VBS is a time-honored tradition in churches, and for many, is their single largest event of the year. VBS helps to bring unchurched families into our buildings and allows us to bring Jesus to children during their important formative years. So, what about VBS this year? What are we to do when we cannot bring them into our buildings?
Some churches are postponing VBS for a later date, in hopes the restrictions will be lifted in time for them to still hold a “somewhat traditional” VBS.
So what about VBS? Here are some challenges we may encounter in our churches with potential solutions.
Does your volunteer base rely heavily on retirees who may not yet feel comfortable in a group setting? Consider hosting extra meetings so that each one is a small number of people.
Is your community discussing decreased group sizes? You may need to look at reducing the number of children enrolled in your VBS.
How will you address social distancing? Masks may need to be part of your conversation as well as using tape to mark off areas.
If these considerations leave you thinking that VBS may need a different look this year, you are not alone. So where does that leave you?
A popular option many churches are considering is a virtual option. Consider uploading videos, music, and lessons to a website or social media, and encouraging families to participate at home. This approach, while likely being the simplest, is not without its drawbacks. Many churches are finding that families are not engaging with our digital content at the level we hoped for and may feel overwhelmed with responsibilities in this time. Will virtual VBS be just another bit of digital noise in our family’s lives? Or will it be a welcome reprieve from their day-to-day? Perhaps consider polling some of your regular families in your ministry and see how they feel about it.
If your church has already purchased your supplies, this may be your best bet. Providing paper copies of lessons, craft instructions along with supplies, and maybe even snacks is another great option to provide the material to families. This option allows for a bit more flexibility for families to complete at times convenient to them and allows for families who may not have a large stash of crafting items to participate fully. You may consider pairing this with some digital content and creating a hybrid model. Uploading lesson videos and music may make more parents feel comfortable sharing the lesson if teaching is not their gift.
This is a VBS format I considered years ago to create a more intimate approach. In this format, ask a few key families in your congregation to host a one-day VBS-style event at their homes. Provide each host family with a craft and supplies, game and supplies, lesson (either the lesson components or a pre-recorded lesson to watch dependent on the comfort level of the volunteer), music, and lunch or snack if your budget allows (maybe have pizzas delivered?).
You can provide the family with a list of children you would like them to invite, as well as encourage them to invite friends who may not be a part of your church. Please adhere to group size restrictions in your area. The host family then chooses a date and time that works for them (or uses a date predetermined by the church) and hosts something like a child’s birthday party. Pre-print church materials to send home with attendees with current worship information, as well as future church programming or calendar. For this option, you can either choose one day of VBS from the curriculum you planned to use or come up with another simple lesson with accompanying craft and games for families to use.
No matter what we choose to do this year, VBS is certainly going to look different! Remember my friends, do not grow weary of doing good-and you ARE doing good! Our families need the hope and joy that can only be found in Jesus more than ever before. What a unique opportunity we have before us this year, perhaps to minister to new families who never would have come to a traditional VBS. Sit back and watch the amazing way that God is going to work!
Annette Johnson is the Children’s Ministry Coaching Coordinator for YMI and has served in full-time ministry for over 12 years. She is a graduate of Florida Southern College in Lakeland. After several years of teaching elementary school, Annette entered into children’s ministry. Now she is a full-time coach, speaker, and teacher. She is married to Kevin, who is the pastor at HHUMC. Annette and Kevin have been married for 17 years and have 5 children. She loves singing, cooking, playing with her family, and binge-watching shows on Netflix.