AreÃ‚Â these isolated occurrences or the beginning of a new trend? Several years ago, leading churches like Fellowship Church and Saddleback church ditched VBS as we knew it.Ã‚Â Their replacements? Shiney new events like Adventure Week and Summer Spectacular! They’re still pretty much VBS, just with a fresh and new approach.
I’m curious. Are there many others in your area doing this? We did. For many years I used LifeWay’s VBS curriculum as I loved the great themes. Then one year there was a theme where I wasn’t wild about the name… so I tweaked it. Now we still used the theme, curriculum and everything else, we just had a slightly different name. It helped a little since down our road it seemed that every church was doing the same theme, our stuck out a little more. I did this for a few years until I relocated.
At my new church I was feeling brave, so I decided to ditch the name VBS. I know, this may be your church’s “sacred cow.” I think my grandma did VBS… she’d be horrified to know that I wasn’t doing it. Actually, there are definite pros and cons to changing the name. The pros are that many people in your community know VBS, they understand it and it takes nothing to explain what it is. It’s an iconic event that nearly promotes itself. However, the cons are that many people may associate your VBS with whatever bad experience they may have had at church. Some of those who are truly lost certainly won’t understand what V.B.S. means and when you spell it out, Vacation Bible School isn’t exactly zingy!
So, like I said… I ditched VBS and created Venture Quest. Sounds fun, huh? Yeah, it is! For the first two years of doing Venture Quest, we just used LifeWay curriculum and tweaked the name again. Even after just two years, we only occasionally catch people calling it VBS as most know it only as Venture Quest. This year; however, we abandoned the VBS curriculum. We’re taking curriculum from other sources, piecing it together to make it work for Venture Quest.
So, I’m curious. Are others in your area reinventing VBS? Have you reinvented your VBS and if so, what is it called?
Join the Daily Dispatch!
If you're a kidmin content junky... submit your name and email and you will get the following:
• Daily updates from the blog
• Weekly blog summaries with exclusive content
• Access to amazing resources
ALL DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX!
My new church Keystone, we ditched it, but of course they never really had a VBS or summer event to begin with, so did we really ditch it? Anyway I am planning it, by using Fellowship’s Elevate Material. It lets us have the freedom and creativity do do some really cool things, but doesn’t break our budget, like Adventure Week might.
Interesting that you bring this up now. We are discussing the possiblity of some back yard Bible clubs instead of VBS because we are a mobile church. I’m not completely sold on doing it at this late notice but you have started a new thought in my brain. In our culture, VBS is still done by a few HUGE churches who can do things like bring in a carnival for their finally, so the smaller churches are not too appealing with their more traditional VBS. I think changing the name of it may help a little here, too. I have found at my past churches that we have not really gained families from VBS, it was more of a babysitting service.
This is what we are experiencing. We are small so can go all out to compete and really don’t see any new families, just families from other churches.
We are going to try a one day “VBS” in the park this year.
We stopped as well. We were putting lots of time and effort into something that wasn’t working. Being willing to stop something that isn’t working is very important. At times can be very difficult, but very important.
We still call it VBS, but we are in more religious town. I have often wondered about dividing the idea of VBS into two separate events. One could be an over-the-top outreach camp. The other could be more small group based over several weeks to digg some kids deeper in the Bible. It seems to me that we all try to use VBS as the ‘one size fits all’ summer event.
I’m in the same boat with Lori and Sam. We stopped doing VBS 3 years ago. As Lori referenced, we’re one of those big churches that can pull of a big bang… but at significant cost on my team and volunteers. The issue is (of course) not the strain on the adults except when we factored in the gain from the event. For a program intended to be an outreach event that would bring in ‘unchurched’ families, we were mostly just next ‘stop’ for the hoppers (a.k.a. families that hop from one VBS to the next throughout the community b/c it’s a free event, and who would turn down free entertainment for they’re kids?!?).
But I LOVE Pastor Lori’s idea. How amazing would it be if we equipped our families to have their own ‘mini-VBS’ in their neighborhoods? Imagine the relationships that could develop within that mini-community. Then you’re no longer limited by the capacity of your building. Puts a burden for outreach on the church… but isn’t it supposed to?
To answer Kenny’s original question… Yes, we have done some tweaking of the VBS concept. Our final year was called VBX (the Vacation Bible eXperience) with the tag line… “This aint your Gramma’s VBS.” It worked
Love this name and I would like to tweak it and use it too with a modified VBS-like program.
