What in the Heck is VBS Anyway?

I've had a few of you ask me this question.  I do a VBS Guide every year and every year a few people ask me what it is and what your kids do while they're there.

Here's my run-down.

VBS means "Vacation Bible School".  It's essentially amped-up Sunday School, but way "funner".  There are, generally speaking, 3 formats that you'll find at a VBS.

1. Marketplace (if the name of the VBS is the name of a town or country and has "Group Publishing" in the corner, this is what you're doing. Examples include "Galilee By the Sea" and "Rome".) The picture below is from Good Shepherd UMC's Egypt VBS in 2010.  If you sent your child, I was personally responsible for all that eyeliner that you couldn't get off.  :)

2. Traditional Rotation Format (95% of VBS's will follow this one. Examples include "Shake it Up Cafe" and anything from "Cokesbury Publishing")

3. Neighborhood.  (All Saint's Anglican Church is the only one I know of that does this format, but it's an awesome concept.  They adapt a rotation model to be used by a smaller group in a neighborhood so you don't have to schelp your kids to a church.)

Neighborhood models are fairly easy.  Your kid shows up at the appointed place at the appointed time, and the leaders move through the 2ish hours much like a playdate with songs, crafts, and stories.  Check in and check out are normally low-key and you can opt to let your child walk home by themself if you're comfortable.

In traditional and rotational format VBS you'll probably be taking your child to a church.  There will be a check in/check out process and probably somewhere between 75-200 kids participating in groups or "family groups" of between 8-12 kids and 2 leaders.  In Marketplace VBS, the publisher recommends mixed age groups, but I haven't found many churches (if any) that listen.  Pretty much everyone divides the kids up by age and/or grade level.  These groups then travel together to different stations.  In Marketplace VBS's the largest room (a multipurpose gym or the sanctuary) is decorated as a marketplace with crafts, snacks, and other various "period" activities at different booths.  Children are able to wander from booth to booth and spend gold coins.  In rotational VBS, each of these (snack, crafts, etc.) is in a different room and age groups travel from place to place on a schedule.

Here's a typical day.

1. Drop off.  Usually your kid will get a super-awesome T-shirt for their collection of t-shirts to play in! Whoohoo! (Image is of All Saint's Dale City's VBS shirts, from their website)

2.  Then your kid is probably going to enjoy an opening of some kind, usually with a prayer and some ultra-cheesy song with hand motions.  I've been doing VBS for 27 years and I am constantly amazed how much they LOVE these cheesy songs with hand motions. Seriously, they really like them.
3.  They're going to do some crafts.  Usually they have to do with the theme or Bible story of the day (for example, a fish craft to go with Jonah and the whale or a set of panda ears because the theme is "Pandamania")

4.  They're going to have snack.  No worries- the director has flagged everything on your child if they have an allergy and the worst thing that will happen is they'll be given goldfish instead of trail mix because the m&m's may contain peanuts.  Your child will insist they're not that allergic and have m&m's all the time, and will still get the goldfish. Everyone else will be jealous because there are no raisins in the goldfish :)

5.  They're going to play some games.  They might get wet.  This is everyone's favorite station every time.

6.  They're going to hear a story, typically with some kind of awesome prop involved.  Yesterday, we stuffed 20 kids into 2 giant boxes connected to make a whale.  Sardines were involved to give it ambiance.

I know that I come across with a lot of sarcasm, but trust me when I say that kids have a great time, with minor exceptions for things like "I wanted to be line leader today but it's my turn tomorrow".  It's a low-cost way for them to have a great time and you to have a break.  Unless you are a giant sucker like me and can't seem to sign your kids up for VBS without getting sucked into volunteering even though it's not at your church :)

(Secretly, I enjoy the cheesy songs, too....just don't tell)

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