Lately, I feel like churches are re-evaluating doing VBS. Maybe they are just tired or have lost their vision. I used to work at a church that for a time made decisions around whether staff members “had energy around that event”. We cancelled a lot of programming during that season and lost a tremendous amount of momentum and people. It became a cautionary tale for me as I moved forward in ministry. It can be a big temptation to cancel things that require a lot of time and energy especially during a season with many distractions and demands. Perhaps these reasons will refresh your vision and strengthen tired hands and feet!
Why do a VBS?
- Pray about it and see if God is calling you to do it. Does God want to work through VBS in your community? Are there people you know that need an on-ramp to your church that doesn’t feel nearly as intimidating as walking through the front door on a Sunday morning? If He wants you to do it, do it.
- Events lead to steps. I can understand wanting to be driven by steps instead of events. Events can just be one time things and you want to be a church that walks with people in relationship over time. But I also think that sometimes events lead to steps. A good friend of mine, who is a Children’s Ministry Director, finds that every year during VBS kids enter their church for the first time, find Jesus, and are changed. The event leads to steps that are eternal and change the life course of their family story.
- Kids invite friends who wouldn’t be caught dead attending on a Sunday morning. It is hard for kids to know how to begin conversations that lead to evangelism. We still need to encourage that but VBS can create an environment that makes it so much easier for kids to engage in. Once their friends are in the building, it can seem natural to point out things they have done, which classroom they go to on Sunday, and share a place they feel is home.
- Kids build different relationships at VBS than they do on Sunday morning. As much as I wish this wasn’t true, it is. I wish that Sunday morning we had more time, that we could be a bit more crazy, that we had more kids show up from our community, that we could be a bit more flexible but sometimes it is just not possible. Somehow, because those things disappear during VBS so do some of the internal walls kids have up on a Sunday morning. They give themselves more space and reach out a bit better. They cross into relationships and begin to share life with each other when they see each other every day.
- Short-term opportunities to serve in children’s ministry gives people a chance to try it out. Sometimes those who are under-the- radar children’s ministry people, give it a try. VBS is only a week. Surely you can do anything for just a week. And they find out that they love it. They realize that it is life-giving and tons of fun to work with kids. New volunteers are born.
- Teen volunteers can be developed into leaders. This is a great reason to do a VBS. We need to raise up a new generation of older kids who see themselves as children’s ministry volunteers. That can be done by working with your youth pastor to identify teens serious about their faith and who want to work with kids. So often serving at VBS has been a life-changing moment for realizing a love for children’ ministry that continues for years to come.
- The larger church body connects to children’s ministry in a different way. Our children’s ministry wing was in the basement. I did the best I could but people were not drawn into seeing what we were all about. But VBS did. We advertised for it. People saw tons of kids in the building during the week and they got a little bit bigger vision for children’s ministry at our church.
- The community connected to our church in a different way. People consistently drove past our church and never really saw us. Then one day they noticed the big VBS sign and brought their kids. We had opportunities to engage them in conversations and build new relationships with them. That was huge for us. And for them. Suddenly we became a face, not just a sign. We became a place, not just a building. Which I think is an enormous first step in any relationship and one we all long to do with our community.
Laura Elliott is the Editorial Director of Pioneer Clubs. She has experience in teaching (7 years), editing (16 years), children’s ministry (30 years), and being a mom to three kids (18 years). She loves thinking about how to introduce children to Jesus , and how to partner with parents and the church to create an environment in both places where dynamic faith can grow.