Summer Highlights

I just dropped three (two of my own, and one borrowed) children off for their first day of Vacation Bible Camp (VBC). I am both delighted and surprised that this week is a highlight of the summer for all three kids. My daughter went to pony camp a few weeks back and even that can’t compete with VBC. Two weeks of hockey camp were awesome, but my son still can’t wait for church camp. He is already talking about next year when he becomes a junior leader at the camp.

I guess it shouldn’t surprise me since Vacation Bible School (VBS), as we called it, was a highlight of my summers as a child. My Dad, our minister, led VBS, often with a student minister and a few volunteers. I loved the singing, the Bible ‘drills,’ the stories, the games, and the crafts. I would bring my friends and it was a great week for all of us!

When I later began working at St. Giles Presbyterian Church in Ottawa, leading VBS was still one of the highlights of my year. I loved writing the curriculum. I loved welcoming the children and getting to spend a whole week with them. I loved working with other church leaders. At St. Giles, we partnered with one or two other churches to host a full-day VBS. The children would meet at St. Giles in the morning for a fairly traditional morning of VBS. Then we would walk them to the local United church where they would enjoy lunch (prepared by volunteers) and enjoy larger afternoon activities. The afternoon leaders were willing to do things I wasn’t and that made for a better program for everyone.

I know some churches have stopped hosting summer camps. Some have had difficulty securing volunteers. For some, it has been for financial reasons. Some churches have just found that the children no longer attended so it didn’t make sense. I have even heard a few rumblings that it was just being used as free daycare for families.

I might sound dated praising summer church camps. I am sure there are others who think we shouldn’t continue with such an outdated ministry model. Yet, I think there are still countless reasons to continue. VBC is a time of commitments. VBC is a time of concentrated Bible learning. VBC is a time to get non-church kids into the church. VBC is a great time for your church leaders to get excited and experience joy and laughter. VBC is a chance for your congregation to do outreach. VBC provides leadership opportunities for your youth.

Obviously, it’s not the model for every church. There are good reasons to stop or change the way you minister with children throughout the summer. It doesn’t work for every church or in every situation, but today I give thanks that my children are enjoying their morning at our church. I give thanks for our amazing coordinator and countless volunteers. I give thanks for a church that commits people and money to this week. I give thanks for church staff that work two to three times their required hours to make camp happen. I give thanks for the songs we will be singing in the car for the next year. I give thanks that the love of God is being shared with my kids! Thanks be to God.

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5 thoughts on “Summer Highlights

  • August 23, 2016 at 12:21 pm
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    Totally agree. At Knox Woodstock we have a 7 week summer day camp, it is tiring but sure makes the church alive for those 7 weeks 😊

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  • August 23, 2016 at 6:22 pm
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    Hi Colleen,
    I just realized that this would have been the week for VBS and we are not doing it this year. The last 6 years we have had a shared VBS with 3 congregations in our Presbytery doing the planning and bringing children. It wasn’t going to work this year for various reasons so at my Church we substituted three Family Games Nights instead. It has been lots of fun on hot and steamy Friday nights. The final one is this Friday night and we are hoping for cooler temperatures!!
    We set up tables and brought in board games, crokinole, darts, Jinga, dominoes etc. Pizza is planned for dinner each night and then we play together for a couple of hours. Dessert is the finishing touch and we’ve had ice cream cones (and dishes) with nuts, sprinkles and sauces.
    It’s not the same as VBS but we’ve had a good-sized group each night so far and a mix of ages from toddler to 80+. We’ve had a lot of fun together!!
    VBS was wonderful but we’ve had to move on and the the Family Games Night has been great!!

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  • August 24, 2016 at 7:53 pm
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    A wonderful story and I too was involved with the Vacation Bible School in our community that our daughters participated in as children…everyone in our rural community attended. Fantastic memories and now my grandchildren are participating in their local Community Vacation Bible School, some Presbyterian, some not, but beautiful and positive experiences for each of them. I am so grateful for the beautiful opportunities and friendships developed that are developed.

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  • October 3, 2016 at 3:35 pm
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    After reading Summer Highlights and as I recover from a fractured pelvis, I recall all the years I was involved with VBS in at least 12 different churches across Ontario.
    One vivid memory is on our vacation drives from western Ontario to visit relatives in the Ottawa area our three daughters at that time singing all the little chorus’ they had learned the previous week at VBS. What an enjoyable way to spend the hours in the car. Shirley Miller

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    • October 3, 2016 at 3:58 pm
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      Shirley, we receive a CD with the songs from our VBS every year. This year we left for vacation from VBS, so you know what tunes we had playing as we traveled to PEI! I love them as much as the kids. (P.S. Hope you recover quickly! Colleen)

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