For some churches, summer is a wonderfully slow season. From September to May, we put a lot of energy into events, classes, programs, and gatherings. But when June arrives, we pull back a bit. Some programs go on hiatus, guest preachers make an appearance, and volleyball games happen around every corner.
But one summer activity is decidedly not slow-paced: Vacation Bible School (VBS).
The Costs are High
Veteran church members know that VBS is a huge undertaking. In addition to the financial expense, it takes an enormous amount of time, energy, and sacrifice from dozens of volunteers to plan and produce this week-long event.
Hosting VBS is not just costly, it is difficult. Many churches aim VBS invitations at unchurched families in the area. Caring for some of these kids and holding their attention is just plain hard. For volunteers, VBS week is physically and emotionally demanding.
What’s the Payoff?
Despite the difficulty, VBS would be an easy sell if you could guarantee immediate or dramatic results. But that’s not usually how the beach ball bounces.
Though we preach the gospel throughout VBS, we don’t see many professions of faith. The attitudes and beliefs of the children don’t change much over the week. In fact, the kids seem more focused on snack and outdoor play than anything else.
If the children within the church hear the gospel anyway, and the unchurched children aren’t listening or responding, we have to ask the obvious question—why are we doing this? Is our effort worth it?
Four Effects of VBS
My church runs VBS every year. Despite many frustrations and difficulties, I believe VBS is worth the cost.
1. Planting Seeds
Even though we do little harvesting at VBS, we do a lot of planting. We sow the word of God into the minds and hearts of kids who might not otherwise hear the gospel. We trust God to use his word as he sends it forth, and we pray for fruit.
2. Blessing Our City
Some parents see our church’s VBS as a free babysitting service. I’m fine with that.
If parents in our community know we will care for the physical and spiritual needs of their children, great! They learn to trust us, their children get to know us and our children, and we build a reputation as a safe place with open doors and love for our neighbors.
3. Building Unity in the Church
My church is small, so we can’t run VBS without help from most of our families. We end up with a great sense of teamwork by the end of the week.
We don’t have much time to talk during VBS, but we’re still building unity. We’re learning to trust each other, give in-the-moment help, and devote our complementary strengths toward a common goal.
There’s nothing quite like shared, demanding work to remind us what’s important and highlight our need for each other.
4. Building up the Church
If a child doesn’t know “church words,” can you talk to them about Jesus? Can you explain why his death is good news?
Because children can grasp the gospel, all our VBS efforts are aimed at sharing the gospel in understandable ways. Young parents face this task daily, but teenage helpers, single adults, and parents of grown children might need to learn (or remember) these skills.
Talking about Jesus in clear, simple words can remind us of the beauty and glory of God’s love. It can strengthen our faith and help us focus on the essentials.
Vacation Bible School isn’t mandated by God, and there might be good reasons why your church doesn’t or can’t host such an event. But each church should consider it. It is a great opportunity to bless your community with the love of Jesus.