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The Future of VBS

Can a church program that’s been around for nearly 100 years still be relevant? The answer is yes, it’s VBS!

Vacation Bible School started as a way to have more time to teach children about the Bible, outside of school. Since then, it’s developed into a summer camp of sorts for kids to hear Bible lessons, learn songs, make crafts, play games and eat snacks.

Although you could reasonably argue that the VBS model was already changing over the years, 2020 really shook things up. But it also proved that VBS is still relevant, even if the doors of the local church are closed.

So how do you as a retailer partner with the local church when the church doors are closed? If there’s anything COVID has taught us, it’s how to be resourceful. Offering VBS material is an easy way to fill the gap and partner with local churches, especially with the departure of LifeWay stores.

Last year, many churches still found a way to have VBS, whether virtually or with a modified event, even during the COVID closures.

Virtual VBS

Starting in 2020, VBS went virtual, literally. Some churches had a virtual VBS with pre-recorded videos of songs, Bible lessons and activities that could be posted to the church’s website or social media page.

Other churches did a virtual VBS in real time. Whether it was daily or weekly, at a specific time, families could log on to Facebook Live or Zoom and join in the fun. Kids could interact with the live praise team, chat with leaders and play games with others.

Modified VBS

Other churches found creative ways to modify VBS. A few churches did “Camp in a Box” or in a backpack. All the supplies for the week, including activities, snacks and lessons, were placed in a box for each child and distributed via curbside pickup or at home delivery.

Although VBS is typically held in the summer months, it can really be done any time of the year. As churches re-opened, they used the VBS program during their Wednesday night children’s ministry for the first five weeks, as a children’s church re-launch.

These new ways of doing VBS have created more opportunities for 2021.

Concordia Publishing House VBS

by Lisa M. Clark, Senior Editor, Curriculum Resources

Retailers have already been helping churches by pointing to digital tools to make VBS exciting and fun. Now more than ever, technology can be a tool to bring people together, even when in-person events are challenging. Last summer, Concordia Publishing House was proud to join with retailers and others in learning how best to serve churches committed to sharing Jesus with kids, no matter what. Extra videos, digital tools and more were suddenly available and placed in a user-friendly digital space for families. Churches were able to point their families to video playlists and dedicated web pages so that the day flowed with ease. Social media added to conversation as kids held up their crafts to show their friends.

The key word that kept popping up in VBS conversations last summer was “flexibility.” Every church had different scenarios, guidelines, facilities and families when facing new realities this year. VBS has always served a variety of settings, but this need is amplified now. Retailers who are able to engage church leaders on a personal level and connect them with needed tools will be able to encourage ministry in meaningful ways. It is the goal of CPH to make those connections as easy as possible, fostering conversations in ministry and preparing to jump in with whatever articles, platforms and content are necessary.

More than anything last year, churches, retailers and publishers alike were reminded that God can work wonders in the lives of kids, no matter what. With each new situation that may arise, VBS leaders are more committed and equipped than ever to rise to whatever challenge may come.

Concordia Publishing House’s 2021 theme, God’s Wonder Lab, embraces the excitement of science experiments as kids learn about God’s world and God’s Word. Science is amazing and fun! But there are some things that science can’t answer, like how can Jesus walk on water? How could He rise from the dead? Jesus’ miracles show us that He is the Son of God, our Savior! Each day, God’s Wonder Lab VBS will look at a different miracle of Jesus, as kids realized that Jesus loves them and has the power to rescue them from anything—even death! Keeping outreach in mind, CPH seeks to approach all kids with an introduction to Jesus on Day 1, walking with them through the week to share the Gospel of Jesus, their Redeemer. The goal is to help churches transform lives!

LifeWay VBS

by Jeremy Carroll, Manager of LifeWay Kids Ministry Publishing Team

VBS brings energy to local churches in a very unique way! It’s fun for kids, great for families and exciting for churches and communities. Conversations about Jesus happen in a natural setting, and hearts are changed for an eternity. VBS may be a lot of work, but it’s worth it!

LifeWay VBS is grounded in the belief the content is the most important aspect of any VBS program. Check out these seven distinctives that guide the development and writing of LifeWay’s VBS:

Gospel-centered. Every element—from Bible study to crafts, to music, to recreation—is carefully crafted to create intentional touchpoints with the gospel on every day of VBS.

Trustworthy Content. All aspects of VBS are written, developed and vetted by experts to ensure content is theologically, educationally and developmentally sound.

For All Ages. Age-specific curriculum is designed to meet the distinct needs of every age group by providing interactive Bible stories and activities for children from birth through 6th grade, students (7th–12th grades) and adults. We also provide curriculum tailored especially for children and adults with special needs.

In-depth Bible Study. We do more than just tell an engaging Bible story—we help bring the Bible to life. Small group activities are designed to teach kids how to apply God’s Word every day.

Flexible and Customizable. Easy-to-follow teaching plans instill confidence and guide your leaders through a successful VBS. Plans are written in a large group/small group format with plenty of choices that allow teachers to pick and choose the activities that work best.

Equips Parents. The goal for VBS is to impact families and equip parents to lead their children’s spiritual development. We provide parents with the tools to continue spiritual conversations at home.

Custom Music. Each year, LifeWay VBS songs are brand new and written exclusively for VBS by trusted Christian songwriters. Each song directly coincides with the day’s Bible teaching to lock biblical truth in the minds and hearts of kids for a lifetime.

This year, LifeWay VBS is excited to have two theme options for churches to choose from: Destination Dig and Concrete & Cranes.

Destination Dig

Pack your bags and grab your gear, as we head out to present-day Israel where an epic adventure of discovery awaits. At Destination Dig, kids will unearth more than just dirt. They’ll discover real-life archaeological finds that have helped to uncover the truth about Jesus. Stories from the Bible will leap off the pages as kids explore where Jesus walked and examine artifacts that bring the world of the Bible to life. As junior archaeologists, kids will study tangible pieces of the past to learn the truth about who Jesus is and why He came. Along the way they’ll discover the truth of Jeremiah 29:13 that God reveals Himself to us when we seek and search for Him with all our hearts!

Concrete & Cranes

As kids explore a world of concrete and cranes, rivets and rebar, bulldozers and backhoes, they will learn to build their faith on Jesus as they uncover the truth that He who began a good work will be faithful to carry it on to completion. CRA

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