Archives For Vacation Bible School

The Briefing

Mohler confronts SBC’s gender issues
“Judgment has now come to the house of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Southern Seminary President Al Mohler wrote following the removal of a fellow seminary president under fire for comments about women and domestic abuse. But Mohler said the SBC’s issues are “far deeper and wider” than the controversy surrounding former Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson, who was named president emeritus of his institution May 23 following weeks of public outcry.

“The terrible swift sword of public humiliation has come with a vengeance,” Mohler wrote. “There can be no doubt that this story is not over.”

SBC ends relationship with D.C. convention
After nearly a year and a half of discussions concerning a Washington church with lesbian co-pastors, the Southern Baptist Convention has notified the District of Columbia Baptist Convention that “the formal relationship between the SBC and the DCBC has come to an end.”

Ahead of Dallas meeting, SBC leaders submit resolution on women
Midwestern Seminary President Jason Allen posted a resolution May 29 that he has submitted to the SBC Committee on Resolutions ahead of the denomination’s June meeting in Dallas. The resolution “on affirming the dignity of women and the holiness of ministers” is affirmed by dozens of national and state Baptist leaders, including IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams.

Willow Creek hires third-party organization to address Hybels allegations
Following former pastor Bill Hybels’ resignation amid allegations of misconduct, the elder board of Willow Creek Community Church has hired a resolution group to “serve as an independent, neutral third party to listen to the women involved and discuss with each of them their requests and desired process outcomes.”

But Nancy Beach, a former Willow Creek pastor and one of the women who reported Hybels for inappropriate conduct, said “truth finding must precede reconciliation.”

VBS makes summer plans list, even when parents aren’t in church
The majority of American adults remembers attending Vacation Bible School as kids and have positive memories of the experience, according to a new survey by LifeWay Research. Today, 60% of parents say they will encourage their child to attend a VBS program at a church where the parent does not attend services.

Sources: Baptist Press (2),, Christian Post, LifeWay Research




Rites of summer: VBS

ib2newseditor —  July 17, 2017

Living Stones Community Church, Rockford

A woman pulling dandelions along the sidewalk in front of her house seems willing, even eager to take a break.

“Well,” she says, “the church is over there about a block,” pointing westward along one of the community’s few streets. “But the marker you’re asking about is right over there, waving a hand holding weeds southward.

“That’s where it really started, so that’s where they put the marker.”

It’s clear that Hopedale, Illinois is still proud of its place in history as the one-horse, no stop-light town that birthed an international movement: Vacation Bible School.

In the late spring of 1894, Mattie Pritchard Miles, wife of Hopedale’s Methodist minister, had a bold idea: take advantage of the summer break to teach otherwise idle children about the Bible. She planned a day of Bible teaching and activities “for all children of whatever church—or no church at all.” From the beginning, VBS has been about outreach. Perhaps that’s why its first organizer took the school outside the walls of her church and denomination.

The meeting place was on the grounds outside the elementary school, where the historical marker stands today, with the park next door.

Some 37 children showed up.

What’s even more remarkable is that Mrs. Miles didn’t hold a one-week VBS, or even two-weeks as some older people may remember. Her Vacation Bible School lasted 26 days over five weeks.

The 1894 school quickly became a model for churches and denominations everywhere. The big stone marker includes a time capsule that is to be opened in 2094, on the 200th anniversary of VBS.

In the meantime, proponents of the summertime discipleship ministry, and Southern Baptists in particular, still see its value for evangelism as well as discipling children (and adults). LifeWay reports that 25% of all baptisms in SBC churches come through VBS.

Consider these other 2015 statistics from LifeWay, which produces VBS curriculum especially for SBC churches.

• Every one person trained in VBS in SBC churches results in 1.1 salvation decisions.
• 10% of people enrolled in SBC VBS are unchurched.
• 2.7 million people enroll in VBS each year.
• 72,925 people each year accept Christ as Lord and Savior.
• 2,666 people commit their lives to church-related vocations through VBS.
• 56,386 people enroll in Sunday School/small group Bible study as a result of attending VBS.

Mrs. Miles lived 55 years after her first month-long experiment. By 1949, VBS was a well-established tradition that continues to reach children and families and to change lives today.

-Eric Reed

VBS Concept Metal Letterpress TypeIf you’ve ever planned a big event, you know how it feels when it’s over. All the work and energy and trial and error that went into planning and executing the project can be exhausting, and when it’s finally over, all that energy seems to fly out the window too.

But for church leaders, the end of an outreach event is only the beginning.

This is heavy on my heart as we enter Vacation Bible School season, and I’m reminded how crucial a church’s follow-up process is to their overall VBS strategy. That’s why I advise churches to recruit a follow-up director. His or her only job is to connect people from VBS or any other outreach with other people and opportunities at the church. Encourage the director to have their follow-up strategy before the first person ever walks in the door, including:

Effective registration. The follow-up director will likely work with other VBS leaders to accomplish this. The truth is, you can’t follow up with someone you can’t find. Make sure you have the full name and contact information for every person who attends your VBS. It’s important to know these things not only for follow-up, but in case you need to get in touch during VBS with someone related to the child.

Follow-up teams. Ask the director to recruit pairs or small groups of people who can make personal visits to families. The church I previously served sent our deacons two-by-two to follow up after VBS. We found in-person visits to be most effective, but some of our teams felt more comfortable making a call first to set up a time to visit.

Connection points. When our follow-up teams made their visits, they made it a point to take something that would forge a connection with the family. For example, one year the children decorated frames during VBS and we attached a calendar of church events for the deacons to deliver.

