Vacation Bible Schools adapt to busy schedules in the modern age

Camp leaders at the Pinehurst Christian Church lead children through songs Tuesday during Vacation Bible School. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

Vacation Bible School used to entail one to two weeks of interactive lessons, usually culminating with a play or production for the congregation at its conclusion.

“I’m almost 80 and I attended Vacation Bible School when I was a kid, I probably wouldn’t be Christian today without it,” recalled Barbara Garverick, of Marietta, on Tuesday. “When I went, it would go on for two weeks and we had cookies and Kool-aid for snacks during the day while we learned the Bible stories.”

Garverick welcomed students to the Pinehurst Christian Church on Tuesday evening for a night of VBS, complete with a dinner and the theme repeated across the Mid-Ohio Valley this summer: Life is wild, God is good.

“There are buckets of concrete and wooden frames holding the sets in place all around the building,” said Evangelist Jeff Tucker pointing out the life-sized trees and a waterfall on the stage of the church Tuesday. “Our congregation volunteers put a lot into these decorations and into planning the different interactive lessons. They started planning this back in February.”

There were larger-than-life sets (at least in the mind of a 6-year-old) strung to look like the parting of the Red Sea, and college-aged students leading songs and dance as they guided children through a safari of faith.

Decorations for Vacation Bible School at the Pinehurst Christian Church took months of planning and preparation and included building life-sized trees and wild animals within the halls of the building for the evening camp this week. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

“We’re trying to instill in youth that we are all going to face hard situations, family dynamic changes, but God will never leave us,” said Gretchen Hammer, children’s ministry director for the First Baptist Church of Williamstown, which will hold just two nights this summer of VBS under the same theme, but this year will hold the nights in Tomlinson Park-the first tonight from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

The tradition of VBS has lasted in an adapted form through recent years, both Hammer and Garverick said, as churches have eyed the busy schedules of working parents, sports-strapped children and a strained volunteer base.

“It takes a lot of volunteers from the congregation to put these on, but we want our youth to know the Bible,” said Traci Eddy, secretary at the Church of Christ at the corner of Sixth and Washington streets in Marietta. “So ours is at the same time this year as our summer series on Wednesday nights for the adults. We’d love to have anybody that’s interested come — it looks like a beach in the childrens’ classroom right now as we talk about drawing on our faith when we’re feeling marooned and we have different teachers each week prepared with crafts that go along with the lessons.”

But whether the stories are told within the walls of a church, at a park, or at Kidz Blitz Live in the Marietta High School auditorium on June 29 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the message is the same.

“Maybe you’re not as comfortable coming to a service, and the park is less intimidating,” said Hammer. “We want to welcome you, welcome your child and help them feel God’s love for them.”

Tonight the park, weather permitting, will be filled with canopy tents and a flatbed trailer main stage to welcome at-minimum 70 rising kindergarteners through sixth-graders.

“It’s jam-packed into one night and we’ll keep the kids moving,” said Hammer.

Other themes throughout the valley have included focuses on attitude and both Moss Run Community Church and The Peoples Church in Boaz will host their VBS with the theme “The Incredible Race” later on this summer.

“We’re looking at different cultures around the world and how they originated from Adam and Eve,” explained Children’s Pastor David Munson, with The Peoples Church. “We have quite a few volunteers that are so helpful with snacks, games, activities and crafts as we talk about how all people are children of God.”

Each of the bible school offerings are free and the Moss Run VBS will take place June 26-28 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

The Peoples Church in Boaz will hold its VBS July 8-12, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. with a finale day with parents July 13 at noon.