Why Do VBS?

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Whether in a budget meeting with the pastor, during a conversation with the congregation, or an internal thought mid-way through a VBS week, inevitably this question will pop up: “Why?”

Why do you do VBS?

It is a deep question. There are many good answers, but Scripture gives the ultimate reason to devote time, energy, and resources to a program like Vacation Bible School. As we seek to answer this question, we will look at three more why questions:

  • Why so much focus on teaching children?
  • Why go through all the work and expense of putting on a Vacation Bible School program every year?
  • Why does VBS ultimately matter?

In both of his letters to Timothy, Paul encourages him in his ministry. In 2 Timothy 3, we read that Scripture is valuable for teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness, and equipping for every good work; but the context of the verses before this tells us something very important about Timothy’s knowledge of the Scriptures:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:14–15)

Paul is reminding Timothy to continue in his study of the Word of God and to remember the people who invested in teaching him since childhood. Some of these would be Paul himself; Timothy’s mother, Eunice; his grandmother, Lois; certainly Silas; and likely countless others. Some ministered to him when he was physically a child, and others as he grew in the faith.

Why so much focus on teaching children?

Activities, games, crafts, snacks—these contribute to kids’ fun whether they’re in VBS or children’s ministry in general. Children like to play, make things, sing, and jump around! These activities are all good things, but are they our focus?

There are many passages of Scripture urging believers to pass on the faith to children. In Ephesians 6, we are told to bring children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Passages like Deuteronomy 6 focus on speaking these truths to our own children continually, while Paul refers to Timothy as his true child in the faith in 1 Timothy 1. In Joshua 4, we read of a command to pass on the faith to the entire next generation.

There are many passages of Scripture urging believers to pass on the faith to children.

As a parent, I appreciate how my church approaches the teaching of children. In Sunday school classes, the teachers use a curriculum that teaches the entire Bible chronologically in 4 years. Along the way, the kids tackle important questions that they confront at school, from friends, and even themselves—questions that all too often go unanswered. It is so important that children receive solid biblical answers from a young age, brought up in the Lord.

Yes, the kids have fun, play, and do activities, but I thank God that throughout the year as a whole, and especially during VBS, the focus is teaching children the Bible and applying it to make them “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).

But if there is strong teaching throughout the year . . .

Why go through the work and expense of putting on a VBS program every year?

At my small suburban church, we go through the budget at every congregational meeting. Under Children’s Ministry, we see that a hefty chunk of the budget goes toward the one-week VBS program. Under utilities, we see that our energy, disposal, and water usage spikes during VBS week.

This year, on our first day of VBS, we started with the most kids we have ever had. Throughout the week, we had even more trickle in as word spread. Over half of those kids did not attend our church. Some went to different churches, some were unchurched, some used to come but had stopped attending, some were invited second- or third-hand. There was even a family that I invited four years ago, and now they’ve attended every year since. But the question remains, “Why?”

Some parents might answer this questions with, “Free babysitting.” They may hear that they can drop their children off (for free) for three hours every night, to be watched, fed, and entertained with numerous activities in a safe environment. In the heat of summer, some parents are ready to send their kids back to school or just need to get them out of the house and doing something. I say, “Let them come.”

Other parents or children see it as a way to spend time with their friends. My own daughter spent the week with her church friends and two other friends who came because she’d invited them.

What about the churched kids? If they’re already in the church, is VBS for them too? Absolutely! In the years that we’ve held VBS, I’ve seen God draw our own church kids to himself—kids we see every week. In fact, one child grew up attending VBS each year, accepted Christ at VBS, became a leader, and now invests in the lives of the next generation at VBS.

In light of 2 Timothy, this is really the goal of ministry. Often, we hear about Paul-and-Timothy relationships in accountability groups, but we tend to think of Timothy as a “child in the faith.” But Timothy was growing! The goal is to hear and believe, then share the faith, as Timothy was doing.

We go through the work of VBS to affect future generations and connect them to older generations to learn from. Three weeks before VBS, my mom wrote a letter to the congregation about the upcoming week. Here is a portion of that letter:

Our philosophy for the last 19 years regarding VBS has always been Intergenerational. We minister to all generations through all generations. Many times the adults and teen helpers get more out of the VBS than the children we are ministering to. We personally have always looked at it as a family ministry. Our kids have grown up helping right alongside us and still do now.

Why Does This Matter, Ultimately?

At the beginning of this article, we looked at 2 Timothy 3:14–15. The next two verses tell us,

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16–17).

Both the VBS and Sunday school curriculum we use focus on three main things that work hand-in-hand:

  1. Biblical authority—All Scripture is breathed out by God. We teach kids that although God gave us the Bible through humans like Paul, Moses, kings, shepherds, and tax collectors, God is the author of the Bible, and this is his Word.
  2. Apologetics—While we don’t often use the word apologetics with children, we are giving them a defense, an answer to stand firm on when questions arise, so that they may be complete and equipped. As 1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

  3. Gospel—We teach that the history in the Bible is true. We have given them the tools to know and believe that it is true and that God’s world confirms his Word. Because the history is true, the gospel based in that history is true. Essentially, we want them to continue in what they have “learned and have firmly believed” (2 Timothy 3).

The Sunday school material my church uses, Answers Bible Curriculum, teaches the scarlet thread of Jesus in biblical history, not disconnected “Bible stories.” Likewise, the accounts and themes taught in the Answers in Genesis VBS give the foundation of God’s perfect creation. We teach what sin is, that all of us have fallen short of God’s perfect standard, that Jesus came to pay the price that only he could pay, and that he rose again so that we can live forever with him in heaven by believing and accepting what he did for us.

In order for them to understand the good news of Jesus, they must first understand the bad news of sin that made Jesus’ death necessary in the first place. This good news is why we go through the financial expense, all of the man-hours before, during, and after, and why we will do it again next year.

Editor’s note: This article is republished with permission from KidzMatter magazine.

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