If you read that title of this post with an George Bush (the older one) accent it is pretty funny. In fact, SNL had some fun with that line. This idea of “not going to do it” relates to a question we get asked at Grace Fellowship quite a bit relating to vacation Bible school. Our children’s director, Erica (who is awesome at her job), and I often get asked why we do not do vacation Bible school at Grace Fellowship. This is a fair question and one we should be prepared to answer. I thought I would share in this post what I have shared with many privately.
Before I go any further, I want to be clear that I do not think there is anything wrong with doing vacation Bible school (VBS). In fact, there are some great reasons to do it. I am not saying the current churches that do vbs should quit or that they are fools. I just want to speak for why we at GF have said no until this point. I say to this point, because some day we may change our direction on the topic. And also for the record, I have (will continue) to send my kids to vbs at other churches.
That said, here are some reasons…
- There are several churches in the area that do VBS. Many of them do it well. There is normally one new hot curriculum out that all of these churches are doing. So for those who really long for this experience there are local places they can get it at.
- VBS is much more a home team event than an outreach event. Now hear me out on this. I am not saying people from the community do not come. But if you look at the hard data and really examine it closely, those who attend VBS are usually kids from the host church, kids from other churches and kids from the community. Statistically speaking the percentage of kids (and their families) who stick around at a church because of VBS is very small. I think we talk ourselves into saying it is an outreach event. I would say sort of. I know how this goes with things we do hear at Grace. For example, we do our Easter Eggsplosion. We have had as many 1500 people show up to play games and watch a helicopter drop eggs. But when you get down to it, the Eggsplosion is an outreach in the sense that it tells our community we are there and we love them, but yet very few people have come to our church as a result. Big numbers do not always mean great outreach and do not always mean new families will come to your church. So in my opinion VBS becomes an event primarily for churched people and mostly for the host church’s kids.
- Our church does some unique and ongoing things to minister to our kids that other churches do not do. Super Sunday, Kids Night In, Where to Next, Moms Day Out, and so on are regular things that our church currently does that take energy, planning and volunteers. These types of things consistently minister to our kids and serve our home team.
- Our church approaches outreach to the community pretty aggressively all year round. We definitely want to be the kind of church that reaches into the community. We have 6-8 regular outreach events a year like our Eggsplosion and parade blitz and wrapping paper blitz and so on that are focused efforts to reach our community. I note this because this type of outreach is the motivation for many churches for why they do VBS.
- VBS is a huge undertaking. That is the case at least if you want to do it well. You need lots and lots of volunteers. This does not mean that it should not be done, but it does mean there is a cost. Everything can not be done that is a good idea and so therefore you have to count the cost. We have chosen not spend chips here because if we did other things would be cut.
- Many people abuse VBS. I know this is not a popular thing to say, but VBS becomes glorified childcare for many parents. I know many parents who have already sent their kid 3 times to the same VBS this summer. While they may be thinking, I really want my kids to get it. I can not help but think that they may be seeing a night out at PF Changs.
- One of the driving forces for people who want VBS is familiarity. It is a tradition. Traditions are not bad, but they are also not a reason to keep doing it. Ministry needs to change with the times. We often need new methods.
I totally agree in that our church does an AWESOME job of serving our kids year round. So much so, that we haven’t even missed VBS! In the almost two years we have been attending, my kid/teen have both been very involved and are growing in their faith in various ways. The Outreach ministry is wonderful–and it obviously works, given how much the church is growing (and why we are there, thanks to being invited by another member). LOVE what Grace is doing–and I think the saying applies “when it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
First, I want to say that I appreciate the fact that you are so open and honest about this topic. VBS is a ministry that is near and dear to my heart because for me, and I believe my generation, this was a great outreach tool. Many times it was the only outreach tool utilized by the local church to reach younger generations. Today this is not the case. I worked with VBS ministry for many years where I would begin in December or January pouring over the materials, and work for months with 45 – 60 volunteers planning for the week long journey. And, I have to say that the experience still holds some of my favorite memories of church and doing God’s ministry. But, with sports and sports camps and all of the mariad of activities that children have an opportunity to involve themselves in today, VBS tends to become too time consuming for both volunteer and youth alike. The other thing here is that we are told to go out and tell people about Jesus – and as you so diplomaticly stated, this event has become mostly about serving the church and not so much the community. Poor use of resources, in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong – I love the youth of my church – so much that I give them hugs and tell them every chance I get. In the end I think that is the most important thing that we can give them. And then, I encourage them to connect their lives to Jesus and share it with others. This was the true original idea of VBS. In the end, things must change to stay relevant to the generation we are trying to reach. We just have to keep looking for new and creative ways of sharing Jesus with everyone we can. Grace does an excellent job of that. I am so proud of our church and of its leadership.