I remember my first Vacation Bible School. I was on a mission trip to Miami and we were conducting a VBS at an inner city church. Veteran city missionaries Rosemarie & Mildred taught me the ropes. We began each morning with a parade down the sidewalks of our neighborhood and gathered the children.
At the church we pledged allegiance to the American flag, the Christian flag and the Bible. We sang songs and broke up into age groups for Bible stories and simple crafts made from a recycled margarine tubs, egg cartons and greeting cards that were held together with glue and pipe cleaners.
In the afternoon we conducted an outdoor VBS at a low income housing project on Miami's north side. And so I was introduced to a tradition that dates back to the 19th century.
Early on VBS was longer (six weeks) and found in inner city areas (New York, Chicago and Philadelphia). By the beginning of the 20th Century the Baptist Mission Society helped spread the VBS idea across America. The movement had such momentum that Standard Publishing began producing printed material in 1923.
Today VBS is the highpoint of the year for Baptist churches. It is used to bring new families into the church and expose children to the gospel. The results for most churches are increased Sunday school enrollment and new believers.
The workers get to put their faith into action. For many it is their first opportunity to serve. Some are new to the church and have a chance to get to know their fellow members while working with the kids. There is always something to do. If a church has all the teachers they need, there are opportunities in set up and take down, transportation, refreshments, publicity, etc.
It can be small and simple (some are done in back yards with less than a dozen children) or it can be an elaborate production. You can put it together yourself or you can buy elaborate kits from a variety of sources. Big or small, every church will receive a boost.
Although Baptist Temple is an inner city church with a tight budget, we were able to put together a big production thanks to some help from friends. Our VBS involved 115 children, 62 adult and youth workers from our church, and 26 young adults on a mission trip from Mimosa Lane Baptist Church. The mission group provided a big boost with their worship band, light show, movement team and recreation team. They greatly increased our worker to child ratio. Another key to the spectacular look of this year's VBS was Lifehouse Church passing down their VBS decorations to us.
More than a quarter of the children enrolled do not attend church. We expect a good number of them to join our Sunday school. Fifteen of the older children responded positively to a presentation of the gospel. Just as important was the fun the children had as they learned the Bible. The adults had fun, too (although they put in long hours). Who could ask for more?