Ready or Not, Here Comes VBS! Churches Prepare for Annual Family Outreach

 In All Church of God, CHOG, Loving and Serving

By Carl Stagner

Like it or dislike it, ready or not, here it comes—VBS season! Dawning at the end of May and into early June is one of the craziest, coolest, most meaningful, most stressful, most life-changing seasons of church life for children and families in various locations across the country and beyond. Promos are popping up on Facebook feeds everywhere as marquees and flyers are teasing clever and compelling titles like Keepers of the Kingdom and Monumental (among many others!). Budgets for Warner Press and Oriental Trading Company have been exhausted, snack boxes are piling to the ceiling in church kitchens, volunteers are assembling with fear and trepidation, and choreography for several fun—and sometimes cheesy—songs is adding physical flexibility to many a director’s résumé. Thankful for each loving and potent VBS making ministry possible to people who otherwise might not set foot in a sanctuary, the Church of God movement gives God the glory for what the Spirit will again accomplish through fun, food, music, and a message, from coast to coast, all summer long.

At Church of God congregations from coast to coast, Vacation Bible School has long served as a means to community outreach, congregational engagement, evangelism, and discipleship; for many churches in 2024, VBS remains a valuable tool. Sometimes the numerous volunteers required to pull off a great VBS leads to widespread fatigue in the aftermath of a busy week of wacky and wonderful activity but, as numerous leaders have discovered—and as untold children whose lives have been changed for the better know firsthand—the spiritual dividends are worth the investment.

Norton, Kansas, claims one of the earliest Vacation Bible Schools this year. Monday through Thursday, for two-and-a-half hours, targeting four-year-olds through children in sixth grade, First Church of God jumped at the chance to catch students immediately upon their relatively early-in-the-year dismissal for summer vacation. With schools letting out on May 16, the Norton congregation declared, “All kids welcome! Let’s celebrate the good news with Jesus!” Start the Party is the curriculum they opted to utilize in their effort to spread the gospel to children and their families.

Photo: Imaginative VBS setup last year at Church at the Crossing in Indianapolis.

Even earlier in the year, Tulare, California, offered locals a great option for VBS this year, too. Several families enrolled their children in Hero Hotline: Called Together to Serve God as a spring break opportunity. Thinking “outside the box” has been helpful to the California congregation on a number of occasions, enabling the church to maximize effectiveness in outreach and broaden the scope of possibilities.

Though not happening until July, CS First Church of God in Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania’s excited again to partner with other churches committed to reach the next generation with the gospel. Even across the dividing walls of denominations, they work with other churches and utilize each other’s facilities (and sometimes a local park) to host the event, distribute the weight of responsibility, and pool resources to produce the best results. Jesus is truly the subject for such an endeavor and the entire process is a beautiful display of Christian unity.

Over the years, Church of God congregations have put their own spin on Vacation Bible School, keeping the community and volunteers on their toes, and adding special appeal and priming the pump for greater impact. Several years ago, Main Street Church of God in Anderson, Indiana, took VBS “on the road” to a local apartment complex instead of expecting the community to come to them. South Side Church of God in St. Louis, Missouri, has found success designing VBS especially for children with special needs. On the other side of the state, karate has been a unique feature of the Vacation Bible School programming at Southside Community Church of God in Joplin. VBS has a history of reaching families on the Navajo reservation of northeastern Arizona through the Klagetoh Shelter Mission, and in Atlanta, Georgia, a homeowner’s garage was used as a safe and welcoming setting for VBS instead of the traditional church property. In 2019 at the Church of God Convention, it was a VBS-style ministry that invested in children of pastors, lay leaders, missionaries, and other guests of the Orlando, Florida, gathering.

What creative approach has your church taken with VBS? Any special programming this year? How has VBS had an impact on your life? It certainly has for former CHOGnews associate editor Kevin Spear. Check out his witty and heartwarming blog post and cartoon he shared a couple years ago at https://kevinspear.com/cartoon/vbs-gusto. Share your own VBS story at https://cgm.formstack.com/forms/sharethestory.

Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.

Feature (top) photo: VBS 2024 at First Church of God in Norton, Kansas.

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