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Community-based VBS: How Five Churches Came Together to Reach More People

Posted: 8/16/18 at 9:40am.

What would you do if your Vacation Bible School (VBS) outgrew your church’s facilities?

Childrey Baptist Church in Nathalie, VA, faced that wonderful challenge after their 2017 summer VBS, so they creatively discussed what to do about it.

They wanted to open it up to more people, so they held an informal meeting with neighboring church leaders to talk about the possibility of having a community-based VBS—and they came up with the idea of having it at a local elementary school where there would be plenty of space for everyone. A school in a neighboring town agreed to be their host facility.

In addition to Childrey, four other churches—Brookneal Baptist, Ebenezer Baptist (Naruna), Falling River Baptist, and The River Church—combined their financial and volunteer resources and committed to support the community VBS effort.

In July 2018, their vision became a reality, and the five churches together hosted a successful community-wide VBS at Brookneal Elementary School.

“We saw God’s hand woven throughout the whole week,” commented Dana Elder, one of the VBS co-directors, as she reflected on the week with Tally Updike, also a co-director.

“On Wednesday evening, for example, we were feeling attacked by Satan and very defeated that our work was in vain, but we went home and glanced at social media and saw where numerous parents had posted that their children had accepted Jesus that night.”

According to Elder and Updike, there were about 250 kids involved in the VBS, from preschoolers to teenagers. “I’d say around 50 percent of them were unchurched,” Elder recalled. “Our biggest surprise was having so many youth; we had about 50 students ages 11-17.”

Having the VBS at an elementary school enabled the five churches to reach a large number of students in a way that was efficient and effective—perhaps even more so than if they had been inside a church building. Since space had been a limiting factor the previous year, the volunteers in all the classrooms were thrilled to have much more room for their teaching activities.

The location presented a couple of challenges: the volunteers did not have constant, ready access to the building, and they had to move all the supplies from the church to the school for the week.

But even with those challenges, Elder concluded, having the event at the school was much better than hosting it at a church. “Being on neutral ground really helped parents and students feel more comfortable attending, especially since it wasn’t at a public place of worship.”

Being in the center of the town and easily accessible to everyone (many children could walk from their homes to attend) made the location an even better fit for the event. 

“We feel the week overall was amazing, and it exceeded our expectations by far,” said Elder, as she and Updike evaluated the event.

“To have 360 men, women, and children come to a public place to worship God together was an incredible experience. We were truly honored to be a vessel to help guide and lead in this experience.”

When asked if they would do VBS the same way again, they quickly responded, “Honestly there’s not a lot we’d change, and under the same conditions we would do it again. God unified us as the body of Christ in an incredible way, and it played out for God’s glory.”