It’s VBS Season in the Kidmin World. I know it’s not even February but I promise you, ask just about any Children’s Pastor or Children’s Ministry director what they are doing this month and I can almost guarantee that their answer will be, “Getting things ready for VBS.” Whether that means picking the theme, getting their team together, resourcing from other members of the kidmin world or finalizing that budget, VBS is on the mind.
However, increasingly I see the question being asked, “Should we do VBS? Is it worth it? What do you do?” There are some legitimate concerns that prompt the asking of these questions.
- VBS as babysitting – Some are concerned that VBS is simply a free babysitting service that churches offer to parents in the summer. They think that because they see parents who enroll their kids in every VBS that every church has to offer all summer long.
- VBS as outreach – Others ask, “It is really outreach? Does it bear any fruit?” Sure, there are “decisions” made for Christ at almost every VBS every year often by the same kids if we are completely honest, but is that really answering God’s call to “make disciples.”
- VBS and the budget – VBS is expensive, both in terms of money and time. Curriculum, materials, food, use of the building all cost real money and volunteers, planning, marketing, registering, and hosting require a lot of time.
And the list could go on. And heated and passionate debates usually follow. There are people who see VBS as the highlight of their Kidmin calendar. They can’t imagine going without. There are others who see it as the low point and wonder every year, “Why do we even do this?”
Then there are some who find creative ways to “get around” the VBS rut by doing things differently like hosting a series of mini-camps on weekends, offering Family VBS, doing mid-week activities to replace VBS, or going into neighborhoods and doing a true outreach with their VBS (going to the people, not asking the people to come to them).
No matter what side of the VBS equation we come down on, there are some things that we should keep in mind as we plan our event.
You see, I’m not sure there is a “right” answer that should be blanketed over every single church. There are right answers, but we need to carefully pursue them for our community, our context and our situation. I truly believe that if we are to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world today (the church as a whole that is), then we probably shouldn’t all look like hands or feet. We should probably together look like the body of Christ.
Here are four things we can do to ensure we are doing VBS the way God would have us do (or not do) it.
Define Your WHY – Why are you doing VBS?
This is important because it will drive everything we do. It becomes the filter that everything else passes through. When our Family Ministry Council decided to do a Family VBS, we wrote down our “whys” and ended up picking the first example written here. That “why” helped us plan everything we did because we knew our what our goal was. It wasn’t ambiguous or wordy but a clear, short reason to help us choose what was best for our community.
Ex: To give families a distraction-free place to interact with one another around faith formation.
Ex: To provide a place for families to grow deeper in their faith with one another and in community.
Ex: To offer free, fun activities for the children of the church and community to be together
Refine Your WHAT –What will your VBS involve?
A traditional VBS is a week-long, two to three hours each morning or night, and kids are dropped off. It is volunteer heavy, usually a snack is involved, media and music have an important presence, and crafts and teaching are inherent in the programming.
Using our WHY as a filter, we asked, “How does this traditional format line-up?” For us, it didn’t work. We had to think outside the traditional VBS box. So we asked a new question.
WHAT then is needed to make our VBS fulfill our Why? Once we had our Why, we could then list out our needs. For example, we needed to have a meal each night so parents didn’t have to cook and feed dinner to their family before coming. That meant we needed to find a way to make that happen within our budget (so lots of donations) and our volunteer base (finding people to run the kitchen). Our Why became what helped us define our needs.