Vacation Bible School: Combating the Silent Pandemic
As a church, we often forget that children need to be evangelized, too.
There is a silent pandemic that plagues our churches. Tiny chairs and dusty felts sit unused, forgotten in a Sabbath School room that hasn’t been touched in months, if not years. Rooms which were once filled with the sweet sound of toddlers singing praise to Jesus are quiet. Halls where little feet used to patter are muffled, scuffed by but a few feet. This pandemic is not a virus, but rather an absence of children. Our churches used to be filled with children, now, it is often quite the opposite. Families aren’t attending church anymore, and there are no families coming in to fill the silence left behind.
Children, in their sweetness, are a source of inspiration for church members. There is nothing quite like a child’s first realization of the sacrifice of Christ, or a song sang from the bottom of a child’s heart. As a church, we often forget that children need to be evangelized, too. It is for this reason that churches across the conference hosted Vacation Bible School (VBS) programs. To win a child to Christ is to lead a little one onto the path to heaven. That is the goal of every VBS program.
This summer, 41 churches held VBS programs all across Michigan, according to Sarah Canada, who is Children’s Ministries director for the Michigan conference. Most of the churches used the Mission Cruise program, produced by Canada for state-wide use. Several churches chose to use their own programs as well.
“Mission Cruise: Making Waves for Jesus” focused on God’s love for every individual, and His specific purpose for each child, a strong theme at a time when children and youth are rocked by the struggle to find their identity. Children across Michigan were impacted by the simple peace found in God’s love for us.
Canada says that sometimes the significance of the VBS program slips away unnoticed. Canada explains that we set aside thousands of dollars for evangelistic series, which is a good thing, but we forget that VBS is evangelism, too! “We have more visitors coming into our church for Vacation Bible School than for any other program across the year,” Canada says, “and the parents come, too!” VBS reaches not only children, but their parents, too. “We are missing children in our churches,” Canada says, “but we are also missing families. A lot of the people coming into our church do not have families… [Vacation Bible School] is one of the best ways we can bring children and their families into our church.”
One year, Canada led a VBS program in her home church which usually has about five children attending regularly. For their VBS program, however, Canada reports that over 100 children attended. “Anyone can do this,” Canada says, “you just have to be willing to try.” She further explains that everyone wants children in their church, “but we aren’t willing to provide programming.” In other words, if we want kids and families in our churches, there needs to be age-specific programming.
If there is someone who would like to start a VBS program, but is unsure how to begin, Canada recommends attending the VBS workshop which is held annually in February. At the workshop, Canada and her team shares tips on advertising, follow-up, organization, and budgets. No one has to start from scratch—programming is provided with step-by-step directions. Anyone with a willing heart can lead a VBS.
After the workshop, Canada recommends doing what several churches have already done. “They’ve been attending fairs and parades,” she says, “passing out flyers, or having a booth with games and crafts.” Not only does this advertise VBS, but it puts your church out into your community and establishes trust within the community—your church becomes a recognizable, trusted presence.
VBS is already a trusted event with which many are familiar. Some may have attended a program when they were a child, and so when a church chooses to hold a VBS program, “people would come to the church for a Vacation Bible School,” says Canada, “whereas they wouldn’t come for anything else.”
Because VBS attracts a demographic of attendees unique to children’s programs alone, it is important to make sure that the church follows up appropriately. “Our main struggle with VBS,” explains Canada, “is to get the children to come back.” To combat this, Children’s Ministries is sharing several follow-up tips on Facebook and Instagram. (Follow MisdaKids.org to access those tips and more).
One idea that every church should implement is to have church members “adopt" a kid from VBS. Share the child’s name, pray for them, and drop off a care package,” says Canada. The important aspect here is for the child to understand that the church is a caring place. In the package, the church member can include flyers for the church school, Sabbath School, Adventurers or Pathfinders, and any other age-specific event, "anyway to stay in contact with them and draw them back,” says Canada.
The church may also consider holding more age-specific events to draw kids, as well as families. Canada suggests parenting classes to bring in entire families, as well as other events, such as a back-to-school party, with free gifts such as pencils, paper, crayons—things that families may not be able to afford. She also suggests other seasonal events, such as ice-skating, bowling, or even “just a social event at the church they could come back to.” The idea is to bring children and families into contact with the church as much as possible.
VBS is truly an evangelistic series for children—praise the Lord for the 41 programs held state-wide and for the follow-up happening now. Keep the children who attended VBS this summer in your prayers as churches across Michigan continue to follow-up. If you or your church have follow-up tips, reach out to MisdaKids on Facebook or Instagram. Good ideas deserve to be spread. Happy evangelizing!