an opportunity to present the Gospel.
Matthew 19:14 says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Children love to ask questions, and the more they learn, the more they desire to learn. Statistics show that an overwhelming majority of Christians first became followers of Jesus between the ages of 4 and 14; after that, numbers drop off exponentially. Behold, today is the day of salvation. Check out this 20 Step guide to presenting a dynamic Gospel-centered VBS.
3. VBS DOES NOT… hide Scripture.
One way to view VBS is like the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine of Scripture go down. But Scripture is not something that needs to hidden. Instead, the truth of God’s Word should be the centerpiece of every VBS activity, craft and teaching. The surest way to drain your VBS of life is to hide Scripture behind the spectacle of skits, graphics and decorations. The key is finding a way to teach Scripture in a way that brings God’s Word to life in new and exciting ways!
VBS IS… an opportunity for children to memorize Scripture.
Only good things can come from hiding God’s Word in these little hearts. The Bible teaches that His word protects against sin and provides the moral compass to guard against destructive habits (Psalm 119:1,11); it is God’s Word that sustains us and breathes true life beyond just mere physical survival (Matthew 4:4), and it is God’s Word that reveals the secret to true and lasting success (Psalm 1). Don’t let them walk away without tucking away in their minds as many essentials as possible. Has your ministry discovered the power of visual storytelling?
4. VBS IS NOT… a cotton candy event.
Cotton Candy looks amazing, but the moment it touches your mouth, it disappears. Instead, VBS should be like a juicy steak where kids are presented with life-changing Biblical truth that they chew on for the whole of VBS week and take with them long after Vacation Bible School is over.
VBS IS… an opportunity to tay a foundation of truth.
A structure built on faulty presuppositions will crack and eventually collapse, so too, a child may receive the good news with gladness, only to fall away when trials come. Here is your chance to help build a framework that will aid these kids in interpreting the world around them; something sturdy enough to build everything else in their lives upon. It is a battle for the mind that we should do everything we can to protect them from losing. If you are looking for an exciting VBS that is built on the foundation of Scripture then swing by the Top 10 Reasons You Should Try the God of Wonders VBS.
5. VBS IS NOT… about you.
With the spectacle that is VBS, it can be easy to focus on those hosting the event rather than those the event is actually for. VBS is not about showing how well we can decorate, organize games or perform skits. VBS is all about reaching children with the Good News of Jesus Christ.
VBS IS… outreach to children.
There should always be a clear intent to share the Word of God to our children and make impacts in their lives. But parents ARE looking for safe places to drop off their kids during the summer months for work or a break, so the set of objectives carefully crafted by VBS leaders might look completely different than the parents, but both perspectives are worthy of consideration. After all, the position held by both parties essentially achieves the same thing: they bring in a young audience for instruction, modeling and care.
If you are looking for more information to help keep your team’s focus in the right place check out this article on 10 Simple Ways to Train Volunteers to Help with VBS.
6. VBS DOES NOT… replace parents.
The primary teachers of children are their parents. Too often, children’s ministry sees parents as competition rather than partners. The very best VBS program intentionally creates opportunities to connect parents with the content of Vacation Bible School.
VBS IS… outreach to parents.
Keep the parents involved; and this isn’t just about utilizing skills, gifts and abilities either. It is about encouraging them in their call to be ministers in their children’s lives. To encourage parents to reinforce the biblical truths presented throughout the week. Consider having a kick-off meeting at the start of VBS and inviting parents to attend. You can also host a party at the end, celebrating the week and reviewing all that was learned. Make an effort to let parents know you are there for them as a church, through kids and family ministries and events, as well as extending any other family resources you have available.
7. VBS IS NOT… behavior modification.
It’s important that the application of your Vacation Bible School is always Gospel-centered. So rather than teaching kids that they need to try harder and do better, the practical teaching of VBS should always lead children to the forgiveness, redemption and salvation found in Christ alone.
VBS IS… an opportunity to teach ministry.
Here’s where you help kids convert the things they learned about God into good practical use; it’s the “How to be God’s hands and feet” portion of the week. Help them realize a greater understanding and appreciation of what others are going through to open their eyes to act in compassion and love. Nurture the inherent concern that children have and help them find ways to serve. Perhaps you could schedule some kind of community outreach during the week or share practical ways they can take home what they’ve learned in order to serve the people in their own lives. Here is a great article that discusses how to prepare a great Kids Lesson.
8. VBS IS NOT… a performance.
Vacation Bible School is not a show where leaders pretend to be perfect Christians and encourage kids to become like them. Rather, VBS is a time for leaders to be real and open with their kids. The more leaders share their struggles and God’s triumphs, the more kids will be drawn to the Gospel. Never underestimate the power of testimony. The Bible tells us that we overcome “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of [our] testimony.” (Revelation 12:11)
VBS IS… an opportunity to demonstrate Christian life.
Share what God has done in your life and what you’ve seen God do in the lives of those around you. Give kids the opportunity to share what God has done for them. Be living examples throughout the week of service, love, discipline, preparation, and organization. We need to lead by example so these children can also grow up to see the value of being good role models to others. The Apostle Paul was able to encourage Timothy to follow “…my teachings, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, steadfastness, persecutions, and sufferings” (2 Timothy 3:10) because he was, himself, devoted to live Godly in Christ Jesus. Give this article a look, it does a great job of highlighting the attributes you should be looking for in a volunteer.
9. VBS IS NOT… mechanical.
There are two ways you can look at VBS: 1) It is a big machine that you need to keep running at the expense of personal relationships, or 2) It is an organic time of family and friends that needs to adapt so that relationship building always comes first. Plot Twist: The latter is the ONLY way to look at VBS. If the focus of Vacation Bible School is not growing in our relationship with God and each other, then we’ve missed the point.
VBS IS… an opportunity to build relationships.
Fellowship is as important for the little guys as it is for us. It is in childhood that many habits are formed, both good and bad. Teach them to contribute to each other’s lives, to encourage each other, and to help each other grow. VBS week is a great time for teachers and leaders to form friendships, too!
10. VBS IS NOT… a 5-day lecture.
While teaching is an important part of VBS, so is the reality of what you are teaching. If you are teaching your kids about the joy of the Gospel, then that joy should be evident throughout VBS week. If you are discussing the excitement of following God, then that excitement should permeate every game, craft and activity. Instead of a theological lecture, VBS should be an interactive and immersive event where the Gospel is taught and experienced.
VBS IS… a great time for fun.
Children learn best by actively doing, versus just sitting and listening the whole time, especially if the activity is fun. Put extra care into creating an environment where kids can enjoy learning and making life applications. Whether you use games, puzzles, acting out stories, dressing up, or singing relevant songs to reinforce the lessons, the experience will be more memorable when there is participation and interaction. And the leaders should have fun, too! Joy is contagious and it’s a great way to let the kids know you love God and love ministering to them. Fun is just one of the 12 Rules of Sunday School Success!
FREE VBS Resource
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Kristi Winkler is a contributing writer for Sharefaith, a veteran eLearning developer, writer/editor, and business software analyst. Her writing gives a voice to the ministry experts she consults with and interviews.
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