Vacation Bible School (VBS) is something I participated in as a child. I think I remember the cleverly decorated room, the sugary snacks, and the fun recreational games. Now, as an associate pastor, I help our church during this fast-paced week of children's ministry. Amidst all of the jumping and running children, the sun and planet decorations, and the tired volunteers, we have seen the following blessings from continuing to do Vacation Bible School.
- Training Time on Sharing the Gospel. Prior to VBS, our church held several training sessions for volunteers. We had about 25 adults come to the training. What did we focus on? Evangelism. What is the Gospel? How do I share it well with children? We used the "God's Special Plan for You" Tract available through the North American Mission Board (http://www.nambstore.com/products/sharing-gods-special-plan-tract-pkg-slash-25). The training provided a great opportunity to not only explore the theology and doctrine needed to faithfully communicate the Gospel, but also an interactive time of practice. Church members paired up and shared the Gospel with one another. Thus, VBS provided many of our members with an opportunity to do evangelism training and then put what they learned into practice.
- A Love for Children and for the Community. At our church, members are encouraged to invite friends and co-workers to VBS using a simple handout card. Members are taught to pray for and intentionally engage with their friends and coworkers, inviting them to VBS. This provides both the volunteers of VBS and the entire church with opportunities to love children and adults in the community. Thus, VBS helps to keep us outwardly focused.
- Adult and Children's Bible Study. The senior pastor at our church leads Bible studies for the parents of the children during VBS (which is in the evening to better accommodate parents' schedules). Thus, while the children are being taught basic biblical truths, so are their parents. They are sent home encouraged to discuss these truths further with their children. In this way, the efforts minister to whole families, including many non-Christians.
- Obedience-based Discipleship. Vacation Bible School allows our church to give about 25-30 volunteers opportunities to put their gifts and talents to work in hopes that children and adults come closer to Jesus Christ. For some, this is the creative and artistic opportunity of the year. For others, they enjoy using their gift of hospitality preparing food. Many of the teenagers have fun playing with the younger children at recreation. Finally, adults and college students (and even a few teenagers) have opportunities to begin teaching the Bible. As an associate pastor, it blesses me to have a week to observe volunteers in different serving capacities. I have a chance to evaluate their gifting.
- A Great Mission Field. The main reason for doing VBS is because of the mission field. The most conservative study I found indicated that 43% of those who profess Christ as Savior and Lord did so by the age of 13 (https://www.barna.com/research/evangelism-is-most-effective-among-kids/). Those most responsible for leading younger ones to Christ is their parents. VBS is an effective way for the church to come alongside the consistent efforts of parents and share the Gospel with the fertile mission field of children. At our church, we involve the parents as much as possible at VBS and share the Gospel with children as they express an interest. It truly is a privilege to be part of such great kingdom ministry.
For some churches the financial and time commitments VBS requires make it at least burdensome. However, for any church that prioritizes evangelism, missions, and discipleship for God's glory, this is a wonderful week of ministry with numerous benefits. I happily recommend the material from Lifeway (http://www.lifeway.com/n/Vacation-Bible-School?IntCmp=LWMain-VBS) for any church looking to get started.