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5 Things You May Not Know About Vacation Bible School

By Jennifer Doyle |

Since living in the South for the majority of the last 13 years, I have learned a lot about Southern culture. Summertime in the south includes sweet tea, endless talk about the upcoming college football season, and probably the greatest Southern summer tradition: VBS.

What is this vee bee ess, you ask? It’s three glorious letters that stand for Vacation Bible School.

When I first moved south, I will openly admit that the church culture was a bit overwhelming. While I grew up attending church, it wasn’t something that I openly discussed with strangers … and I very rarely participated in church activities that didn’t occur on Sunday mornings. Now that I’m fully immersed in Southern culture, church-based activities including VBS are a way of life for our family and something that we all really enjoy.

Several of my friends above the Mason-Dixon line had no idea what I was talking about when I mentioned that I was sending my kids to VBS for a week. I know VBS happens across the U.S., but here in the South, it is one of the premier events of the summer for families! Don’t get me wrong, my kids are great, so great, but I love the “vacation” part of VBS — even if the vacation is just for a few hours!

Kids will learn about Jesus through play, live-action shows, stories, and more.

Beginning in May, signs begin popping up across every Southern city, in nearly every Southern church lawn, advertising their week-long, adventure-themed VBS offering. Children ages 3 to 12 are invited to attend VBS in the morning for about 3-4 hours where they participate in Bible-based teaching activities, Bible stories, games, and crafts. It’s a fun way to visually teach and reinforce lessons that kids might not have grasped otherwise. My kids’ favorite part of VBS was the daily show put on by the volunteers and the water balloon toss!

Everyone is welcome at VBS.

Churches open their doors to all kids in the community, whether they are active members of the church or have never attended any church before. Technically, a child could attend a different VBS every week for the entire summer! Many southern parents can’t wait for that first glorious summer when their children are finally old enough attend VBS, then they carefully plan their VBS route for the summer. For our family, I chose just one VBS outside of our own church where I sent the kids for a week in June. They had a blast and are still talking about it!

Vacation Bible School is FREE, or at least very inexpensive.

Sponsoring churches often accept donations, or sometimes charge a minimal fee for supplies to participating families. VBS is a cheaper option than most summer camps, but still gives the kids (and parents) something fun and structured to do during the summer.

Vacation Bible School is safe.

The first time I dropped off my children at their first Vacation Bible school, I was worried  that they’d get lost or that it would be totally chaotic. With some churches hosting THOUSANDS of kids during their week of VBS, the church usually has a very organized drop-off and pick-up system and use local police officers for traffic control.

Volunteers Make VBS Successful.

Not only do church members volunteer, but once kids get too old to attend VBS themselves, they return as group leaders and helpers. These volunteers work tirelessly to create an experience for the kids that is not only lots of fun, but also helps teach them Biblical principles and about Jesus.

I’d love to know: what area of the country you live in, and do your kids attend VBS?

(photo credit: Flickr)

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Jennifer Doyle

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14 thoughts on “5 Things You May Not Know About Vacation Bible School

  1. Mom24@4evermom says:

    I live in Central Ohio and my kids LOVE VBS. The only thing that keeps my 11 year old from being sad about “aging out” is that next year he gets to be a rec helper. It’s a wonderful, wonderful tradition. It’s not free here, I think it cost $65 or so for my youngest two and it was worth every penny. Our church runs two separate weeks and apx. 500 kids come through the doors during that time.

  2. The Mommy Blawger says:

    I have two funny VBS stories. Our first VBS experience was with Prestonwood Baptist Church, one of the largest churches in the US. I registered my son online, and later received an email with his classroom assignment: February 2001. After the first day, it hit me: he was in a room with 25-30 other four-year-olds, *all of whom were born in the same month*. That means with approx. 12 classes per age/grade, ages 3 through 6th grade, we are talking easily over 3000 kids.

