Simple answer: NO - when it's just an event. YES - when it's a strategic tool for Kingdom growth.
Every year we look to the summer calendar and begin filling it with events an activities for individuals and families. As the school year grows and the "summer" shrinks, the available weeks for special activities become harder and harder to find.
As with any established church, there are expected events that hit every season of the year. Sometimes, the "prayerful" calendaring of the next year is little more than placing the expected events on the calendar once again. Yeah, I admit, sometimes it happens - we just put things on the calendar. That is why we are facing a serious and strategic moment of evaluation for all ministries and events. Is it truly the role of the church to provide events to keep church members and attenders busy? Just because "we've always done something" doesn't mean we need to continue doing it.
Now, before you open your email and begin writing me an angry message about cancelling Vacation Bible School or your other "favorite" event, read the rest of this post.
I'm NOT proposing we cancel Vacation Bible School (or VBS or Summer Jam or whatever you want to call it.)
I am just asking the question that must be asked for every calendared event, whether it be a senior adult trip to New Orleans, a youth camp, a men's retreat, a trip to the local skating rink or ball game or Disney on Ice. . .or whatever. The questions must be asked or we (the church) will be nothing more than travel agents and event planners for church attenders. It seems that at times the church actually adds to the consumerism among members while preaching against it.
Somehow, I don't think God desires that we spend time, energy, finances and resources on things that do nothing to expand the Kingdom of God.
The things listed above can all expand the Kingdom, if they are strategic and intentional. Otherwise, they become events on a calendar to help us feel good about ourselves, or at best to "keep us busy" which would be best left to the local YMCA or other clubs.
So, let's get back to the question at hand - "Is Vacation Bible School (VBS) Still Effective?"
I have been in church my entire life. I have participated in, worked in, taught in and led Vacation Bible Schools. These week-long morning "day camps" for children held at the church campus are designed to teach children the truths of the Word of God. The week includes activities, games, snacks, music, and evangelistic teaching.
We know that children attend local Vacation Bible School weeks at numerous churches throughout the summer. Some just hop from one VBS to the next. I have no problem with that, as long as when they land at ours, they receive the very best experience and a clear teaching of the message of the Gospel.
Yet, is this the most effective way to connect with children and families in our culture?
In my opinion, it is still a very effective week, especially where our church is located. However, as is often the case, we (the church) tend to shift the week of VBS into the "children's ministry" area of church and leave it to the Children's Pastor, VBS Director and volunteer leaders to "pull off" the event.
That, my friends, is when Vacation Bible School becomes uneffective.
When VBS is just another children's event, it becomes a waste of time, resources, and effort.
VBS, in our community, still has the potential of reaching numerous "unchurched" and "pre-Christian" children and families. However, just like in athletics, "potential" is useless unless met.
Each year, LifeWay tracks VBS statistics. VBS has been touted for years as the "most effective evangelism strategy in the Southern Baptist Convention." Millions are enrolled each year and tens of thousands profess Christ as Savior each year.
Each year the "ABCs" of salvation are presented to children. However, it should be noted that the ABC (Admit, Believe and Confess) is NOT the Gospel, but simply a response to the Gospel. This is vital. Otherwise, we are teaching children to "repeat after me" a prayer. Check out this post on Jared's Blog titled "The ABCs of VBS: Is It Biblical?"
Our desire is to see God work through VBS so that lives may be transformed. We will share how to know Christ. We will walk through this process with children. We will teach those who are Christ followers how to live as disciples. Yes, even as children, they can and should learn this. Follow-up is essential as well.
Our Vacation Bible School is scheduled for June 17-21. Volunteers are working to prepare for the week. The theme this year is "Colossal Coaster World" and even though the themes are always fun, we must remember that. . .God doesn't really care about the theme or the decorations. He cares about the hearts and souls of people and He has strategically placed us here with the mandate to be the light of the world.
May we recognize the value of this week as a church. May we expand the Kingdom of God through all we do as Christ-followers.