We gave up on the traditional “VBS” many years ago when there were fewer and fewer volunteers each year and dwindling numbers of kids. It was time for a refreshing change! We moved the time to the evenings to avoid conflicts with swimming lessons and little league and to open the way for working parents to participate. We invited the entire church to participate by asking them to come help carry out a single tasks. (ie: only prepare snacks, help with or carry out crafts, be a security helper, baby sitting for other helpers, be shepherds – talking with the kids, playing piano or guitar, or leading singing and being teachers) When the volunteers discovered they would not be responsible for everything (the old way), and that the Bible Camp (what we called it instead of VBS) would be in the evenings…then our volunteers young and old went from 14 to 114! We also changed how we presented the material from classroom style lessons or boring dramas to singing the lesson. We were tired of singing the same old songs every year! So we spent several months writing all new songs to match the Bible stories. We used mostly familiar tunes in the public domain and put new Bible inspired words. We worked hard to take care of rhyme and meter so the songs were easy to sing and learn. After Bible Camp we gave everyone a quick and dirty live audio recording of the singing times. This way they could keep singing all summer long. The result was that within a year the attendance went from about 30 to 40 to nearly 200! Many were friends or neighbors. The highlight and the draw was the singing time. This was the factor that made everything work! Some of the original kids are now college students and whenever they see us, they start singing the songs. The songs and the message sticks! A singing oriented Bible Camp takes time to develop – but singing works! After twenty years of writing new songs every summer, we have over 400 songs. Three years ago we started making professional cd’s of the songs so that those who come after us won’t have to reinvent the wheel. To date we have released 5 albums and have enough songs written to make 25 more! They can be found on biblestorysongs.com or ordered at Christian bookstores.
Group singing is fun and effective if you do a few simple things. Have two people leading the singing and teaching the hand motions, then itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not too overwhelming for the song leader. These two can pray and practice and work together with the piano and guitar players for a period of time before the Bible Camp. Then they become a team. If one fades and forgets something the other picks up the ball! Use an overhead projector or a computer projector and big bold type fonts to show the words on the wall. Holding a song book with words limits hand motions and other joyful involvements. Have the song leader give a short teaching time to explain the story and the song. Keeping it short is important to maintain the singing atmosphere and keep building momentum.
Don’t be discouraged in the beginning. It will take a little time for the kids to open up and sing if they have never done it before. It will take a few weeks for the song leaders to get over their fears of failure and of kids faces. Have happy parents and helpers and other young people sit with the kids – not on the back row as observers. Get the teachers to sing and then see if the kids can sing better than the teachers…boys vs girls…2nd grade vs 3rd grade…this side vs that sideÃ¢â‚¬Â¦etc. Try many ways to sing. Use rounds, sing loud and then sing soft, leave words out, stand up, maybe march around, sing the song backwards, even sing with no volume, let the kids all change places. Use the kids to come up and help lead the hand motions. Let them use a laser pointer to show the line or words being sung. Involve them however you can. Especially the naughty-ones, get them involved!
This is something that can spill over into the backyards and homes, not only in the summer, but all year long! Our kids could be found singing the songs as they rode their bikes or skated in the streets. What a wonderful and awesome event singing summer Bible Camps have become! We thank and praise the Lord!
I’ve really enjoyed reading the descriptions of your experiences. We’re a medium-sized church (about 275 or so people) and are thinking about going to a backyard Bible study concept as oppossed to VBS.
Have any of you seen numbers on the backyard concept as outreach? How about kids trusting the Lord? Any studies or clearcut comparisons that would help us make our decision? Thanks in advance!!! Skip Coulter
We re-invented VBS for our church two years ago. I did not like the name VBS or vacation Bilbe school. What kid wants to go to school on vacation. We began calling our VBS KIDZ WEEK. We run it like a typical VBS but rotate in large groups instead of having age graded classes. It has worked really well.
We’re doing regular family nights in place of VBS. The first one last week was well-attended.
I know this is an old reply but what does your regular family nights look like? Could you expand on this idea?
Ok so we are a fairly large church that is in community where our VBS event truly does reach families that may never come to church on Sunday. We average about 1000 kids at our event each year. We too have tried to change the name of our VBS two years ago but it has not “stuck” most people still call it VBS. So I find myself in the middle of a debate. Should we call it VBS or not? I can’t help but feel like it really does not matter. Kids are coming and God is being glorified does it really matter what we call it?