Above all, remember that a follow-up strategy doesn’t have to be complicated; it just needs to allow you to make significant contacts with people who otherwise may only encounter your church through one event. The goal of any VBS or outreach effort should be to connect unchurched people with the church for the purpose of expanding God’s kingdom. We can’t do that if we don’t follow up.

Jack Lucas is IBSA’s director of next generation ministry.

Churches take up five gospel challenges for the coming year

At the IBSA Annual Meeting, churches take up five gospel challenges for the coming year.What are the building blocks of an effective ministry, one that reaches people who are far from God? And how can churches play their role in building God’s kingdom here on earth, and in Illinois?

Surrounded by large Lego-style building blocks, IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams said the answers to those questions are largely familiar.

“The problem is not that we don’t know what to do, the problem is that we’re not doing it,” Adams said during the Wednesday evening session of the IBSA Annual Meeting. The worship service was all about five keys to effective, redemptive ministry: Expanded VBS, Witness Training, Outreach Events, New Groups, and Evangelistic Prayer.

At the close of the service, meeting attenders were invited to commit to one or more of the ministry challenges, and pinpoint on a map of Illinois where they want to see God build his kingdom.

Adams introduced each building block, and an Illinois pastor told how his church had seen God work through that specific ministry. Here are their stories:


Build a better VBS
Scott Foshie, Steeleville Baptist

“VBS is one of the most effective evangelistic tools in our church life,” Foshie said, introducing the first building block. “It reaches kids, parents and grandparents.”

In their 2015 Vacation Bible School, Steeleville church members shared the gospel in many different settings, including small and large groups, and saw 32 professions of faith. “As we followed up with families, we’ve had 10 baptisms,” said Foshie.

Research shows 30% of Christians accept Christ before age 13, and 70% do so by age 18. These statistics demonstrate the need for child evangelism. The most proven way to do this is through Vacation Bible School. Yet, last year 45% of IBSA churches did not host a VBS.

Adams implored churches to help one another with VBS. “If you’re doing one yourself can you help someone else do one? Can we come alongside and help you?” he asked.

Foshie said it’s important to start planning early and to come together in evangelistic prayer. When you do this, “people come to know Jesus,” he said.

“VBS is the low hanging fruit,” said Adams. “If your church is going to do one thing this year—do VBS.”


Go tell the Good News
Sammy Simmons, Immanuel, Benton

Immanuel Baptist holds an attractional evangelistic event every year—alternating a living nativity with a summer block party.

“There are 26,000 lost people in our county,” Simmons said. “Evangelistic events allow us to do all hands on deck. They allow our people opportunities to serve…all weekend or sometimes a week-long event. Our people love to serve.”

Six weeks before this summer’s block party, Simmons began a sermon series on sharing the gospel. He asked every Sunday school class to get involved as well.

One of the ways church members learned to share the gospel was using the “Three Circles” method, a strategy for starting spiritual conversations. Using that method at the block party, Simmons said, “One of our deacons led a cop to Christ.”

Church members followed up with attendees who had completed cards stating they do not attend church. “Over the next four weeks we saw eight individuals come to know Christ,” Simmons said.

After the pastor finished sharing his church’s story, Adams noted, “The church ought to be a place where we teach one another and learn from one another how to share our faith….The hardest thing is starting a spiritual conversation, the second hardest thing is sharing a spiritual conversation.”


Start a new group
Carlton Binkley, FBC, Woodlawn

On a typical Sunday morning, 85-90 people show up for worship at FBC Woodlawn, but the church regularly saw only eight people coming to its weekly prayer meeting. There was no step in place to assimilate new people into the body of Christ, Binkley said.

The pastor became convicted that they needed to be imitating the church in Acts 2, “[meeting] from house to house…breaking bread together, fellowshipping with one another, being in community.”

So they traded in their Wednesday night prayer service in order to start in-home Bible studies across the county.

It began with three groups the first semester, then grew to seven; now they’re about to launch their ninth group and average almost 90 people each week.

With 100% of the congregation involved in a small group, the outcomes are evident: They’ve had eight baptisms in the last year, people are learning ministry skills through discipleship, and the hope is for these groups to lead to church planting efforts.

“We just want to see Jefferson County come to Christ,” Binkley said, “and we think [God] is going to do it through small group ministry.”


Pray intentionally
Roger Teal, Grace Fellowship, Benton

The theme “Build Your Kingdom Here” is an evangelistic prayer in and of itself, Adams said. Pastor Roger Teal’s church has watched God work through their commitment to pray for people who don’t yet know Christ.

Teal explained how his church recently moved locations. Claiming the passages in Ezra 3 where the Israelites built an altar for their church before the actual building, he decided, “We’re going to do that.”

So the congregation cut down a tree, went to the exact spot where the altar would be in their new church, and “started writing names down of people they knew they wanted to see come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior,” Teal said.

Although the building is still not complete, the altar is finished. And the names written on it are seen every Sunday as people walk past. A young man named Garret Mahan, whose name is on the altar, came to know Christ and was baptized by his grandfather, Rick Webb (pictured below). Garrett has since answered a call to ministry.

The altar has served to keep the names of lost people in front of the congregation where they cannot be forgotten or ignored.

When someone at Grace comes to know the Lord, his or her name gets circled. With three so far, Teal said they have a lot more to go. “But, we’ve got three names that are circled.”


Dots on a map

At the end of the worship service, Adams asked everyone in the sanctuary to consider which of the five ministry challenges they’ll take up in the coming year. He invited them to walk down the aisle and place a commitment card near a large map of Illinois, and then to use a post-it note to indicate where in the state they are praying God will build his kingdom.

As the service concluded and people slowly made their way out of the sanctuary, the map remained as a reminder of that prayer.

Build Your Kingdom.


– Team report by Illinois Baptist staff