This is the time when preparations for Vacation Bible School are ramping up. The curriculum is selected. Volunteers are being sought. Craft materials are being collected. The location for the VBS is being debated. [DRAMATIC PAUSE] The location for the VBS is being debated????? Isn’t it just assumed that the VBS will be held in the church building????
Let me challenge that assumption. Sure, there are all kinds of reasons to have a VBS in the building. For one thing: that’s where the VBS has always been held! Second, it’s so convenient. Third, if it rains the building provides a dry place to meet. And, I’m sure you can generate many more reasons to have your VBS in your church building.
So, why would we consider moving our VBS … possibly into a local neighbourhood park? For one thing: the VBS will be far more visible! Second, think of who may attend the VBS … children who are highly unlikely to walk through the doors of a church – Muslim children, Hindi children, secular children, and so on. A VBS in a local park is about being “incarnational” in the community – it’s about “GOING and TELLING!” instead of “Inviting and Hoping” children will come.
The Olive Branch (a community of faith working and worshipping in the Clareview community of Edmonton) takes its Vacation Bible School to a local park. Two summers ago, it was called, “Fun in the Park.” Last summer kids enjoyed “Tuesdays with a Twist.” This year “Fabulous Fridays” will be held on three consecutive Friday (of course!) mornings in July. Each week there are puppet plays, games, stories, parachute activities, crafts and singing. Every year, the fun days in the park have been attended by a variety of children representing a variety of cultures and religions. One of the outcomes of this VBS park event has been an ongoing Sunday afternoon kid’s program that is attended predominately by neighbourhood children!
Admittedly, there are challenges to having a VBS in a community park. Where do you go when it rains???? Some communities have bylaws that require a permit. Some communities have day programs for children in the parks and you don’t want to be in competition with them.
But, a VBS in the park is worth the extra effort – especially when you see and hear the Gospel of Jesus being shared with children who have never heard the message before! So, please, when you have your next VBS organizational meeting, don’t assume the VBS will be held in the church building. Explore and discuss the possibilities of taking VBS to a local park near you!