Thursday, February 15, 2007

It'll be time before you know it

We're talking about VBS around our place. This is the time of year to select curriculum, set the dates, etc. Last year's VBS was relatively successful. I say relatively because there were more kids involved than in the year or two that preceeded it, (around 30 kids), but far fewer than what folks remember from the golden days when we maxed out the available classroom space and had to set up marquee-style tents on the lawn to accomodate everyone.

I'm encouraging our CE folks to think outside the box on this. To my mind, the five weekday morning VBS model, more than any other church program, reveals our refusal to acknowledge that it it 2007. I'm a working Mom. I have to scramble to figure out what my kids are going to do for the rest of the working day after VBS ends at noon. We're going to do VBS because it would look bad if the Pastor's kids weren't there. But if I were in some other line of work, I might just decide the hassle wasn't worth it for my kids to learn Bible songs and make popsicle stick crafts.

As I see it, the original motivations for creating VBS were three-fold: To reach out to kids who were not part of the congregation's regular Sunday-school program, to take advantage of summer's more relaxed atmosphere to allow church kids to engage the Bible in ways more creative and sustained than their Sunday a.m. classes, and to provide a safe, affordable way to keep kids off the streets during summer break. Now the main motivation seems to be, "We have to VBS because that is what churches DO in the summer, and if you can't manage to field a good VBS, you'll lose market share to a congregation that can."

How do we get back to those original goals in ways that make sense in a community with majoriy two-career families, a Bazillion day-camp offerings, and a lot of indifferece to church involvement?

Have any of you done wonderful, creative things in this area? Is there such a thing as Emergent VBS? Please share.


Anonymous said...

We do a Sunday-Thurs evenings from 6 to 8pm (including a simple meal) to accommodate the families for whom daytime is not an option, whether to attend or to volunteer.

We've maxed out our facilities for the last 2 years and are actually looking at options outside of our facilities so we can expand.

Teri said...

VBS is a new thing here--just two years old. however, we're doing the 9-12 five days thing...I think because there is a really large population of non-working moms in this church, it works for them. They just organize playdates for the afternoons to accomodate working moms.

This is my first summer here, so I don't know how it goes yet...and the question of whether it (and I) is (am) still new enough that it can be changed without "but we've always done it this way!" remains to be seen....

cheesehead said...

We do it old-school, 1950's era style, too. Because it makes the congregation feel as if St Stoic is real big time church.

In a way that having a pastor as resident theologian in the ways of worship never will.

But I'm not bitter...

Quotidian Grace said...

Having beaten my head against a wall on the VBS question for the last 5 years I must say it feels so good to stop!

I think VBS is a vestige of an earlier era and no amount of tweaking will really make it fit into today.

Songbird said...

Okay, here's a thought. Why not an all-day program that accommodates working families, offered at minimal or no cost? This would do what the old half-day program did: open the doors of the church to the community by entertaining the little ones during a time there is nothing else going on, giving the mothers (now parents) a break but hopefully also encouraging them to visit church themselves.
Not that I think I could get a church to agree to it, necessarily.

esperanza said...

At the church I served previously, we had some success with the following idea: offer VBS from 9-3 each day. Way more work than just a morning, of course. We also offered before- and after-care for a small fee, but no one took us up on it. The following Sunday, VBS students did the sermon (something they had worked on during the week), so the non-church-connected families came at least once on a Sunday.

But, it's a lot of work, and you have to have adults who can work on it during the daytime hours. And I think it's important to have a place (Sunday School or whatever) to plug in the kids and parents post-summer.

More than you wanted to know, but there it is.

juniper68 said...

I did not send my 3 y-o to our neighborhood vbs last year, or go anywhere near it (there are 4 churches involved and like 100 kids. yikes, that is just too much of a good thing for me!)
I did send him to another, smaller one that felt much better to me, but was pretty 1950, I guess. They offered aftercare in the afternoons and I took them up on it, btw.

Susie said...

Ha! I jsut went to a VBS curriculum preview last night!

We do 9-12, 5 day VBS, but it works super well here - somehow, all the school teachers in our congregation actually volunteer their time during that week, so we have plenty of help. Also, we don't charge at all for our VBS, which helps boost our attendance.

In terms of interesting programs... Leader Resources puts out a Narnia program and a Harry Potter program. We did Narnia last year and had a great time with it.

PPB said...

My sister's church does a 5:30-8 p.m. program. She volunteers and hates it. She says it's exhausting after a long day, but due to a) working parents and b) heat in central CA, it's what makes the most sense. This way they can at least be outside. And different church groups (men of the church, ladies' guild, youth group, etc. cook dinner for different nights.)

My mom's church went to VBS day camp. 9-3 with free after care. It's apparently wildly creative, and very popular. Many of the families in that town prefer to send their kids to a series of day camps rather than do a single all summer program.

My church has no kids older than 4, and usually no kids at all in the summer (it's a university church, and they go off to do research or visit their parent's families (countries) for the summer) so we do nothing.

A Methodist church in my town, though, set up a co-operative deal with the Episcopal church next door. They both do 10-3 on the same week. One church does pre-care, and one does after care for both groups, and they have lunch together, reducing the number of volunteers to coook that need to be found. They tried to pitch a fully cooperative program, but that got nixed by the denominational die-hards.

hipastorzwife2B said...

Ours doesn't have VBS for the same reasons as ppb, but plenty of the other churches in the area do it, and they are open to everyone. Love the joint-VBS idea!