I love Vacation Bible School. I know that sounds strange coming from a person who isn’t the slightest bit gifted with children. I don’t teach in VBS; I don’t do crafts in VBS; I don’t do recreation in VBS; I don’t do music in VBS. In fact I barely even bump elbows with children in our Vacation Bible School.
So why do I love it so much?
I can see Vacation Bible School from a different perspective. This week, during our church’s VBS, I couldn’t help but notice that the ministry of VBS can actually go beyond its main purpose, which, of course, is to share the gospel with children.
Here are 3 often overlooked ministries of a vibrant Vacation Bible School:
1. Ministry to Adults. I can vouch that not all parents with children want to work with children. For the past three years I’ve taught an adult VBS class while the children are in class. This year I’ve seen relationships formed between parents, other adults in the church, and newcomers in the church that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Those bonds created during VBS will most likely carry on long after the closing program.
→Put it into action: Offer an adult VBS class and specifically invite parents who are new to the church, parents who haven’t come to church but are bringing their children, adults without children in the home, and parents who have older children plus babies or toddlers (if they’re not working in VBS they will welcome the break for adult fellowship). Focus on a discussion-friendly setup, which will open the door to new relationships being formed in the class. Have a few parents in your church committed to the class to ensure multiple potential for connections with guests. Allow parents to observe the opening services before the class begins so they can see what their children are doing and feel more of a connection with the VBS and the church as a whole.
2. Discipleship opportunities. One night as I was headed home in the dark, I drove by a dad in our church walking another boy to his home a few blocks away. It touched me that he went out of his way to watch out for this boy’s safety and to invest in life-giving conversation along the way. Just as these two don’t normally cross paths frequently in normal church activities, I saw other relationships being built between adults and youth, adults and college students, older adults and young adults, and older youth and older children. Whether these spiritual mentors are teaching them or simply working alongside each other, discipleship opportunities are ripe to emerge.
→Put it into action: Strategically place youth, college students, and adults alongside one another in specific areas of VBS, such as crafts, recreation, the kitchen, registration, and security. By placing those of different ages and backgrounds alongside one another, relationships are ripe to form and both friendships and unscripted mentoring can occur.
3. The Ministry of a Fully-Functioning Body. My heart swells when I see the diversity of spiritual gifts and talents being exercised at VBS. Those gifted in teaching children prepare for hours and excitedly welcome each child to class. The ones gifted in music, recreation, and crafts lovingly work with each child in the church. The nurses are available for every ache and injury. The ladies and gentlemen in the kitchen work hard to provide food for the workers and children. Those with the gifts of hospitality make the parents and children feel at home. Those with the talents of photography, administration, and other strengths play their role. Watching this relatively seamless blending of spiritual gifts for the greater purpose of sharing the gospel with children and families is a beautiful picture of the body of Christ at work.
→Put it into action: In preparing for Vacation Bible School, communicate with your congregation that help is needed in all areas, not only teaching of children. As everyone exercises their own areas of gifting, they can know they were a part of this ministry just as the teachers do. And just like what was mentioned above, relationships can be formed that build the unity of the church, with everyone uniting around a common goal.
Vacation Bible School is one of the best outreach tools many churches have all year, so let’s not stop at seeing it as an outreach to children only. By ministering to adults, developing relationships across the ages, and functioning in all areas of God’s varied gifting, we can see it as the multi-faceted disciple-making tool that it is.