What Parents and Kids Want in VBS

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5-4-3-2-1 VBS Blastoff!

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Here’s your launching pad for a successful voyage into VBS

In the movie Independence Day, a loathsome band of alien invaders is poised to take over the world. The ensuing battle is very much one-sided. The best Earthling pilots and warriors have been destroyed, and all that’s left is a motley crew of pilots who aren’t sure which button is which on their fighter jets.

The president of the United States steps to the podium and gives a rousing speech. “We will not go silently into the night!” he chillingly recites. And then the pilots take off into the air, unsure of their fate. When it appears that they’ve lost the battle, a daring lone pilot sacrifices himself to save the world. Victory is theirs!

In a quiet church classroom, a new VBS director sits with a list of potential VBS workers. All the experienced teachers will be on vacation, she’s told. She has a ridiculously low budget to work with, and the Christian education committee is hoping that VBS will be the first week of summer.

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This thing called VBS, although it hasn’t sprouted tentacles, must look like an alien creature that’s about to not only eat her lunch, but also destroy her life. What’s a VBS director to do?

Do not go silently into the night! Or, in other words, don’t despair. There’s a not-so-motley crew just waiting to jump on board and change kids’ lives this summer. Jesus says in Matthew 9:37 that “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the fields.” So first of all–pray.

What makes a good VBS? We thought it would be interesting to talk to some end-users of VBS–parents and children. After all, these people are the final frontier that VBS curriculum companies are trying to reach.

Eleven-year-old Chris Turpin of Richmond, Kentucky, understands what vacation Bible school is trying to achieve each summer. “You have to learn about Christ,” Chris says, “but it has to be fun too. Make it interesting.”

And how do you do that? Include the elements that the experts say are crucial to a great VBS.

The Fun Factor “A good vacation Bible school is one that really teaches the truth about Jesus but it is also fun,” says Joann Becker, a director of parish education in Plantation, Florida. “It teaches kids that church is a warm, welcoming place where they can learn about their Savior.”

Parents agree. “As a parent, it’s important to see your child having fun,” says Sandy Murphy of Fox Point, Wisconsin. “They need to be having fun and learning at the same time. In summer when kids are off school, fun should be the focus, not academics.”

Hands-On Learning “I think what makes a good vacation Bible school is when kids are always doing something, when there’s a point each day, and when that point is emphasized in every area the kids go to,” says Brenda

Berding, a director of religious education in Fishers, Indiana. “What we’re covering needs to come alive for the children. When putting a VBS together, people need to think ‘how is the child going to view this? How can the child use this in his or her life?’ ”

Emily Fairbanks, a parent in Arlington, Texas, stresses the importance of variety. She says, “Kids have different learning styles so a learning station approach works well-where there’s lots of change and opportunities to do a variety of things, like music, drama, and so on. It should be action-packed. Kids should go from thing to thing-not just sit in a room all day.”

This approach is also the most teacher-friendly, according to Lydia Ruffin, a Mobile, Alabama parent. “I think theme-based curricula are the best, especially where children move from room to room,” Lydia says. “Everybody’s so busy right now; this way teachers only need to learn one lesson and then do the same activity each night. They become familiar with it, and they can adapt it throughout the week for different age groups.”

Rockin’ Music For 9-year-old Danielle Sheahan of Kingston, Ontario, music is the best part. A good VBS has to have “fast songs with a beat and a bit of rock. Kids find the slow hymns boring sometimes,” Danielle says.

Thirteen-year-old Marcus Klem of Ontario, New York, agrees with Danielle. “I like fast songs. The ones last summer were African songs.”

Eleven-year-old Tripp Morris of Tifton, Georgia, says, “I like the singing when it’s different every time you go.”

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