Would really like your input.
Honestly, I don’t know how much it really matters. If you’re seeing more than a thousand come, who cares what you call it. The main reason I’d consider changing would be if the name “VBS” is preventing the kids I’m targeting to come. I’d also consider naming it something else if it just blends into the white noise of everything thing else and the 40 million other VBS’ happening down the street. I’ve always chose a new name when doing a total reboot or starting one up.
So, the only question I’d really ask myself is, “Is what I call VBS keeping anyone from coming?” In some cultures and communities, the very name VBS casuses people to make associations with memories and they’ll hold their kids back. Just something to consider.
It doesn’t matter what you call your summer program as long as you are teaching the kids the truth. Look around! God created families, but Satan has tried to reinvent them. Many, many kids don’t have both a Mom and Dad to love them and to teach them about God’s love. Even Christians are divorcing like crazy, and they don’t know about God’s committed love. Kids still enjoy studying the Bible.We design our own VBS. This year it was “Let My People Go”. This was not somthing that every other church was offering. Make it special to fit your needs, but don’t leave God out of it. That’s the purpose of VBS – it is BIBLE school & the kids needs to be taught about God’s Forever Love!
We ditched the name VBS many years ago as it is a Religious and dated term. Our goal at VBS is to disciple the saved but also reach the unsaved so we wanted it to be as approachable as possible. We tried different names like Kid’s Adventure, just using the theme name, or calling it camp. In the end the most important thing was connectin with the community and the children of the church reaching out to their friends. Stay focused on what you are doing not what it is called.
This is my first year back directing VBS after 5 years. I have convinced a handful to help me reinvent the event! I’m not using a box VBS curriculum but rather a summer camp curriculum that I am familiar with and will use for resident camp later in the summer. The bigger change is that we are doing family style: Come and play together and pray together!!!! Families rarely have time to be a family so why not learn about the greatness of God at the same time?!?! I’m not sure my church “family” is 100% sold on the idea as it is NEW to all of them, even those from out of state and no one in our community has ever done one for the public…. But they are supportive. Need prayers for sure on this, but I have no doubt that God put this in my heart because it’s the right thing to do for our community/church at this time!
We did away with VBS for the first time in 30+ years last summer to try to refocus the ministry. We lost our ministry director in August and I took over in October. Right away the Lord began prodding me to do something for the children in our community over the Winter Break, so we (very quickly) put together a 3-day event that we called “Winter Wonderland”. We had this event on December 29-31 and had a little “New Year” celebration at noon with the children. When I began researching for some ideas, I could not find ANY churches that have done this. It was exciting to be one of the first to try this, but it meant that we had to make up our own theme and curriculum. Because of time this year we focused on the life of Jesus (and since the children had just celebrated Christmas, Jesus would be fresh on their minds). It ended up being an extremely cold and snowy week, with a lot of illness going around, but we had a nice turn out for it being the first time we hosted this and for it being a new concept within our community.
We are not doing away with a summer program all together, but I am hoping to transition away from the traditional VBS so these ideas have been very helpful. Thank you!
I am the VBS director at my church and am ready to give it up, I’m 70 and tired! I have been thinking about a winter program for some time now with no interest from our Pastor. We have a new one (pastor) now and your post encourages me to try again. In central Minnesota the winter can be long and cold…and boring. Thank you.
DO IT! Everyone does VBS. I do get asked why we don’t do VBS at my church. My first answer is, “We do VBS every Sunday.” My second answer though is, “Why would I do VBS when every other church in town is doing it… maybe even better than we would.” I say, BE DIFFERENT! I think you have an advantage there. So something unique in a “boring” season. It may take a few years to really catch on… but I LOVE IT!
We are a very small church smack dab in the middle of a large neighborhood. We are new to this area and hoping to reach out. We did not do a summer program this year but I am researching and preparing for a fall event of some sort. We are considering something like Wednesday to Friday night and then a Saturday picnic and fellowship time. I am loving reading these suggestions and ways others are doing things.
I have pushed our Church and gave up the name “VBS” also. I have run week long “Crazy Camps”, and for Two years we have written our own “Summer Blast ” event. It has been fun and well attended but really want something different again.
