Fairly recently, Barna completed a study of Vacation Bible School (VBS) programs. The most dramatic of findings – the prevalence of VBS programs has declined from 81% of American churches in 1997 to 67% of churches in 2012.
What are we to make of this statistic? Is VBS a dying program? Should we jump off “the old bandwagon” and get on with some new form of children’s ministry?
I don’t think so. I think this information forces us to do one important thing that we should always do – ask why. In this case, ask ourselves the question – why do we conduct VBS? If we just do it because we have always done it or because everyone else does it, then these statistics give us reason to follow the trendline and stop. But if there is some other way in which this ministry fits in with the broader purpose of our ministry to children, then we strengthen our conviction and press ahead.
So why do we host a VBS program? I believe our purpose is consistent with that of many churches – a) it is a program that takes some advantage of our children’s “extra” time in the summer to give them some additional Christian education and b) more importantly, it is an opportunity to engage the children and families of our community so that they can hear the gospel message.
If this is our purpose, then we should ask ourselves – are we doing everything possible to fulfill this purpose? Are we fully engaged in getting our community engaged into our VBS program?
In some ways, this is a program-design question, we have taken several measures to engage the community around the church: a) we have flyer’d the neighborhood through Revitalize, Tuesday night outreaches and Love Wins, b) we have designed engaging activities for the 5:30-6pm pre-portion of VBS each evening including a Bounce House and Free Meal and c) we will have a hospitality area to meet and greet the parents of kids attending VBS.
In other ways, this is an individual question, are we all engaged in inviting our neighbors and/or kid’s friends to VBS? Have we reached out the other families who have are only occasional church-attenders, to encourage them to bring their children to VBS?
Our purpose can only be accomplished if we are “all in” together. So let’s not make VBS a dying breed at Glory Chapel, but let’s engage our respective communities and create an opportunity for the gospel message to be heard. Let’s pray with the apostle Paul, “At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison- that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.”