By Gail Marsh
Did you know that the first vacation Bible school took place 125 years ago? It’s true! Hopedale, Illinois, Sunday school teacher, Mrs. D.T. Miles, felt more time was needed to teach children about the Bible. So, she started what is considered to be the first vacation Bible school. It lasted for four weeks in the summer of - wait for it - 1894!
How about you and your ministry’s vacation Bible school? How far back can you trace its roots? When you think about planning this year’s event how do you feel? Nostalgic or nervous? Invigorated or indifferent? As you contemplate ways to secure volunteers, does your stomach twist into a knot? Do you begin to sweat when you think of asking the finance board to increase funding for this year’s VBS? Has your vacation Bible school transitioned from the “tried and true” to become the “tired and truly taxing?”
If not, congratulations! Every child who attends VBS should witness a genuine, uncontainable excitement about our loving and gracious God who sent Jesus to be our Savior! It’s an excitement that can’t be faked - even for a week. So, if you and your VBS ministry team feel enthusiastic about VBS 2019, keep on keeping on!
But . . . for those who may feel a little burnout (not to mention a twinge of guilt for lack of excitement) when approaching this year’s VBS, maybe it’s time for something new and different. Oh, the message will remain the same. There’s no improving on the perfect, and God’s salvation plan is perfect, after all. But maybe it’s time to think about a different way of presenting God’s perfect plan to kids this summer. Take a look at the following ideas to tweak VBS. Perhaps one will resonate with you.
- Get permission to host a subdivision VBS. Use the clubhouse for Bible lessons and crafts and the swimming pool for fun. CTA offers crafts, Bible story cards, flying discs, and other resources to help. Check out the new Dive into God’s Word theme - it’s a lot of fun!
- Instead of a traditional, one-week VBS, consider an every Saturday (or other day of the week) VBS. If you host a weekly evening VBS, families can attend together.
- Plan a VBS retreat weekend at your church location or a nearby campground. CTA’s Dive into God’s Word Adjustable Drawstring Bag would be perfect for holding crafts and other send-home items from your event.
- Host a one-day vacation Bible school blowout, and condense the fun and learning to one fabulous day!
- Plan to hold VBS during the evening for one week. Start each evening off with a light meal and group activity. Use CTA’s Dive into God’s Word Flying Disc to get the group moving. As they get better tossing and catching the disc, add another one to the mix!
- Provide family Bible lessons for your small-group families to use during the summer months. That way, the kids and adults can learn at the same time. Look for CTA’s books of the Bible card game, Bible story matching game, and sticker books to reinforce the lessons.
125 years is a long time for an idea to last! Maybe this is the year you rethink the best way to reach children for Christ in a meaningful way. Here are some alternative ideas you can use instead of vacation Bible school, or in addition to your usual VBS. The idea behind each suggestion is to form lasting relationships that offer countless opportunities for faith mentoring and growth. Perhaps one of these ideas will spark a light bulb moment of your own.
- Encourage church members to form relationships with kids this summer. Think: Boys or girls clubs, 4-H, and other organized groups. These organizations and others are always looking for volunteers. By sponsoring a child in Big Sisters, for example, you will get to know a young girl and have the opportunity to tell her about Jesus. You may even get to share the Gospel message with her friends and family.
- Make a “volunteer opportunities” bulletin board for your church entryway. Include places and organizations who support children. Post service opportunities, such as summer school tutoring, reading to children in homeless shelters, and donating toys to a local women’s crisis center. Each experience offers the chance to share Christ with a child.
- Ask families in your church to mentor teens. Pray that the initial contact can grow into an ongoing faith relationship.
- Get your small groups involved in making activity boxes for hospitalized children. Ask your local hospital or rehab center for suggestions. Plan additional ways to minister to the children and their families when the child is discharged from the hospital.
How is your VBS program doing? Does it need a refresh this year?
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