Summer could mean a host of different things to various people, but for most Christian parents, it means one thing: VBS. Just as churches routinely send off mission teams overseas each summer, most churches take a few days to a week of the three-month long vacation to focus wholly on sharing the gospel to children through creative and fun ways, including crafts, games, skits, and worship music and dance.
We asked a few pastors of churches of mostly Korean American congregants in Southern California on their VBS experiences this summer. What were some things that were particularly effective or helpful?
One aspect that the VBS directors of some churches thought was particularly helpful was that the whole church was united in its effort to help make VBS memorable and impactful. It wasn’t seen as a separate event for children’s ministry.
At Living Hope Community Church in Brea, CA, for example, not only were the pastoral staff supportive of VBS and praying for it, but they also made the decision to pray for VBS during the general worship services.
“That was special because it let the whole church know, it’s not just this large fun event we put on,” said Julie Pak from Living Hope, who has led VBS there for two years. “It’s more than just a week of fun for the kids. It really is evangelistic work that we are doing in VBS, and that allows the whole church to be on board.”
“I love seeing the church move as whole,” said Pauline Byun, the children’s ministry director of Crossway Community Church, which has campuses in Brea and Irvine. “VBS is a whole family, whole church event. We see this as an outreach to the community, and it’s amazing to see the whole church being so excited about the next generation.”
Church of Southland, located in Anaheim, CA, had an application process and ‘priority list’ to make VBS more intentional. The application would ask the family whether they are members of another church, and if so, which church.
“We recognize that VBS is an affordable way to provide child care during the summer,” said Pastor Daniel Kim, the education pastor at Church of Southland. “But we wanted to target a specific audience -- our own church kids, kids from small churches who don’t have VBS, and kids from the surrounding community.”
Having children within small groups and discussing the Bible lessons with their small group teachers also helped, several shared.
“Small groups are what make VBS special,” said Pastor Daniel Kim. “Kids are able to interact and share with the leader and with each other, and the leader is able to make sure that all kids are prayed for, listened to, and that they all had an opportunity to share.”
“We had tents set up, and the kids would go into the tent to do worship songs with their volunteer leaders, examine the Bible passage together, and ask lots of questions,” said Pastor Grace Kim, the children’s ministry pastor at Community Church on Holliston, located in Pasadena, CA. That small group context allowed for “a lot of discussion to engage and understand the message of the day.”
She added that simply having VBS on an annual basis is helpful and effective in building a gospel foundation in the children.
“It’s like a mini retreat for the kids,” Pastor Grace Kim said. “Every year it comes around, and kids get super excited to learn about God and His Word.”
“This is also missions -- it just happens to be that it’s not in a foreign country,” said Julie Pak. “Our people group is just different -- it’s children. They see the world differently and have different needs. And it’s our responsibility to share the gospel with them.”
Christine Kim contributed to this report.