We can stick with Summer Blast, but want that DIFFERENT thing! I agree…so many churches hold big successful events that we could never do!
I have held VBC (vacation bible camp) in our town park for the past three years. It was different at first, but I am like most of you in the fact that we are getting the same hoppers. I am very interested in the Winter programs. Do you still organize similar to VBS? I have also thought about having more specific camps such as art camps; sports camps; etc. Any ideas of resources you can pass on would be greatly appreciated.
While reading these posts, the message that reached my ears and tugged at my heart was we should change the name VBS to something else because the terminology is old, boring, and conjures up bad memories. Also, VBS is not an effective outreach tool because the same children “hopped” from one church to another. Therefore, if I use the logic presented in the post and in the replies, I would say we should change the name of other events in our churches, too. Why don’t we change Worship Hour to Happy Hour, Bible Study to Scripture Investigations, and Prayer Meeting to Petition Conventions. Maybe we should quit having Sunday Morning Worship because the same people attend every week and we do not reach too many others in our community. Personally, I think the name of an outreach event and how it is organized are probably not relevant to its success. What is relevant is that the plan of salvation is presented and children are involved in the ministry. My advice would be to change your program to meet the needs of your community, pray without ceasing, and give God the glory when it is successful.
Laura, that was a weird comment. I don’t even know what your point was. I agree with your last sentence. You said change the program to meet the needs of your community. That’s what this post and so many of the comments were about. VBS (Vacation Bible School) has lost much of it’s relevance. Back in the 40’s and 50’s, VBS was where parents could send their kids to grow in their knowledge of the Bible. Today, parents see VBS in a fun and safe place to drop off their kids for a few hours. Culture has changed and if we’re not changing to reach a changing culture, we’re going to miss it. The truth is the same, methods can and should be adjusted.
During the summer, I’m not naming anything I want kids to come to “school.”
This is a good conversation we have going here, I love how people are reinventing something that’s been around for a very long time in order to reach a new generation of kids through summer programs.
Last year we did a one day field day, family day. had the activities and events focus around feeding the 5000. story, food and crafts and games and activities for the whole family. This was great, and I am trying to come up with ideas to move forward, but I still feel like we did not reach the community…This year I want to maybe look to doing a mini lock in for children, and maybe activities in parks local in our community to reach out to the community with lunch and story and activities for a day here and there through summer, like each week or something to that effect.
These are great ideas. We have not done VBS or a summer program for several years lack of adult interest to volunteer. So, I went to a brand new local apt. complex in our area. I ask if we could do a VBS for three days there in their community room for their residents with our kids? They were very happy to have us since it was for free. I started off with one volunteer and then I had 20 before you knew it! I used only curriculum free online, NOVO.MINISTRIES. It has worked out great. An outreach and VBS for our church. not as expensive since I cant bring in that much. so no decorations to make! we got t-shirts instead. and are making free lunches instead of snacks. ending with Wed. pizza party for kids and parents at the church witha slide show of kids. handing out old fashion certificates of completion to all. You might try that.
Best comment I’ve seen on this post. I love it Debbie. What a great reinvention of VBS. Rather than offer another VBS for suburban kids to attend (likely their 2nd, 3rd or 4th in a row) you meet a specific need in your community investing resources for a group that doesn’t get to participate in VBS. Way to go!
Love this post! We decided to step out of our church walls last summer and partnered with a neighborhood HOA to offer a week long Bible club and the HOA paid $200.00 towards supplies. Yes, the HOA PAID for the supplies!! The community HOA is responsible for participating in outreach events for the neighborhood and we were able to partner as an event. This summer they paid $400.00, which covered all supplies. We reached families and kids we could have never reached holding VBS at the church. Look at the needs of your community and think outside the box! I never dreamed an HOA would pay for supplies for an outreach event.
I left my e-mail on a site for women’s bible studies and checked a site for outside the box vbs. I do not know anything about gateway church but Findlay, Ohio has a gateway church where one of our children at ecc grew up to become a pastor at gateway when the ecc closed its doors (evengelical congregational church). gateway here is a large church. I am going to a united brethren church now. Churches that are somewhat similar to the methodist church where I grew up. vbs is still growing strong in the city of Findlay. When I was young vbs was 2 weeks long and maybe people do not have time to have long sessions of bible studies for children. Women work outside the home alot. I did not work outside the home but I am not good at teaching but I am a warm body who helped out at the ecc church as it was getting smaller and smaller and they did close their doors. God can use people who choose to work just a little bit. I am 75 years old but I have seen people older than I am who are still active in the church. I will tell others about thinking outside the box.
