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Summer is quickly approaching, and with warmer weather and school breaks come special ministry opportunities. One classic North American summer ministry activity is vacation bible school, or VBS. 

Does your church do VBS, or another similar summer program for kids? If so, what does your VBS look like? What age of kids does it target? Do you have programming for primary school kids and teenagers, or do you allow teenagers to serve in appropriate leadership roles? Is the program during the day or in the evening? How long is your program? How do you recruit volunteers and participants for the program? What sorts of activities do you do? Does you VBS often have a theme? Do you ever decorate your church building for the progam? As summer approaches, we'd love to hear if and how your church engages with kids in your community during the summer months. We look forward to reading your responses!


The idea came to me some 46 years ago when I was pastoring in Edmonton. The congregation had always done a VBS, and it was the usual one-week program. I made the suggestion that we try something just a bit different. Rather than 1 week, we would run it for 6, and rather than every day we would do it for 3 days, M-W-F, but the Friday program would be a field trip of some sort.


It was in the years when the CRC had SWIM (Summer Workshop in Mission) teams for teens and we signed up for one, usually 5-6. We spent a week or so orienting and training the SWIM team members who would then be largely responsible for running the program. (At the end of the summer I would always take them to Jasper National Park as a “Thank you” for their work.)


The first day of the program was always a “carnival.” It was a time to get to know one another, learn about the summer, and generate excitement. We would have a number of fun activities which might include and ice cream stand, a jumping castle, a cotton candy machine, face painting . . . just about anything. The goal of the entire summer was to acquaint participants with the Christian faith and to communicate that faith can be fun. Trying to dispel the old notion pf an angry God just waiting to drop the bombshell on unsuspecting sinners.


When we moved to Ontario, we did VBS in a similar fashion and despite being church plant with not a whole lot of members and the SWIM programs being no longer, we managed to pull it off with adult staff, using individuals according to their gifts and moving the children from one activity center to the next. Our average enrollment for the programs was about 80 with a waiting list of similar size.


I enjoy trying new things and this was one that caught on.

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