By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
Vacation Bible School provides churches an opportunity to fulfill the Great Commission, said Vicki Hulsey, childhood specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
While VBS provides fun and Bible study for children, “always remember that the reason we do VBS is to reach lost people for Christ,” she added.
“We can have lots of fun with the theme (this year, “Game On: Gearing Up For Life’s Big Game”) and learn all kinds of stories from the Bible, but we must keep the main thing the main thing — helping children come to an understanding of their need for a Savior.”
VBS has long been recognized as an effective evangelism tool, Hulsey said. She cited statistics from LifeWay Christian Resources that 25 percent of baptisms across the Southern Baptist Convention are related to Vacation Bible School.
“Vacation Bible School is an evangelistic tool that helps Tennessee Baptist churches reach every community in the state,” Hulsey said.
She noted that the TBMB began offering training two years ago for “Reaching Kids in your ZIP.” These conferences are designed to equip church staff and volunteers with strategies for reaching unchurched kids and family members in their community.
The conferences are helping churches reach children who normally do not attend church, Hulsey said. “The largest age group attending VBS are elementary age kids,” she observed. “In that age group, we are seeing the first generation where the majority of their parents grew up not attending church. In previous generations, even parents that didn’t attend church as adults, often sent their children to VBS because of memories of their own positive experiences in VBS,” Hulsey added.
VBS is more than just a fun event, she stressed. “VBS opens the doors of your church to the community, reaching kids and families like no other event.
“Whether it’s an on-campus VBS or an off-campus Backyard Kids Club, VBS remains the most evangelistic event of the year for many churches,” she observed.
As churches gear up for VBS, she noted that it is easy to get caught up in the busyness of the event. “You may have finished your supply list, cut and sorted all of your kit items, decorated your classroom, queued up the CD, or organized every item possible for crafts, but if you have not studied how to share the plan of salvation with boys and girls and moms and dads, you are not ready,” Hulsey stressed.
She encouraged churches not to forget the importance of prayer in an effective VBS that reaches children and parents for Christ.
Pastor Shawn Allred of First Baptist Church, Kenton, observed that prayer is “what fuels the ministry of VBS. Without a prayer plan, all of the other planning and preparation for VBS will likely fall flat” and the desired outcome of VBS, which is to reach people with the gospel “will not reach its full potential,” he said (see Allred’s guest column on page 4).
Prayer is a major focus of VBS at North Etowah Baptist Church in Etowah. The church developed a “War (prayer) Room” during VBS two years ago and plans to do so again this year, said Jason Sneed, minister of worship and families at North Etowah Baptist.
Sneed said he has observed that spiritual warfare occurs during the week of VBS. “it always seemed like there would be distractions or things not working during the week that would interrupt what was going on,” he observed.
“Prayer is a powerful weapon that we need to fight those things that Satan would use to distract teachers and students from teaching and learning.”
The church sets up its “War Room” in a classroom that has prayer requests and other items on the walls. A War Room leader enlists people to fill the timeslots in the room. “We enlist our senior adults who are not already working in VBS to pray in 15-minute timeslots starting 30 minutes before VBS begins and lasting until VBS is finished,” Sneed said.
He added that they involved shut-ins this year. “They were given a time each night to pray in their homes with specific prayer requests for that night. This is a great way to keep them involved in the ministry of the church even though they are limited in their ability to be present,” he said.
Hulsey stressed that VBS does not end on the day children walk out of the classroom for the last time. Follow up is a crucial element of an effective VBS, she observed. “Churches are sharing that follow-up is their weakest link,” she said. “Many churches are great at registering people at evangelistic events like VBS, but the registration cards often end up sitting on a desk or in a drawer without any follow-up.”
Allred agreed. “Follow through is the second vital area of emphasis for a successful VBS that must not be overlooked or neglected.
“Too many times when the last day of VBS arrives, we breathe a sigh of relief that it’s over. But if we intend for our efforts to have a lasting effect, we must follow through with those we have had an opportunity to minister to throughout VBS.”
As churches conclude their VBS and Backyard Kids Club events this year, Hulsey asked churches to complete the 2018 VBS Survey.
“Sharing those wonderful results helps other churches see that Vacation Bible School is still an effective tool for reaching the unsaved with the gospel of Jesus Christ,” she said. This information also tracks new trends that will be helpful information for churches as they plan how to reach into their community more effectively, Hulsey added.
She noted that reports are needed from every church, regardless of the VBS curriculum used. “Each number represents a life and each salvation decision represents a life that has been changed for eternity! Let’s celebrate together!”
The quickest way for reports to be entered is to report online as a supplemental form to the Annual Church Profile. Churches will need their User ID and password. Churches can still complete a hard copy of the 2018 VBS Report Form. IMPORTANT CHANGE: LifeWay no longer enters the data for these reports. If LifeWay receives reports, those reports will be forwarded to TBMB, which greatly slows down the process of gathering data.
Please report in one of these four ways:
(1) Report online at www.sbcworkspace.com.
(2) Mail report to your association office.
(3) Scan and e-mail report to Jarrett Scott at email@example.com.
(4) Mail report to: Attn. Jarrett Scott, Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, P.O. Box 682789, Franklin, TN 37068.
HOW TO PRAY FOR VBS
The following is adapted from material used by Jason Sneed, minister of worship and families at North Etowah Baptist Church, Etowah. For the past three years the church has developed a “War Room” to pray specifically for Vacation Bible School.
- Pray for the Holy Spirit to move in the hearts of the children.
- Pray for no distractions as the gospel is presented.
- Pray for ministers, teachers, and leaders by name as they present the gospel.
- Pray for ministers, teachers, and leaders by name as they talk with the children about accepting Christ or other decisions.
- Pray for the teachers as they teach the lesson each night that the words would sink into the hearts of the children.
- Pray for the remaining nights that the Holy Spirit will work in the hearts of the children.