By Besty Parham
Vacation Bible School has come a long way since the days of popcorn crafts and Bible lessons taught using a felt board. Today’s VBS aims at reaching children using twenty-first-century methods and approaches. Music is filled with more contemporary sounding songs rather than hymns sung from a hymnal. Multimedia options abound. Children are able to follow along with other kids on DVDs and streaming videos, learning the songs and movements.
VBS is still a time for children and youth to connect with each other and with the Bible. It is still a time for the church family to be involved in a fun week of learning, activities, and celebration during the summer. Even though it has undergone significant changes, some things remain the same. VBS benefits not only the children who participate but also the churches that offer it and the adults and youth who volunteer to teach and lead it.
How does VBS benefit children?
While at VBS, children encounter stories from the Bible, meet new children, have a good time with friends, and experience new and fun activities. They learn Bible verses, act out Bible stories, sing fun educational songs, watch and participate in skits, create crafts, participate in recreation, take part in hands-on mission projects, discover science activities, and have a snack or a meal.
VBS provides an opportunity to teach children about Jesus so that they can learn ways to be like Christ. “Jesus matured in wisdom and years, and in favor with God and with people” (Luke 2:52). Children grow in wisdom as they experience teachings from the Bible; they grow in divine favor as they discover more about God and God’s amazing love for them, and they develop in favor with other people as they learn life application skills while interacting with them.
That sounds great for the kids, but why should adults be interested in VBS?
VBS offers the church fun and creative methods of teaching Christ-like values and relationship-building skills. It is an excellent outreach tool into the community—a way to invite those who do not normally attend to come into the church, get involved, and build relationships with others and with Jesus Christ. It offers a variety of ways for the entire congregation to become involved.
Adults can decorate, teach, shepherd children, prepare snacks, send invitations, send follow-up cards to visitors, work with publicity, and pray. They can prepare and serve meals. They can also serve as “buddies” for children who need special attention before, during, and after VBS.
As adults in a church spend time together to plan for and lead VBS, they build community spirit, make new friends, and work together for the benefit of both children they know and children they don’t know. Their investment of time and energy makes their church stronger and more vibrant; a beacon in their communities.
Many churches offer an intergenerational VBS option, where people of all ages experience VBS stories, games, and crafts together. This approach offers additional opportunities to build community since all ages can learn from each other.
Why should you, at your age and stage in life, be concerned about vacation Bible school? Because it is our responsibility to empower and equip children and youth to follow God’s call to action. VBS is based on the Bible and the gospel of the living Christ. As older Christian adults, we can provide a solid biblical foundation for faith development for these children—because VBS offers an opportunity to introduce children and youth to a deeper relationship with God through Jesus Christ.