Many Americans share a common summer memory. No, not of going to the beach or an amusement park. Instead, this memory is one where they spent a week of their summer vacation visiting a local church during their annual installment of Vacation Bible School, or VBS for short. Some kids attended numerous church’s Vacation’s Bible Schools, attempting to enjoy as many of the fun-filled events as possible.
According to a recently released by LifeWay, entitled “Even If They Don’t Go to Church, Americans Still Love VBS,” some six in every 10 Americans surveyed said they attended VBS while growing up. Two-thirds say they plan to send their kids to VBS, even if they don’t currently attend a church.
LifeWay is a giant in the VBS industry, producing an annual VBS theme, complete with decorations, t-shirts, prizes, games and teaching curriculum. Their particular interest in the continuation of VBS is understandable. However, their findings are applicable to all believers and churches and is helpful in understanding the impact of VBS. To complete this study, LifeWay surveyed 1,200 American adults.
The research conducted by LifeWay found 60% of the parents surveyed planned to send their kids to a VBS held at a church where they currently did not attend. Another 69% of parents said they would be open to sending their kids to another church’s VBS if they child was invited by a friend. Some 88% of the adults surveyed said VBS was vital to the development of their own understanding of the Bible, and 95% said they believed VBS to be an overall positive experience for their children. Even those who did not attend VBS held an overall positive view of the program.
“Each week of the summer, there are thousands of VBS programs going on around America,” LifeWay Research director Scott McConnel said. “It’s one of the things that people love about church. People still believe Vacation Bible School is good for kids. Even parents who don’t go to church want their kids to go to VBS.”
LifeWay President Thom Rainer went even further in his praise for VBS calling it “The No.1 evangelistic tool in America.”
While clearly popular, VBS isn’t embraced by every Christian in America
Peter M. Burfeind, author and pastor, is one person who isn’t a huge fan of VBS. He believes it’s a classic example of “bait n’ switch philosophy.” He says it’s akin to “trying to get your child to eat vegetables by embedding them in a Twinkie.”
“Sure, the child will hear some good things about God, but the medium of the message — the razzle-dazzle theme, characterless music, throwaway crafts, forced theatrics, the theological minimalism — is what the child internalizes,” he said.
Regardless of those who believe otherwise, VBS has served a vital role in church outreach towards non-believers since the late 19th century for good reason. This is because it has been proven that most people who become a Christian will make their choice to follow Christ when they are a child.
A Barna study found that 64% of born-again Christians made their commitment to Christ before turning 18 years of age. Some 43% said they accepted Christ as their Savior before turning 13. In addition, only 23% said they came to Christ after they turned 21. The fact that most people will make their decision to follow Christ before the age of 18, makes programs like VBS that much more important. Without a concerted effort by churches to reach children before they grow up, one can only wonder how many souls would be lost forever.
In addition to the reasons mentioned above, many churches also use VBS as an outreach designed to minister to entire families. Although the program is geared towards children and many parents send their kids even when they don’t go to church themselves, churches can reach out to their parents. Many VBS programs conclude with a “family night” where parents are invited in to hear about what their children have done all week, and often involves a cute performance and a meal. This time is when churches are able to share Christ with entire families and learn more about how to minister to their entire community, making VBS more than worth the effort.
~ 1776 Christian