Friday, August 22, 2008

Good Question: What is the purpose of VBS?

What is the purpose of Vacation Bible School?

a. To provide daycare during the summer months when kids are underfoot

b. To introduce teen volunteers to the joy of teaching and doing crafts with little kids.

c. To bring the gospel to unchurched children.

d. To reinforce knowledge kids have already learned at church and at home.

e. To test the endurance and memorization skills of the adults of congregation (at least those without paying jobs that make them unavailable during the day).

OK, OK, it's c. And d, I guess. Or, that's how it started out. Just like Sunday School, VBS was begun as a way to bring biblical teachings to kids whose families don't go to church. (But are open to their children learning about Jesus, presumably, or they wouldn't let the kids go.) People tell stories of the church bus coming around the neighborhood to pick kids up for church and Sunday School. I guess that probably still happens, somewhere. But I think mostly kids go to church, or don't go to church, based on their parents' beliefs.

In my experience, VBS doesn't get many unchurched kids. (Remember I said in my experience. That doesn't mean someone else hasn't experienced something different.) I don't recall a single VBS experience in my 8 years of involvement with various VBSes where someone was exposed to the gospel for the first time.

In the VBS we just finished, the teaching was way below most kids' knowledge level, except maybe the 4-7 year olds. The 8s and up? Forget it. But mostly they seem to enjoy it; there are always some kids who are way too cool, till they find themselves having fun playing duck duck goose. They have fun with the songs and seeing the adults singing and doing those hand motions. The crafts were pretty good this year, because they involved paint. So it was a nightmare from a logistical standpoint but worth it in the end for what we produced.

Since we are Presbyterians, there is no altar call at the end. No one is asked to make a decision for Christ (is that the way to put it?). We send them home with, we hope, questions and a desire for further exploration. And their t-shirts, bracelets, promise boxes and new Bibles. And I guess that fulfills the purpose.

Oh and next summer? I'll be getting a job (see e above).


Mrs. Darling said...

Ahem! LOl

Okay our church bus swung through our neighborhood and picked up between 6 to 10 kids every night. We just finished VBS three weeks ago. We had over 400 kids, 350 which were bused in from either the inner city or way out in the country or even a few in middle class neighborhoods like mine. Only about 50 kids had parents attending church.

We do thsi on Sunday morning with a different bunch of kids. We bus in about 250 for sunday school. Our teens go ahead of the bus and wake up the kids cause their parents are often hung over or strung out on drugs. They go right into the homes that have been previously canvassed that week. (that means that other workers were already there and the parents said the kids could go on sunday but come sunday they are so drunk they cant get their kids ready) Our teens go in and get the kids ready and the bus arrives about 15 minutes later. By then the teens have knocked on the door of the next house that promised to send the kids. They always stay one step ahead of the bus so the bus doesnt have to wait.

Since you know the area you might be interested in our bus routes. We go to downtown Portland, the ghettos of Vancouver, Canby, Molalla, Oregon City and sometimes as far south as salem.

Each class is directed at the grade level the child is at. We had 70 sixth graders at VBS this year! Every child that is old enought gets told the story of salvation!

Soe children come with no shoes or no coats or snotty noses or head lice. Most are very hungry. Our church not only feeds the kids on VBS night but every sunday all 200 and some odd kids get fed lunch before they are taken home.

I just wanted to say that there are some churches like mine still going out to the hiways and the biways and bringing in the sheaves!

Marbel said...

Wow, Mrs. D! I should have known you would have a good VBS story to share.
Now that does sound like more of what a VBS should be for.

How big is your church? What is the size of your volunteer base? How do you find the attendees from such a big area? That is a big area to cover.

Mrs. Darling said...

We know where to go because we go door knocking every week in all sorts of areas trying to bring the people to church. So VBS is actually quite easy for us. Our church is about 800 with a volunteer base of about 200. Thats more workers than the average church would have but at our church we have a lot of people that believe in the work we are doing and that truly love kids and want to spread the gospel, Its lots of work, beleive me, but its all so worth it! :)

Marbel said...

Wow, Mrs. D, that is wonderful. Now I think if I was involved in a VBS like that I would be more enthusiastic about it. I have always gone to much smaller churches, 100 or so adults. We were bursting at the seams with 40 kids! Of course if they had been 40 kids who needed it that'd be fine. But your outreach is fantastic. We should be out hitting the pavement more, I see. We don't have buses but we have feet.

Pixilated Mum said...

VBS at our church is for about 50 kids. The children really love the music and the crafts. The church isn't in the best of neighborhoods, so the kids really enjoy a safe place to share about the Lord and do creative stuff that they don't get to do at school.

The amount of "enjoyability" depends on the theme, really. When we did "Bethlehem Village" a few years ago, my children LOVED it due to the history and the Christmas feel. "God's Big Backyard" was kind of ... eh ... whatEVAH. It depends on the theme and how willing the volunteers are to make the stories more personal and applicable to our daily lives.

I may think VBS is a little goofy, but I don't think I'm the target audience. My kids think it's a sweet time to share with friends.

Just my two cents!

; )