Ah, summer. That magical time where we imagine that Pinterest is reality. But… we’re tired, the kids aren’t as angelic as their grandmothers would like to believe, and our great ideas take their place in the graveyard of good intentions.
There’s a lot to be said for scheduling wholesome activities for the kids. There really is. And for the last month, you’ve been seeing signs everywhere for Vacation Bible School. You could easily sign your kids up for enough VBS weeks to fill the first two months of summer (and a lot of parents do). So, is VBS a good idea?
It comes down to three simple things:
What is your purpose in sending them to VBS?
What is the church’s statement of faith?
And what is the curriculum they’re using?
- What is your purpose in sending them to VBS?
If your purpose is to give them something fun to do in a safe environment with lots of other kids, then VBS will do that. You can pretty much count on crafts, games, snacks, and a Bible story at any VBS.
If your purpose is to expose them to Bible basics, you’re pretty safe there, too. After all, the “B” in VBS stands for Bible. If your child doesn’t know the “Hall of Fame” Bible stories, they’ll learn something. Or they’ll hear it again, which is great because kids learn by repetition. Lots of repetition.
If your purpose is for your child to invite an unchurched friend to a church event, I say keep on keepin’ on. Most people, whether they attend church or not, see VBS as kid-friendly fun. For some kids, this may be the only exposure they have to Bible stories, the Gospel, and Christians. So, if that’s your purpose, fill the car up!
BUT, if your purpose is to give your child a full Bible education, or to get ‘em saved, you need to rethink that. One week just isn’t enough to steep your child in biblical truth or for him to learn all the stories, or to grasp the big story.
And if you are concerned about salvation, VBS is generally a great place for kids to hear the Gospel, but—hear me on this—it’s not the job of the VBS volunteers to make sure your child is saved. The Gospel presentation at VBS should not be the first time your child has heard it. A lot of children make decisions at VBS, but those are usually real when there’s a ramp-up to it. When the parents and the child have been having spiritual conversations at home and covering a lot of great questions, it’s not unusual for the child to make the decision somewhere other than home. But the parents have assurance in knowing that they laid the groundwork so the child knows what the decision really is.
- What is the church’s statement of faith (if it’s not your church)?
Before you even consider taking your child to a church you don’t attend, it’s critical that you get on that church’s website and read their statement of faith. Just because you know people who go there or have a good impression of the denomination is not enough. Hey, even within your own denomination, there can be differences from church to church. It’s your responsibility to know what is going to be presented to your child as truth. They’re kids. They don’t have discernment yet. You’re their discernment.
If you have questions about the church’s beliefs or how they teach them, ask.
- And what is the curriculum they’re using?
If you feel comfortable with the church’s statement of faith, check out the curriculum. Even though the church chooses it based on their statement of faith (which you have dutifully checked out), the curriculum will shape your child’s experience all week. What is the theme? What stories will be shared? Is it activity-heavy or story-heavy? Is there drama or music? Vet the curriculum, and if you feel good about it, see what it offers that your child will be excited about.
Another great reason to know what the curriculum is? You’ll be ready to have follow-up conversations. Which you absolutely should. Don’t let VBS be something you drop your child off to do, and that’s the end of it. What a great opportunity to talk about God with your child, or what Bible story they heard that day, or what they notice about the Christian volunteers! Don’t miss it.
Big picture. Above all, keep in mind that VBS (like Sunday School, private Christian school, or extracurriculars) is not the primary source of your child’s spiritual growth. Your home is. VBS can be great when done well, but it will never be a substitute for the day-in and day-out discipleship you do with your kids in your own home. Never. VBS can be a great “elective” in the summer, and it can be a great talking point for you and your child. Just be sure you’re keeping it in its proper place as you think through whether to do it this summer.
Good luck! I hope you find a VBS that is enriching, meaningful, and a ton of fun!