VBS Essential to Family Outreach

4/11/2013

By Jasmine Haynes, Web and Social Media Specialist

Summer is around the corner and United Methodistcongregations 

Heritage VBS
Children and youth enjoying VBS at Heritage UMC.
throughout Mississippi are in the early planning stages of a vacation Bible school (VBS) full of food, fun and for some, a first-time encounter with God.   Although VBS is heavily attended by children and youth who are members of the host churches, VBS is an excellent venue to welcome and reach out to families in surrounding communities who may not have a church home.

  

Rev. Sally Bevill, pastor of Heritage United Methodist Church in D'Iberville, Mississippi, shared that Heritage has a week-long VBS every summer. Out of the 50 children and youth who attended last year's VBS, five children from two different families not only joined the church but their parents joined also. "Our agenda is to love these kids and hopefully through our relationships with the children, their families will say, 'hey I need to be here with my child and this is a place I can belong,'" said Bevill.

  

According to Bevill, the effectiveness of VBS as an evangelical effort to connect to families revolves around a church's involvement and commitment to mission and not a goal to fill pews on Sundays. "There are lots of broken, sad and lonely folks out there that are just waiting for somebody to care about them--especially when it comes to children. You have to build relationships and invest in your community because it's not just about the one-time event-you have to follow up," said Bevill.

  

VBS requires a lot of planning and volunteers. Heritage UMC has approximately 275 active members and lots of children, youth and young adults, but hosting VBS at smaller congregations with 50 or less active members can be challenging.

  

Rev. Dr. Denise Donnell, pastor of Mississippi City UMC in Gulfport said that in small churches

Denise Donnell
Rev. Dr. Denise Donnell, Mississippi City UMC pastor
with mostly older members like Mississippi City, there are usually a 'faithful few' that attend and coordinate the majority of happenings at the church. Therefore, those same few people may not be enough to take on the task of adequately planning a VBS that reaches a large amount of young people. "It's a huge responsibility to be the hands and feet of Jesus in children's lives and VBS gives churches an opportunity to be the light of God and bring people in," said Donnell.

 

Donnell stated that churches with challenges like Mississippi City's should consider making internal changes that embrace different styles of worship so that all people feel welcome to enter churches not only for VBS, but for all church events. Donnell believes that whatever obstacles congregations may face in holding VBS, it is imperative that they overcome them because not having VBS is a missed opportunity for the church's outreach efforts and for young people. "There are always un-churched children who could benefit from VBS because the church may be those children's first or closest encounter with God, even if it's just during the summer," said Donnell.

  

Though Heritage UMC does not face the same obstacles of smaller, older congregations, Bevill wants the church to jump over a new hurdle. Bevill will confirm 17 youth and baptize five children and youth on Sunday, April 14, 2013 and hopes to reach twice as many local students as last year's VBS by surpassing over one hundred attendees.