Here’s how important Vacation Bible School is:

  • Families plan vacations around Vacation Bible School dates so their kids don’t miss out.
  • VBS is often secured on the church’s annual calendar, right after Christmas and Easter.
  • Financial resources are strategically designated, as new yard banners get purchased, set designs get crafted, and SWAG (stuff we all get) gets ordered.
  • The entire church building pauses pretty much everything else to accommodate all that a VBS needs.

Plus, almost everyone who’s ever lived near a church building knows: this is THE thing churches do in the summer for kids. 

Which means, if you’ve been around the church world long enough, you’ve probably heard some good, Christian people actually complain about how “that family” always finds “every VBS in town” to send their kids to for “free childcare”.

It’s on this hill I’d like to – not die but – build a bridge.
Because… isn’t that the point?
AND… what if we got ahead of them?

What if families unfamiliar with our churches didn’t have to do any research to know when our VBSs were taking place? What if… what if we strategically invited every kid we can to VBS?

Investing in the children and families who already attend our churches is a great, good gift. 
Of course, it is! 
AND, two things can be true at once. 

Because, while getting to hang with the kids you already know can be another faith-strengthening experience for their already-established roots…
…VBS offers an incredible opportunity to meet kids you don’t know! 

And not just kids! 
You could meet their siblings, their parents, cousins, neighbors, teammates – all sorts of folks!

It’s such a sacred space when an adult, who has minimal, if any, connection to your church, entrusts their children to you!

And while we probably could write a whole book about the motives of parents, relatives, and guardians when it comes to bringing their kids to faith-based places, for THIS event – Vacation Bible School – let’s just take a moment to steep it in some Great Commission* waters and consider how VBS truly does help disciples make disciples. (*Matthew 28:16-20)

1. VBS changes lives.

I know more than one friend who met Jesus for the first time at a VBS. 

And you already know, some kids live in homes where faith is a word said on Sundays rather than a life lived with a Savior. Some kids live in homes where children are seen and not heard – and love is earned, not abounding. And some kids live in homes where they have to fend for themselves, with no caring adults around at all. 

Vacation Bible School is a firsthand experience of what Jesus meant when he said, “Let the children come to me.” (Matthew 19:14) And YOU get to help every size, shape, and style of kid know what that love looks like, sounds like, and feels like.

Next step:

Have you ever asked your volunteers or staff leadership about the role VBS played in their stories? What about the whole congregation? Try it! Doing so would not only remind people of the impact these concentrated times together can have on a life, it also helps everyone remember that kids’ faith matters, too. And by investing time, presence, prayers, and funds in events and experiences like VBS, people are investing in disciples who are just a bit shorter, stickier, and younger than they are. (This is also a big part of championing your ministry.)

2. VBS gives gifts.

I bet you could join me in writing down dozens of parents’ names who significantly appreciate the gift of time VBS provides each summer. Their kids are safe and they can get that grocery shopping done without all the extra “help”.

Don’t knock it ‘til you try it! While VBS requires scads of volunteers, those parents who don’t say yes are not the worst. First of all, you already know that just because you were a kid doesn’t mean you’re good with kids. Second of all, give some people a break! If shame is your game in creating your teams, please – for the love of grace – stop. Recognize that parents are experiencing your version of Jesus, too, when being communicated with, equipped in their roles, and invited to VBS (amongst all other things.)

Here are 3 gifts VBS can give to parents and guardians:


What a wonderful break in their summer days, to be able to simply drop off and pick up and experience quiet for a few hours. Gift it with a smile, friends. 


What if, for one week of the summer, caretakers didn’t have to plan all three meals for a few days? Could you center your VBS around a meal, or offer an additional half-hour where parents could pick up and join in a meal, too?


For many, parenting is a lonely season where you’re surrounded by other adults, but you don’t really know them. What if your VBS created a “big-persons station” with coffee, donuts, and a leader who helped guide fun and fruitful conversations? Who knows where those connections could lead?!

Next step:

Consider how your VBS can be a gift to parents/relatives/caretakers. This might require a pivot in your plans or a shift in how you use your resources. But caring for the whole family could make a whole lot of difference – and see their return. (And if you don’t believe me, ask Chris Sasser.)

3. VBS ventures beyond the ordinary.

If your church isn’t inviting everyone and their neighbor to VBS, you’re missing out.

Read that again. YOU are missing out, not just the people you’re inviting. The family of God is big and messy and beautiful and different and extraordinary, and when we only focus on those we know, we miss out on swads of people that are threads in the tapestry of eternity. 

Vacation Bible School isn’t a copy + paste of your typical weekly offering, so neither should its invitees be. VBS is often a big, beautiful, different – and, yes, messy – derivation beyond the ordinary that your congregation embraces! So what would it look like to embrace the people who aren’t typical, either? Not just the program.

Next step:

Dream with your team and ask: what population wasn’t present at last year’s VBS that we could welcome this year? 

Kid participants:

Do all the students at the nearest elementary schools know your VBS dates and have an invitation? Are the teachers able to talk about your VBS knowledgeably, if parents ask questions? Connect with your local school(s) and build that bridge. (And if a whole school feels daunting, start with one classroom or grade and build relationships with those teaching teams. Forging relationships with other stakeholders in the life of a child will do far more good than being a random church person who shows up once a year with a whole bunch of flyers and hopes someone says yes.)

Student leaders:

Are you connected with your local high school service organizations? (think: Key Club, Student Council, etc.) Do you need extra volunteers – and do they need service hours – and could you connect with club advisors now to be able to offer VBS as a summer serving option? Be sure to include with this idea the time it takes to put together and provide a proper training with background checks and an intentional pairing of the new-to-church youth with a familiar-with-church youth. (This might look different than the training you’re already using for the VBS volunteers in your church. And bonus points if you create an opportunity for your youth minister to connect, too.)

Foster care networks:

Could your church partner with your local foster care network and be a summer respite option for foster parents to bring their kids to? Better yet: what would it look like to design a VBS specifically so that you could be this kind of gift for this kind of community?

Listen, “Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to change everything to get a different result than the one you’re getting. Just change something and before you know it, you’ll be running.” — Heather Kenny, senior consultant, One Step at a Time

You know now when VBS will be. 
And you know now that seeing rooms and worship spaces filled with all the energy kids exert brings life to a church building, and all those who are a part. 

So much so, don’t you just want to build a bridge and share VBS with every kid you can?

Ministry Architects Consultant Renée Wilson

Renée Wilson will tell you the best advice she ever received as a volunteer in youth ministry was “prepare well and love ’em to Jesus.” And that’s exactly why she’s a part of our team. Through her 15+ years of mentoring and ministering with children, youth, and young adults, Renée knows the value of building healthy teams and loves creating approaches around the vision of seeing more and more people come to know Christ.