During the quarantine, I researched the fruitfulness of VBS the way we’d always done it. Yes, we involved a slew of people to volunteer. Yes, we had crowds of kids in the hundreds. Yes, we threw everything we had at the walls, every wall, for an entire week. I found no new family connections for all that investment the traditional VBS way for us going back several years prior to 2020.

We had to do VBS differently in 2020. We chose a tailgate party with a jacked-up VBS large group for the families to enjoy at three different times on Thursday nights. Why Thursdays? Once everything returned (we really thought we’d be back in a few weeks) it would not interfere with other ministries returning. 

For the next 14 weeks, we gathered so our families ‘would not become accustomed to doing life without us’ after the initial 12 weeks of drive-thru family ministry every Tuesday at 1pm in March, April, and May. So we did parking lot family VBS every Thursday night in June, July, and August. The stage was a sidewalk. The classroom was their vehicle.

What happened? We had five new families connected in at least a 2nd way with the church family by October. Winner winner!

Summer 2021 rolled around and there lingered a continued caution. So we planned another Family VBS as a drive-in service playing games as a family, telling stories about Jesus, theming out each evening in June & July, dancing and singing praises to the Lord. We highlighted and involved a different ministry each night (ex: Men’s Ministry on Nerf Game Night). Five more new families connected in at least a 2nd way with the church family by October. Winner, winner!

Summer 2022 rolled around and we decided to continue this different Family VBS because (1) it was connectionally fruitful, (2) we didn’t need as many volunteers (still an issue today for almost everyone), (3) we added some table life to it through a generous donation to include a food truck each night and an ice cream truck going into neighborhoods immediately following and (4) we had one service to throw at it everything we had. 

What we learned from Family VBS 2022?

  • The table life added more stress as only 3 out of 5 food trucks proved reliable.
  • Including tables meant more volunteers and set up was a bear as take down had to be complete before moving on to anything else in the wicked heat.
  • Rather than the tables being a space to engage as a family, it separated adults from their kids.
  • Leaving to escort an ice cream truck into a local neighborhood meant some folks were left eating in the parking lot due to late food trucks. Missed hospitality.
  • More families attended since it wasn’t in one single week, but were able to schedule out one or more of the 5 Thursdays in June and felt they didn’t miss a thing. Consistency matters.
  • We had five more new families connected in at least a 2nd way with the church family by October. Still a connectional winner.

So what about 2023? 

We are doing Family VBS again because (1) it continues to be connectionally fruitful, (2) we don’t need as many volunteers and the volunteers can be different every week, (3) we are using a larger, shaded, grassy area which can be seen and heard from the street which is now available, (4) Using ReFocus Ministry’s generational discipleship curriculum: Talk Tools, (5) better stewardship of a decreasing budget, (6) we have 3 rounds of VBS training which explains our WHY and practices hospitality skills.

The schedule looks like this: “Building our faith this summer as we ‘serve one another humbly in love’” (Galatians 5:13)

5:45pm – Building stations w/art station, magnetile station, lego station, straws/connector station. In years passed we’d use consumables. This year, we will use items we can repurpose in the Welcome Center to better steward the VBS budget.

6:10pm – Assume-your-positions song: Take Me Back to Church by Cochren & Co.

6:15pm – Worship Music begins (start song: He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands – this year’s call to worship) with another song (we build a Spotify playlist w/VBS songs we curate)

6:20pm – Family games (provided by ReFocus) transitioning to story with a song

6:30pm – Bible story (always about Jesus)
6:35pm – Family response activity (by ReFocus)

6:45pm – Family affirmations (by ReFocus)

6:50pm – JumpStart3 Matthew 7:24-25 House On The Rock! closing song w/invite, “We’ve loved spending the evening together and would love to get to know you better. We’ll be packing everything up by 7pm and heading to ? restaurant for dinner and would love to have you join us.” We tested some dine-out locations during Lent and have made arrangements with local restaurants we’re going to. This lets us be a ‘good neighbor’ together.

Follow-up (setting the table for the next step in generational discipleship right quickly)

  1. Sunday morning building our faith continues in June & July with Sign Language class for K5-2nd grades & Power Tool Building class for 3rd-5th graders. Looks like McEachern Academy.
  2. Invites to various Christmas in July events in July aka Christmas caroling to shut-ins, snow machines, marshmallow games, Tall/Small Paint Party, Women’s Ministry potluck & sundae bar, Promotion Sunday, Prayer Warrior Bootcamp, National Ice Cream Sunday at the Gaga Ball pit.

If you are local or local enough and would like to bring a bus/van/car load of kids (your church kids or just the ones you live with) to see what it looks like, we’d love to have ya. We’ll take care of the programming.

I love VBS and all that it entails, if it’s fruitful and blesses the socks off littles and bigs alike. I also love doing generational discipleship which is fruitful and measurable. And I REALLY love dancing before the Lord in praise on Thursday nights with little people and their bigs. By the way, our Student ministry is handing out freeze pops each Thursday night at the end because building our faith through serving together is generational discipleship. Our Women’s Ministry small groups are rolling out the red carpet in as the hospitality team for each Thursday. Teamwork at its best!

“Serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13