VBS

VBS Reviews You Can Trust

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Sifting through the selection of Vacation Bible School curriculum options and deciphering their marketing messages in order to choose something that's theologically sound, easy to use, and fun for all can be a daunting task. Thankfully, the fine folks at Building Faith, a ministry of Virginia Theological Seminary have done the legwork and launched their annual list of VBS reviews: The Best VBS Programs of 2019.  [NOTE: See update to this review in the Comment box at the bottom of this post.]

To be considered as a "Top Pick"  on their list a VBS resource had to have the following:  

  •  An emphasis on God’s love and care for all people
  • The unity of a program around a distinctive theme supported by a cohesive program of stories and activities. 
  • Sound learning strategies based on developmental traits of the targeted audience

Reading through their reviews, I appreciated the thoroughness of their approach. For example, check out their comments on Orange's Power Up: Raise Your Game:  

"But the bottom line is that these materials are intended for evangelical churches with sin and salvation-oriented theologies — and with mega church-type infrastructure and culture. The themes and bible readings for the individual days are not in themselves objectionable, and a theologically savvy director with time to tinker could make it work. Still, creedal churches will probably find it more trouble than it’s worth to try adapting the recommended daily messages (which permeate all the materials) into a coherent, age-appropriate theological approach more in line with formation built on the baptismal covenant."

Theology matters during a week in the summer as much as it matters all year long.

Some approaches that caught my attention this year: ArtsCamp (Church Publishing), which explores Christian faith through arts, music and movement;  Who is My Neighbor?  (MennoMedia) which invites kids on a journey to discover more about God's love and what it means to live out our faith; and All God's Children: The Church Family Gathers for a Very Blessed Summer (GenOn Ministries), which provides churches with an intergenerational approach. 

And here's a little-known fact: Faith Alive Resources also has a great selection of VBS curriculum — eight different choices!

So gather a group together, read the reviews and do your homework now so that the seeds you plant this summer will continue to grow long after it ends.

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It has come to our attention that Group's Roar! VBS contains culturally insensitive, inaccurate and inappropriate activities. (If you'd like to learn more about what was problematic, see Africa Themed Vacation Bible School Plan -- Racially Insensitive?)

Group has now provided alternate activities to replace those which are problematic. You will find them here.  

The providers of the above VBS review are in the process of updating their review and have sent the following message: 

Virginia Seminary has a long history of providing Vacation Bible School Reviews to equip Christian Formation practitioners to make informed decisions for their ministry contexts. Given the highly competitive market, many publishing houses no longer provide us with Review copies of new curricula.  As a result, we do our best to research and review materials online because purchasing each resource would be prohibitively expensive and wasteful.  

Until this year, our new approach has worked well. Unfortunately, it has come to our attention that the Roar! curriculum published by Group contains content that is culturally insensitive. We regret that our review did not provide appropriate warnings on this because we did not have access to the full curriculum. At this time, we caution any congregation or ministry team to avoid the Roar! curriculum. There are many alternatives on the market that are culturally and theologically sound, and certainly less controversial, divisive, and harmful. Please know that we are contacting Group about the cultural insensitivity reflected in the original curriculum. Please accept our sincerest apologies for not making you aware of this issue when our reviews were first published.