Water Cooler Wednesday- Not Your Mama's VBS

In a little over two weeks, we'll be deep into the Vacation Bible School season.  This annual event on most every church calendar brings excitement and some fear into many adults who staff and coordinate these events. 

When I was growing up in the church, VBS was marching in line with the flags and the bible; cookies and kool-aid; and those neat crafts that you could do with the dishwashing bottle (you know the blue water that you added oil to and it became a tidal wave!)
About 3 years ago, our children's minister at the time (Sherry Gray) became burdened that our VBS was only serving the purpose of ministering to the children inside the church.  We spent the largest portion of our children's ministry budget on VBS, yet we weren't reaching the kids of the community.  She had the vision to take our VBS out of the church and into the community.  We met (and continue to meet) at a local community center and have grown in our attendance and reach in the community (250 the first year and almost 450 the second year).
It wasn't easy.  Some of our traditionalist were appalled at taking VBS and changing it.  It brought some hilarious conflicts to the surface (letters to the editor in the local paper, a phone call to the police department--because we were having games with food,etc).  But it was worth it to see the faces of these kids as they came through the gates each night.  Determined to go on--we did and we haven't looked back.

Here's what the Standard Publishing site says about the Summer Camp material

Why should I choose CAMP for my church?

It’s kid-tested, and kid-approved!
It’s a volunteer recruiter’s dream!
It’s written by Children’s Ministry expert, Tracy Carpenter
It’s completely customizable, all files are on CD-ROM
Meaningful experiences in every session!

All of it is true! We probably have more people involved in this VBS than any other we've ever staged. Men are a big part of it as they help in cooking, recreation, set up, security and small groups. It's no longer jus the ladies doing VBS. We do it from 5:00 (feeding the kids) until 8:00pm Mon-Thursday night. On the final night we'll do a big dinner for the parents,feeding close to 600, and then finish up with a presentation of the gospel to the parents while the kids finish up in recreation. Our big finale is a MESSY game which finishes with the local Fire truck coming to wash the kids down. Granted, it's not a pretty-VBS, but we have people talking about it for months. It gets us outside the walls of the church to meet people and form relationships.

I don't think we'll ever head back to the days of the stand up, sit down chorus.

This post is part of Water Cooler Wednesday over on Randy Elrod's site, Ethos. Check out what other creatives are talking about.


marina said...

Sounds like your church really gets it - I've been a part of a few churches who used VBS in a similar way, as a community outreach event. I don't think I'd let my kids even be part of an exclusive, for Christian kids only event. That's pointless.

Audra Krell said...

Hi Jim,
Love this post! What great ideas for taking VBS out of the box. Keep up the good work.

Pat Callahan said...

Love the firetruck coming and hosing the kids down! That's awesome!!!

I'm gonna add you to my link list, bro... if you want, I'd love a link back from you.