Jana Magruder on Vacation Bible School as a Strategy to Combat Cultural Crises

First Baptist Church of Panama City, Fla., hosted VBS in June 2019 as destruction from Hurricane Michael still lingered in their community. Nearly 500 children from the area participated, around one-third of them unchurched. Submitted photo

Jana Magruder is director of LifeWay Kids. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of BCNN1.


For First Baptist Church of Panama City, Fla., Vacation Bible School (VBS) was more than simply “worth doing” last summer. It was a critical need for the community.

Although Hurricane Michael had ravaged the panhandle of Florida in October 2018, the Panama City area still looked like a war zone in June 2019. And the aesthetics of the community reflected the emotional and spiritual condition of the people who suffered.

Many families — parents and children — suffered post-traumatic stress disorder from the harrowing impact of the Category 5 storm. They felt forgotten. They felt isolated.

They felt lonely.

But one doesn’t have to endure a life-altering crisis to feel lonely. In fact, loneliness is seeping into the fabric of our culture — and our churches. According to a 2018 Cigna study, nearly half of American adults say they sometimes or always feel alone (46 percent) or left out (47 percent).

And it seems the younger a person is, the more likely they are to feel lonely. The study shows that Generation Z — in this study those age 18-22 — is the loneliest generation.

The local church isn’t immune to loneliness. But there’s another crisis our congregations must face: apathy toward the lost.

A 2019 LifeWay Research study found more than half (55 percent) of those who regularly attend church say they haven’t shared with anyone how to become a Christian in the past six months. We have an evangelism crisis in our churches. We know the Great Commission is ours to do, but we’re not doing it.

And we have a loneliness epidemic in our communities.

But we, the Church, have a solution to both of these problems. A solution that’s been in front of us for decades: VBS.

Why VBS?

For well over a century, VBS has been spreading the Gospel in dynamic ways. The Lord has used this ministry to make His name known to millions. Just in the past 10 years, nearly 800,000 people have said yes not only to VBS in SBC churches — they’ve said yes to Jesus.

Kids, teens and adults encounter Jesus in a powerful way through VBS. Some for the first time; others at just the right time. It’s a proven ministry tool that addresses both the evangelism crisis and the loneliness epidemic like no other strategy the church has today.

But some churches have thrown in the towel and given up on VBS because they think it’s not culturally relevant. Others cite a lack of volunteers. And many simply say it’s too much work.

Yes, VBS is a lot of work. It takes an army of people and resources. And each year, churches ask themselves: Is it worth it?

LifeWay Kids commissioned a comprehensive research project to determine if VBS is indeed still worth it. Here are a few of the findings:

— Six out of 10 American adults attended VBS as a child.

— Nine out of 10 have positive memories of VBS.

— Perhaps most exciting: Eight of 10 said it was a childhood highlight.

Unlike the adults who responded in this survey, many of our kids today have had a full data plan on a smartphone since they were 10 years old. They’re digital natives — the most connected to technology, but the least connected to real people and actual relationships.

They need people. They need God’s Word. They need Jesus.

Click here to read more.
Source: Baptist Press