    The same year, we visited my husband’s parents who live in a small town in eastern Iowa. We took him to VBS at one of the local churches – not the one my in-laws attend. I was a bit concerned when registering him that I was only asked to provide my son’s name and age and a parent’s name. No address, no phone number, no liability release. However, in the middle of the second day of VBS, the phone rang – it was the church saying that he had thrown up and maybe we should come get him.

    My oldest 3 are going next week, and I’m planning to use the time to potty train boy #4. :)

  3. Reese says:

    Ive lived in the south my whole life but didn’t know what vbs was until maybe 10 years ago, I guess because the church I went to didn’t do it. My husband has volunteered for it but our son is too young to go. Also, I’ve never known a church that did it during the day, all the churches in our area have vbs at night.

  4. Amanda says:

    We have VBS everywhere here in Iowa. My children will be attending when they are old enough :D I went when I was a kid and I thought it was fun. It is usually free here and some kids go to three or four VBS in the summer because the small town churches want as many to attend as possible and usually have different themes from each other for that purpose.

  5. Kylah says:

    I have a three year old and a one year old that JUST had VBS this week! My three year old son loved it!!!!! It was always a staple at our home church and this was a much larger church that my in-laws go to….. They averaged about 550 kids every night *our church is usually 50-100* He keeps asking to go back! Gotta love us southerners and our VBS *and our sweet tea!* I honestly feel bad for the kids that miss out. Because it is a lot of fun with music and snacks and rec time….

  6. Anna says:

    North Idaho and my kids LOVE VBS! They will attend 2 of them this summer and they also just attended day camp programs. Most VBSs here are free but I wouldn’t even mind paying a small fee. I paid for the day camps but I found them very affordable. I have also found the programs to be very well organized and I feel that my children are safe in these particular programs. I don’t want to send them to a program unless they will know some other children there or we have some connection to the church.

  7. Rachel says:

    I live in Monroe NC and my 3 yrs old girl went to 2 VBS this summer, both were so great, the activities, the messages and the atmosphere. The staff are a amazing example of Christians.

  8. Angela says:

    We love VBS! We just moved from Lake Wylie SC/Charlotte NC area and thought we were going to miss out.VBS was awesome there.Our new location is WV and while its not as big as there,people are dedicated,passionate and its just a blast! My daughter will be turning 4 in a couple of weeks and is at the age where she is engaging herslf with others..

  9. diane caso says:

    VBS is also popular in other parts of the country. We are in the Northeast-all 4 of my kids attended..as do some of my grandkids. Some of the churches offer their VBS in the evening-which is great for working parents.

  10. [...] Five things you may not know about vacation bible school (Babble) [...]

  11. Dee says:

    There are VBS in my part of the country, Los Angeles. My daughter didn’t go, because I didn’t know about them until she was older, but my daughter has a blast every summer volunteering at the VBS. Her high school required community service as part of their program (giving back to the community) and since she attended parochial school, she was accepted as a volunteer. The stories she came home with were funny, sweet, and uplifting; and now that she’s in college she still volunteers because it’s fun. THese programs are really, really great.

  12. Kasey says:

    We live in Oklahoma City and my kids love VBS. I found 2 different Southern Baptist churches with different themes. One of them only took 5 years and up but I found one that took my just turned 4 y/o and it was from 8:45am-2pm. That’s longer than she’ll be going to preschool and it was free. That was some nice downtime for me!

  13. Caitlin says:

    I would like to say one word of caution for sending your kids of to an unknown church VBS: As a young adult, I recently attended a VBS put on by the church of my childhood. I was shocked and angered to see the focus put on kids coming up or saying a prayer of conversion instead of a focus on bible lessons. Everyday, the big play would continue of knights fighting the devil/dragon and learning how to be safe from that dragon by converting which made a lot of the 4 yr olds cry or convert without really understanding. All that being said, make sure you know the lessons being taught and that they line up with your values.

  14. Kristina says:

    We live in Nashville and our church and a few other surrounding churches have started Backyard Kids Club. People from church open up their home as a Host home and invite the kid throughout their neighborhood. There is a Bible story, music, crafts and snack!

    Kids love it and the attendance of kids have been way higher than VBS held at our church.

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