The best and the worst of times… banners furrowing on every block…. Whether it’s Weird Animals, Spies, an Adventure, or …. the summer season of VBS (Vacation Bible School) is clearly full speed ahead! Should it be? Or are we wasting our time, and resources? The debates are raging… Taking on the sacred VBS issue, may just cost my life as a youth pastor :)
Multitudes of churches spend countless hours preparing, training, decorating, cooking, singing, and hosting, to what end? Are we achieving anything that lasts? Yes and No
Current day reality from a 30 year VBS veteran:
- o Registrations are record highs and lows…. Interest, busyness, location, cost, …;
- o Less churches are hosting… Curriculum developers are laying personnel off as less units sell;
- o A % of non-church Attendees often go from church to church to obtain free child care.
- o Budgets bust as curriculum, prizes, food, crafts…. Expenses increase while line items freeze;
- o Debates emerge over: curriculum choice, who to include, free registration or charge, … even to eliminate.
- o For most sites, New Technology is not being incorporated to fully use designer’s resources. Disappointing, since most current curriculum is very relevant, fun, and engages kids!
- o Church attendance is dwindling. Only a few venues that host VBS get positive connection results. How many families has your church added as a direct result of VBS?
- o Security and Safety take a great deal of thought, time and effort to be done correctly.
- o Discipline of kids is the LARGEST challenge for staff, and volunteers.
- o Most venues offer VBS as part of tradition, rather than _________________.
Before you throw VBS away, consider 7 points:
1)First and largest hurdle: The race for volunteers often peak without satisfactory results. At least 68 out of our 124 traditional churches @ 3C are hosting a VBS. ¾ of those hosts are given no option to NOT have VBS, and are woefully understaffed to accomplish a VBS. Begging, pleading, double dipping …. A great deal of effort to get adults “fired up” to be involved. Why is it so hard?
In contrast, Kids Games (sports centered faith based camp) and most Community VBS (where a number of churches network together) are fully staffed. We are better together! Plus the majority of these volunteers, are ministering during the course of the year too. They are well trained with well defined job scopes. They know their strengths, and are fully plugged in to use their gifts!
Equipping and empowering volunteers is also Job 1. Many of our 3C volunteers have come from other ministries, where they felt controlled, micro-managed, and were not allowed to blossom. Knowing volunteers well, trusting them to the fullest, and letting them run aids in a great deal of work done!
Kidsgames’ volunteer staff is also a 67% men to women split. In tracking, most traditional VBS over the last decade-where are our men? If VBS is so critical, why is it not attractive to most of our male teens and adults?? Not talking about those that are strong armed… Getting men involved can hook whole families. Center on Interactive, sports centered, male themes…. “ Man up”!
2)Secondly, the real first priority… Is your team evaluating how VBS fits into the church’s overall mission and strategy? The faith communities that are healthy and growing are focused on connection and discipleship. Remember “the great commission”? We are called to make disciples. Christians are thrilled when their efforts result in lasting impact. If VBS fits the bill, then alright!
Is VBS a stand alone event? Is there follow up with Kids? Parents? Volunteers? What are the specific goals of VBS? Is VBS an all out teaching highlight? Part of ongoing instruction? A stepping stone.. Is everyone involved with VBS aware of the mission? Their role? Even if the purpose of VBS is to build a network of churches, or to develop a team… Be clear and specific. Feedback, and a thorough evaluation to improve the next experience remain critical too. Plus we celebrate what we value-honor volunteers!
3)Next, are we focusing on excellence? Faith communities should do things the best, since Jesus is the best! Students, parents, volunteers, ….. everyone knows when things are done to a minimum,and/ or just thrown together. Don’t we all want to be part of something that is hard to surpass?
Short on budget? Even if your faith center is a lone wolf, 2 dozen other sites are doing Weird Animals… get in line to use their decorations, props, costumes… We can be better stewards! Drop the pride and the competitive spirit, we are all in this together, ASK!
4)Another important cue: Are we having FUN? Not just the kids, but the volunteers? Is VBS bringing joy to everyone involved? Do songs, games, kind words, stories, teachings, …. remind us of pleasant memories? Are they sticking with us all summer and beyond? Burning volunteers out on VBS, when you need them all year can be too high of a price.
5)Still with me? Don’t water down the curriculum! Use all of it, or none of it… Don’t pick and choose because a lack of volunteers, resources, technology, or …. Curriculum developers are the time and tested educators, who have spent ALL year putting their packages together. Disappointing or boring kids should result in an immediate shooting of the VBS director.. While everyone needs to put a personal mark on their VBS, it’s best when every aspect is super!
6)The next pet peeve: Pay for the copyrighted material! Copying without paying is theft. It can be very expensive, but with adequate planning and sharing, it will work. We want God to bless our VBS, or whatever ministry we are working on, so play by the rules.
7)Lastly, Kids are important! Our next generation of faith! Consider other and ALL options to achieve faith goals ( praying and hoping for soooooooooo many churches to be open, honest, and allow examination).
Don't we all want to cling to fond memories, kids long grown, and past faith achievements? Not to over play the Disney Song, yet very appropriate… we need to be prepared to “Let It Go”, no matter how beloved.
If your faith community is not receiving results, there should be a loud outcry to not waste another dime. Valiant efforts can be lauded; however, acknowledging that VBS may just be a satanic drive to keep us overworked, and distracted from what will work, can be key.
Being honest and open about our church condition can be a preeminent tool in making progress. Change is inevitable, and our culture is warping at break neck speed.... the message of Christ is still relevant, life transforming... changing the method to connect doesn't water down his plan.
- What will be effective in bringing others to Christ?
- How can our children be effectively taught ALL year long?
- How can we create communities of disciples?
- What strengths does our faith community possess? Resources?
- Where is God moving?
- Are we bringing God’s kingdom to earth?
- Are we having an impact on our community?
- Would they notice if our faith community was gone?
Originally VBS was designed to prevent the student summer slide, and to attract outsiders to the church. VBS has served many faith communities well. Others not so much.. Family connection events, straight out 1 on 1 modeling/discipling, and missional communities can be a more effective means to expanding Christ’s message. Where do you want to spend your time? Let’s LEAD, and be about God’s work!!!