It’s summer and that means that signs for Vacation Bible School appear on church doors, on banners on church grounds, and on yard signs.
Though churches advertise VBS using various forms of media, the VBS programs themselves are a way to introduce community members to the church and to Jesus. In St. Charles, VBS programs remain alive and even vigorous. They play an important role in the faith life of churches, from established churches to brand-new ones.
In just its second year, The Outpost Church had 57 children ages 3-12 attend VBS on the second night.
The Outpost Church formally opened its doors in April of this year. But this was the second year for a VBS since the core group of approximately 20 people offered one in 2010. I was impressed, but Dianna Hyndman, children’ ministry leader at The Outpost Church said that even in the forming stages, the people have wanted this church to be “mission-minded and ministry-minded.”
Last year, they just had the children’s ministry center to use. This year, though, the church has another building. The paintball business that was on South Dr. is gone and that building is now the Outpost Church sanctuary and the lower level is a fellowship room and kitchen.
The church reached out to the community in a variety of ways. If you drove Boone’s Lick Road between 5th Street and First Capitol Dr. during the first three weeks of July, you saw some of the bright yellow and black yard signs advertising the Vacation Bible School at The Outpost Church. Hyndman ordered 50 of these yard signs and placed many of them along the side of the road leading to 1010 South Dr. where the church is located.
Besides the yard signs, Hyndman said that volunteers handed out flyers about the VBS throughout the neighborhood to reach as many families as possible. The night I visited was bring-a-friend night. The church views VBS as an outreach program and even the youngsters are able to be involved.
Outreach was also the primary motivation behind VBS at St. Charles First Assembly of God. Karen Toti, office manager, said that children’s pastor Mark Shepherd printed and had distributed 1,000 flyers about VBS. During this VBS the leaders encouraged the children to invite friends. Instead of bring-a-friend night, it was bring friends all week at First Assembly. The incentive was big – an iPod touch would be given to the child who brought the most visitors during the VBS. “This church is evangelistically motivated,” said Toti, “and we can encourage that idea from an early age.”
Shepherd told me that the evening I visited there were over 100 children and volunteers participating. Children ages 4 to 12 were able to attend with 3-year-olds welcome when accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Friedens United Church of Christ has done a VBS for as long as church member Laura Foster can remember. She joined the church 10 years ago, but the church was founded 177 years ago. No one could tell me how long it had been offered. With staffing changes, an all-volunteer committee, headed by Foster, organized and carried out this year’s Kingdom of the Son VBS program. Foster told me that this year the focus was about “family connections as well as on prayer, knowing God and knowing that it would be fun at church.” The week focused on teaching the Lord’s Prayer through a range of activities, crafts and games.
There were similarities among the three VBS programs. All offered games, crafts, Bible stories, some elaborate decorating, volunteers, and children.
Each church I visited gave the youngsters some of the stories and some of the language of the faith, and most importantly, offered the opportunity to know the love of God and Jesus in their lives.
The people who shared their time, their talents, their energy with these children are valuable beyond saying.