We ditched traditional VBS about 9 years ago now. We were transitioning between youth pastors which allowed for a perfect time to try something new. Our Senior Pastor found a Soccer camp style VBS that AWANA puts out. This will be our 9th year doing this. Our area is big into soccer so it brings about 200 kids every year from the community. Our church only has about 30 kids of their own in the age range that soccer camp reaches. So this is a lot of kids we are bringing in from the community. We have soccer drills, snacks, a lesson time, a small group time, and soccer games all in 3 hours in the morning. I’m on this site looking for new ideas though because after 8 years of something you do tend to want to try something different. However, those of you out there that haven’t done something like this and want to, check it out. Go to Awana.org for ideas. They come out with a new theme each year. The kids love everything about it.
I just saw this conversation and decided to make a comment (which I never do). We are a small country church and unfortunately getting smaller (70). We have been blessed to have VBS continue. Five years ago we had a family come to our VBS from a mobile home park. They started to visit on Sunday’s. That next year the Lord gave me an idea to have VBS at the mobile home park lawn. Well, the park office never responded. In the meantime I noticed, just down the road, was a really nice lawn right next door to the Fire Station. Boom! What if we had it there with a big tent and a couple small tents. I got permission and the first “4 – day Kids Club” was reality. Our theme was “Fire Fighters” by Truth Quest. God is amazing. We even got the Firehouse to bring over an engine and hose everyone down with water!! We have it in the evening 6:30-8:00 and serve a family meal on Thursday. All under the big tent. Remember we are a small congregation and it took alot of prayer and perserverance to get it together, but when God is at the wheel all things are posssible. We have had so many just walk from the mobile home park and nearby houses. I could go on and on but the main thing is we have reached many with the Good News of Jesus that may not have heard it to this day. Oh, and we also have 3 new children coming to our church from the Kids Club! Still praying for the parents.
After directing VBS with a friend of mine for a number of years, we felt we were running into the same problems as you. It can be frustrating doing the exact same program as the ten churches down the street, so we (along with our husbands) started creating our own. In addition to the usual lessons, games, snacks, crafts, we write and record our own music and create and animate cartoons. We have seen God do amazing things. Our church of 120 members has in attendance 100 kids during VBS. We then saw these kids return and our school year program grew to over 50 kids weekly.
We know VBS can be really costly for a lot of churches (especially smaller ones) so the Lord really laid it on our hearts to make our curriculum available for free. A few years ago we started our website, http://www.freevbs.net . There all our material is available for download.
I hope it will be a help and a blessing to some of you.
We are a small church in an area with multiple VBS options as well. And we typically have seen the VBS hopping thing go on, with most kids already attending some church. Last year and this we are doing a combination of Backyard Bible club type things. I am praying through doing a winter option of just a weekend thing. I feel like the Lord gave me a new idea of doing something between Thanksgiving and Christmas that would be a combination of a VBS type schedule (without the VBS name) and an opportunity for parents to do their Christmas shopping without the kids and/or date night. It would basically be a Parents Night/Day out with a more structured Bible oriented program for the kids dropped off. Has anyone out there done this type of combo before? I just think the need for parents is there, and sensed the Lord telling me non-churched families would be more open to their kids hearing the Christmas (and death/resurrection) story at Christmas time. I would love to hear from any one who hasn’t tried this or input/ideas on how it could possibly look.
I am from Gujarat, India. So encouraging to read the replies and to learn about newer ways being thought by various leaders for ministry among children. Since last six years we have been organizing and conducting VBSs in interior rural areas wherein churches have limited human and financial resources. Though we continue to use the traditional name we add lot of fun and creative activities to teach serious biblical values. From our experience we have learnt that children love to participate in activities which allow them to express their views freely. I would certainly love to change the name but in our context the name VBS is still more handy for raising interest among children. Participants range from 300 to 600 children. Yeah!! Almost a small school.
FALLING WATERS, W.Va. — On the first night of Vacation Bible School, the giggling campers lined up in a row for a relay race. Their task? Rub their faces in a plate of Vaseline, then stick their nose to a cotton ball and carry the cotton ball hands-free to the opposite wall.