There was a time, not too long ago, when summers were extended, and unstructured days provided endless adventure from first light until long after interest had been lost in capturing an endless supply of June bugs and fireflies. Except for a short visit to grandparents or cousins, one day usually seemed much like the other. Vacation Bible School gave kids and parents alike something to anticipate. Just one of the simple pleasures of summer, muck like the unmistakable sounds of an approaching ice cream truck.
Now, with kids dividing their days between multiple homes, schools starting earlier each year, little league teams for every interest, enrichment programs offered by every school, library, and museum, fitting in summer’s simple pleasures become a little harder each year.
While they may be entertaining, educational, and socially developing, there is no denying that the many opportunities children have today can insure the summer schedule remains every bit as packed as during a school term. Why then, with so many choices, should parents make sure Vacation Bible School remains a priority on their child’s summer schedule?
To start with, like many of the great summer programs offered by schools and community organizations, VBS is a well-rounded activity that is entertaining, educational, socially developing, and gets children off the couch. Packed with great theme-related music, crafts, recreation, and snacks, VBS is intentionally designed to create a memorably fun experience that is inviting and exciting for everyone involved, but is also wrapped around significant Bible study that transforms lives and takes them to a new level in their relationship with Jesus.
Each year more than three million people enroll in VBS, and thousands of lives are changed for eternity as their relationship with Jesus and the church is taken to a new level. Consider the impact VBS has had for these three children.
Maddie loved participating with her friends in the activities at her church, especially singing in the children’s choir. If asked if she was a Christian, Maddie would naturally answer yes since she had attended Sunday School and VBS since birth and knew all the answers to the questions typically asked by her Bible teachers. And then one day, while rehearsing a VBS song about the “ABCs of Becoming a Christian," Maddie realized she didn’t really know the Jesus she was singing about. Later that day, Maddie’s father had the privilege of leading his daughter to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Because of VBS a relationship with Jesus Christ became personal and changed Maddie’s life forever.
Justin, age nine, spent every minute he could get away with riding his bike around the neighborhood - from the moment he got home from school until his mom called him for dinner. During the summer he spent even more time riding bikes with friends, but he also made time for VBS where he received a wristband with the letters “A-B-C”. While riding one afternoon a friend asked Justin what the letters meant, and with bikes parked on the curb, Justin shared his faith and introduced his friend to Jesus. Because of VBS neither Justin nor his friend will ever be the same.
Alex was a great kid, but shyness made group activities painfully challenging. Even singing with other children during a VBS Worship Rally was more than he could bring himself to do. But all that changed one day as the kids started singing a song titled “Speak Up!” As the song continued Alex found his voice and he too begin speaking up and proclaiming his faith in Jesus. Later that day Alex asked if he could help lead the song during the final service of the week. With amazed excitement Alex’ parents watched as their son found the boldness to stand on stage in front of his family and friends. Because of VBS Alex overcame fear and shyness to become a bold proclaimer of Jesus.
While the names used in these accounts are fictitious, the stories are real. They represent only three of the many ways lives are impacted by Vacation Bible School. Through VBS children, teens, and parents - even those who are in Sunday School every week - are introduced to the Good News of Jesus and the One True God in fresh and creative ways that are totally distinctive from Sunday School.
A basic principle of VBS is that it provides sound, relevant Bible study that enables people to experience and respond to the gospel message in ways that are appropriate for them. At its core VBS is evangelistic.
Through VBS children are given the opportunity to explore God’s Word and make application that is personal and relevant. Whether the theme is character, courage, or being the heroes God made us to be, children are challenged with age-appropriate daily impact statements to live out the teachings of God’s Word. From being challenged to clean their rooms without being asked, forgiving siblings and friends, or sharing their faith in Jesus with others, children are encouraged to let the teachings of Jesus make a difference in their daily lives and relationships.
Summer’s simple pleasures: fireflies, ice cream trucks, and VBS. Great memories, but more importantly, with VBS – changed lives!
We're celebrating 90 - that's 90 years of providing the very best VBS curriculum, resources, and training - by going to the archives for ideas and advice that is just as relevant today as the day it was first printed. This post is an excerpt from a previously printed article by Jerry Wooley.