Vacation Bible School, or VBS, is synonymous with summer in many church settings. Why? Well, it could have something to do with the fact that it’s been around in one form or another since 1898. Under the current moniker, VBS has been a part of Southern Baptists’ evangelistic strategy since the 1920s. So in a setting such as kids ministry, which is often marked by trendy, short-lived fads, the question you’re likely wondering is: Is a century-old strategy still an effective one? Is VBS relevant to today’s kids? You bet it is!
One of the best signs of VBS’ health and stability is its longevity. Rather than being a sign of its irrelevance, VBS’ longevity proves it is a dependable ongoing ministry. Very few things in kids ministry have that kind of staying power. It’s a trusted resource and a successful strategy. In fact, VBS is used by more than 25,000 churches each year to reach more than 2.5 million people. Last year, more than 70,000 salvation decisions were reported as a direct result of VBS. Talk about impact!
VBS consistently accounts for roughly 25 percent of baptisms in Southern Baptist churches. Think about that for just a second. One-quarter of all people reached by any given church
What Makes VBS Unique?
VBS is unique in that every aspect is intentionally designed to provide opportunities for age-appropriate evangelism. Every activity, every rotation, every song is specially crafted to fit the point of the day, making it possible for every person the child encounters throughout their VBS day to “live out” the gospel in front of them. That makes every job important. Snack helpers are no longer “just snack helpers.” Recreation leaders are not just responsible for wearing kids out so that they can sit still and listen longer during Bible study. Each point of engagement becomes an opportunity to talk to a child about what the Bible teaches and about what the Holy Spirit might be saying to him or her.
Think of VBS as a “summer intensive.” Parents might enroll their serious student or athlete in a summer intensive program that provides their kids an opportunity to immerse themselves in a time of intensive training. This usually includes several hours of instruction and practice sessions every day over the course of several weeks. VBS is a similar experience in a child’s spiritual development. Current research suggests that a child who is actively involved in a church may actually only attend church one to two times a month, which translates into a couple of hours each month. A traditional VBS involves three hours a day for five days in a row. This is equivalent of seven months of “church” for today’s typical, church-going child. The opportunities for evangelism, discipleship, and relationship building that can take place in one week of VBS might take half a year for a Sunday School teacher.
And when VBS is done right, the relationships don’t end once VBS is over. VBS is the perfect opportunity to connect with children and families who might not otherwise attend church. It’s fun and non-threatening as a first exposure and it gives kids an opportunity to develop a sense of ownership (my room, my teacher, my friends) that makes return visits easier. Hosting a VBS Celebration or Family Night at the end of VBS allows parents within the church to reach out and make connections with parents outside the church. Again, intentionality is key.
Can I Make VBS Fit My Church's Needs?
Another strength of VBS is its flexibility and versatility. VBS is a completely customizable event. It can take place on-campus or off. It can be held in a backyard down the street, or on a mission trip around the globe. It can be closely or broadly graded. You can call it VBS, Adventure Week, Fun Zone, or whatever name you like best. Replace the rotations and use it as a sports camp or music and arts camp with a Bible study component. The sky’s the limit! VBS is an opportunity to ignite the imagination of your church, involve volunteers in short-term commitments (positive experiences in VBS often lead to a desire to become more involved in kids ministry), and connect with the kids in your church and community.
Why should VBS be part of your summer strategy? It’s flexible; it’s dependable; it’s fun. But most importantly, it has the opportunity to impact lives for eternity as kids, teens, and adults come to know the saving power of Jesus Christ. That alone makes VBS worth it!