VBS in the 21st Century
by Bob Dasal
Many of us have fond childhood memories of Vacation Bible School. Multiplied thousands of people made their decision to become Christians during VBS. Times have changed and the way VBS is held has evolved, but the importance and impact have not. It has been more than forty years since my first VBS. Back in the fifties the schools would last for two weeks, were always held in the morning, were for children age three through high school, and the refreshments were always cookies and Kool-Aid. All that has changed. Most schools today are for five days, are held in either mornings or evenings, include classes for adults, and the refreshments are nutritious snacks.
The Bible schools I attended as a child always had three emphases: Bible study, missions, and crafts. That hasn't changed but the way it is done has been vastly improved. In the "old days" the three areas covered did not necessarily relate to each other. Today, most VBS curricula are designed to relate all the areas of study and activity to the VBS theme. Formerly, we did crafts to have something to take home. Today craft activities are designed as an additional teaching tool to reinforce the lesson. Bible study, missions, and crafts work together to teach those attending about God, His Word, and His purpose in their lives.
As you can see from our VBS Showcase there are wonderful choices of curricula to choose from. It's important to research each curriculum and its teaching approach to determine which is best for your church. Study them and prayerfully and carefully make your choice.
Some churches traditionally use the curriculum produced by their denomination. That's fine, but I found that others had produced material as good, and sometimes superior, to what my denomination produced. Many non-denominational churches look at the different curricula each year before making a decision. By researching all the choices available and understanding their different approaches to teaching, we were able to make a better choice and in turn conduct a better VBS.
Here is a brief description of approaches to teaching VBS that I'm acquainted with:
Age-Level Department Approach:
Age-level directors are enlisted for each age group. The directors in turn recruit workers for their departments. They prepare VBS for their groups using the curriculum. If it's a five-day school they prepare five different sessions.
The advantages to this approach are:
1. The teacher builds a relationship with the children over the week. 2. He/she can develop an awareness of which children are doing some serious thinking about their relationship with God. 3. Workers can be involved with the age level they want to work with.
Directors are enlisted for each lesson that is to be taught. Each director in turn recruits workers, who prepare one basic lesson for the whole week. They modify that lesson each day according to the age group they are working with. The advantages to this approach are: 1. Only one basic lesson to prepare for the week. 2. A new group of children each day, resulting in fewer discipline problems. 3. Fresh expectancy each day on the part of the children.
The enlistment of the VBS director or coordinator is the key to a successful VBS. To all of you who are (or have been) VBS directors, thank you. Thank you for serving in a position that affects so many lives and will certainly have eternal consequences. VBS 2004 offers churches a tremendous opportunity to evangelize and disciple. This includes not only children and youth, but adults also.
Prayerful planning, inspired leadership, faithful workers, and the right curriculum can result in the best VBS ever in your church.