A kazoo chorus. A sanctuary turned space station. Footprints secured in plaster of Paris. Flying pandas.
These unexpected activities are part of the fun of Vacation Bible School. I visited three VBS programs in July and saw a range of "way cool" stuff. VBS is meant to be fun. These are just a few highlights from my visit to each church program.
Out of This World Theme Transforms Church
We walked into another world when we entered the Galactic Blast VBS at The Outpost Church. The sanctuary was transformed to fit the outer space theme for VBS. Three walls were covered in black paper, stars and planets hung from the ceiling, mini-lights edged a walkway to a stage filled with metallic-looking space-age machines.
This took work, but it was worth it to wrap the children and the volunteers in the theme. It was effective and made it an out-of-this-world place kids did want to be.
After singing songs and learning the "praise phrase" of the evening, “Our God is Incredible!” the students then moved by age groups to different stations, such as games, Bible story, crafts, and my favorite, the Astro Bistro.
In the bistro, the fellowship room, the students received cups of sky. Really, it was blue Jello. Optional additions to the snack were: alien creatures (gummy candies), clouds (whipped cream), stars (sugar sprinkles). In the games area, the volunteers explained a planetary relay with water-soaked balls, hula hoops and buckets. Very cool thematically and also cooling for a very warm evening.
Every activity connected to the theme that was also connecting the children to the majesty of God.
Panda Activities Energize Event
Karen Toti, self-described “crazy crafts lady” never stopped moving as she gave directions for a project children were going to make during PandaMania. Toti is on staff at St. Charles First Assembly of God.
She needed a microphone so that the many the children and volunteers could hear her in the large open area filled with tables and chairs. The students were attentive to her directions, using black markers to complete the ears and paws of the paper panda to be placed on a kazoo. “This is the tune,” and “Make a joyful noise,” Toti said and then she demonstrated with her kazoo.
They listened and learned very well, especially how to play the kazoos that now all looked like the VBS panda mascot.
Kazoo sounds continued all the way to the “pandemonium” game room. Using a parachute and stuffed pandas, the volunteers were able to get the youngsters to work together so the pandas flew high in the air. It was exciting with lots of shrieks while teaching a valuable lesson about cooperation and how pulling together produces results.
There was joyful noise and activity coming from everywhere and it was good.
Friedens United Church of Christ had a classic VBS as I remember them.
The evening began with dinner at 5:30 p.m. Simple, kid-friendly food was provided each evening so parents and volunteers didn’t have to rush and worry about feeding their children or themselves before the evening activities.
The theme Friedens UCC used for the Kingdom of the Son VBS was a jungle safari. I was impressed with the jungle the volunteers created down a hallway with overgrown trees and vines, even a footpath that was gritty with sand. It led to the rooms for Bibles stories and music.
It was a small but completely engaged group of children, pre-school to 5th grade who participated in the VBS the night I was there. I was charmed by the help the older children easily gave to the younger ones and by the attention each child gave to all the activities – stories, crafts, games. They were captivated by Pastor Doug Kaufman’s story, each sitting on the pillows.
“God listens to our prayers,” Kaufman told the children. “Just talk to God.”
But for me the best part was the patience of the children as they put their feet into plaster of Paris poured into Frisbees to make tiles as a reminder to walk with God. It took a while–a long while--for the plaster to dry. Leaning on a table, they sang their VBS songs, they waited, they did not complain.
Some churches place a great emphasis on outreach and the salvation message within their VBS program. Other churches want to create connections among the children and show that church is not boring or stuffy and that, in fact, stuff at church can be fun -- even cool.