By Jonelle Frazier
Whether you think it’s a spiritual blessing, a fun week of volunteering, or a (much-needed) break from your kids, you’ve probably had some experience with Vacation Bible School. Every year, local churches work long and hard to put together a week of summer fun and Bible education, each church adding its own flavor to the well-known week.
Jeannie Zier, the director of children’s ministry at Bayside Church of God in Safety Harbor, Florida, understands that VBS is created with a relationship-building purpose. “It is fun, high energy and attracts people into churches. In our ministry, we have found that VBS offers us an annual opportunity to involve many adult and student leaders, new and old, in serving in children’s ministry. It sets the stage for relationship building while engaging children and sharing the Word of God in a fun way.”
This year, her church put on an Everest-themed week at night, encouraging families and working parents to become involved with their kids. Zier’s church has used the week to focus on local ministry, as well as international ministry. “We take up a special offering during the week and some years we give the money to a local charity that supports families in the community; however this year we supported earthquake relief in Nepal as we chose the Everest VBS,” says Zier.
Pastor Stuart Kruse of County Line Church in Auburn, Indiana, has a special zeal for the kids at VBS. “Our mission and vision is to ‘Restore our communities with Christ…one life at a time.’ Each child that attends VBS is part of that one-life-at-a-time. And as we reach kids, we reach their families and it therefore begins to have an impact on our community…Our community is also getting to know County Line as a place that values kids and offers excellent programming to that end.”
This year, Pastor Kruse’s church put together a “Blast to the Past” themed VBS, getting everyone excited—even the volunteers. “We have volunteers beating down the door to volunteer each year. It has been established as such an awesome week of fun and outreach—done in an excellent way that people love to be involved.”
In Glendale, Arizona, West Side Church of God also put together an Everest-themed VBS for their kids this year. Pastor Mike Hodges sees West Side’s VBS as a way to minister to the beginnings of the community he lives in. “We are striving to ‘Be the Church,’ not just go to church, and VBS gives us another time to reach out and be part of our community. Whether these kids attend another church or not, we get a week to influence them and show the love of God, and one Sunday to invest in their families with our VBS Sunday worship. As these kids grow older, we pray they know there is a church close by that is a safe place for them to come.
West Side also uses small groups in order to better bond with the kids. Every year, the church’s close work with the kids leads a few more to know Christ. “Each Thursday night of VBS every year, we strive to share the story of the gospel and give kids the opportunity to receive Christ. Every year several have prayed to become Christ-followers,” says Pastor Hodges.
Some churches love VBS so much that they stretch it out over the entire summer. Salem Church of God in Dayton, Ohio, offers a unique experience for the kids that attend. “We refer to our program as Salemkids Summer Camp: “VBS all summer.” What we mean by that is that we only do one Summer Camp a week, for six weeks. It is about the same amount of curriculum, but we spread it out to avoid overload on our volunteer base, and to create a longer connection throughout the summer instead of one week,” says Kyle Hayes, children’s ministries pastor.
Salemkids Summer Camp focuses on letting kids experience ministry, service, and the love of Jesus. “So far this year a few of the most memorable moments have been seeing the kids carrying heavy water, cleaning up rice, and moving bricks just like millions of kids around the world are forced to do every day. We hope that this perspective will hang in the kid’s hearts as a catalyst for a future of working on the behalf of those in need,” says Hayes.
Reaching the smallest and “least of these” on Jesus’ behalf is one of the most admirable things a church can do. VBS, a tradition of fun, love, and ministry, is the perfect way to reach God’s much-loved little children.
Jonelle Frazier is a communication intern for Church of God Ministries from Austin, Texas. She is currently studying English and public relations at Anderson University. Learn more about the Church of God at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.