It’s that time of year again! Vacation Bible Schools will be starting up all over the country very soon. This summer will be my eighteenth VBS to coordinate, and I have to say, I love it more every year. It truly has become my favorite week of the ministry calendar. It’s what led me to write eight Scottish Sleuths VBS “Cases” for One Story Ministries, with hopefully more to come. The opportunity to teach God’s Word in a concentrated way for five straight days is very exciting!
Unfortunately, not every VBS Director can say that. For many, it has become quite the stressful production–with the emphasis on “production.” Recruiting volunteers, finding decent curriculum, and being creative with crafts, recreation, snacks, and music can be overwhelming. Following the general entertainment-oriented trend of Children’s Ministry, many of the available VBS packages emphasize a bunch of fun at the expense of strong Biblical content. I’ve seen churches turned into virtual water parks, jungles, beaches, and other sorts of theme parks. It seems as though the focus of many a VBS has become VACATION instead of BIBLE–and definitely not SCHOOL!
Now don’t get me wrong, some of the production which gives the children an exciting VBS experience is pretty cool. Storytellers in costumes, interesting skits, and fun classroom decor can potentially help communicate the truths of the Bible. After all, the Old Testament feasts and festivals had strong “visual” components so that children would learn from the sights and sounds, as well as the Word. So I am not suggesting that VBS be an austere, dull, and lifeless experience for our volunteers and students. My concern is just that some of the “over the top” production can supersede the time and effort given to the study of the Bible.
So here are some specific thoughts on putting the BIBLE SCHOOL back into VBS:
1. If you have children (both churched and unchurched) for an entire week, why not take the opportunity to teach the Bible in an in-depth manner? With all the other choices out there, it is a privilege to have these children in church. So don’t let it go to waste.
2. While the emphasis of VBS should be on evangelism, that doesn’t mean the content has to be lightweight or we can only choose certain Bible stories over and over again. If the Bible is taught properly, you show the children Jesus, the gospel, and the ONE STORY of redemption from each and every story of Scripture!
3. Instead of trying to compete with all of the sports camps, ballet camps, music camps, space camps, beach camps, academic camps (what we used to call summer school), and band camps, why not make VBS different and unique? Promote the fact that this is the one summer activity that will teach your children the Bible which enables them to be wise unto salvation!
4. Just because our children are on summer vacation doesn’t mean that they can’t be expected to study. Engaging their minds and souls doesn’t have to be drudgery.
5. Another unique opportunity of VBS is for the adults and youth of the church to spend quality time with the children of the church and the community. Combined with the teaching of the Word, volunteers who show the love of Jesus go a long way to impact young hearts and minds for Christ.
6. Choose curriculum that is heavy on Bible Application and Scripture Memory. Instead of just a brief Bible story time, times to challenge the VBS children to begin to live out God’s Word as well as to hide it in their hearts are a necessity.
7. Don’t miss the obvious: Make sure children actually read from the Bible! Have them bring their own Bibles and provide ones for all others. The children need to know that VBS is first and foremost about learning, loving, and living out God’s Word.
If we make the effort to put the BIBLE SCHOOL back into VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL, then we can be confident that God will use VBS to draw more and more children to Himself!