Kay Moll is known around the world as a powerful speaker and an approachable friend. But not everyone may realize that she directs one of Standard Publishing’s most important ministries, our Vacation Bible School department. We asked Kay to talk with us briefly about her passion for VBS and the way it still touches lives today.
How long has VBS been around? Why do churches continue to use it?
Vacation Bible School has been around for more than 100 years. The earliest origins are traced back to women (one in Illinois and one in New York) who were concerned about the children in their neighborhoods and began conducting Bible programs in their communities to reach them.
Standard Publishing has been producing Vacation Bible School materials since 1923—longer than any other publisher.
There is no doubt that conducting a Vacation Bible School program requires a lot of energy, a lot of planning, a lot of people, and a lot of resources. There is no doubt it can be exhausting for the people involved. But there is also no doubt that when implemented effectively, it continues to be one of the greatest evangelistic outreaches of the church.
It is not only an effective tool in introducing people in the community to the church, it is also a great way to plug new people into ministry. I heard Ruth Wingfield, who has for many years conducted a highly successful VBS program at First Christian Church in Florissant, Missouri, say in a workshop once that she is not interested in a program that tells her she needs only a few people to conduct it. She has found that VBS is one of the greatest ways available to get people involved in the ministry of the church. People then go on to become involved in the children’s ministry (or another ministry) on an ongoing basis.
How long have you been VBS director at Standard Publishing? How has VBS stayed the same and how has VBS changed in those years?
I’ve been VBS director at Standard Publishing for seven years.
I think the underlying purpose continues to be to reach the unreached and to deepen the faith of those who are already Christians. Therefore one of the first things VBS directors will look at is the curriculum. They want to know what their young people are going to be taught.
VBS has changed over the last several years to become what we call more “environment driven.” While VBS directors are concerned about the lessons, they are just as concerned—and sometimes more concerned—about the environment. VBS has become an “event” in the life of the church. Directors are looking for a catchy theme . . . a fun environment . . . something that will be easy to decorate . . . a hook to capture the attention and imagination of kids, parents, and volunteers.
People are also interested in options. They want to be able to customize the curriculum to best fit the needs of their churches. For example, most VBS programs used to be classroom-based. Now, while many churches continue to conduct a classroom-based program, the site rotation system has also become very popular.
How has Standard Publishing responded with VBS materials for the changing needs of churches in our changing culture?
I’m glad to say that one of the main thrusts of Standard Publishing’s VBS program is to provide in-depth resources that bring the Word to life, and we’ll never lose that emphasis. But we also continually evaluate the way our materials are presented in an effort to make them current and responsive to felt and expressed needs.
For example, for the last several years we have suggested ways to conduct VBS in a variety of formats so a church could choose the one that works best for them. We have offered environments that were fun and imaginative while at the same time having a strong tie-in to the Bible lessons.
We’ve taken advantage of current technology. A few years ago we introduced an interactive CD to our line of VBS products. It has been developed each year to go along with our VBS theme and has seven or eight computer games and activities for kids to play.
We believe this is a tool that can extend learning long after VBS is over. And this year we’re making it even better. In our 2006 VBS course, “Trading Places: Where Jesus Makes a World of Difference,” the interactive CD is reproducible! Directors will be able to use it as a gift or award item and make copies for all of the kids in their VBS.
But that’s not the biggest change for 2006. Next year, for the first time we are introducing a second VBS course, called “The Incredible Race.” It’s special for several reasons.
• Everything is included in the kit. There is nothing else to buy.
• It is site-rotation based.
• Everything in the kit is reproducible.
• It has 10 lessons (plus two bonus sessions) to give it even more flexibility and usability.
We may think of VBS materials as lessons and activities for five mornings or evenings in the summertime at a local church. But many are using these resources in many other ways, isn’t that true? Please give us some examples of the creative ways people are using the VBS materials Standard Publishing offers.
Our second VBS course carries with it the slogan, “The Anytime VBSTM.” And that sums up what people today are doing with VBS. They are recognizing VBS does not need to be limited to one week, nor does it have to be conducted in the summer. In fact, it doesn’t have to go by that name!
Children’s ministers and workers are looking for effective camp programs. They are looking for material to use on Wednesday nights or Sunday nights. They are looking for curriculum to use for a quarter in their Sunday school or as an after-school outreach. They may be looking for something they can use during special church events, such as revivals or seminars.
In areas with year-round public school sessions, churches are looking for something to offer during breaks throughout the year. We’ve heard of churches conducting a VBS before Christmas as a way of outreach in their communities. They have offered the program for five Monday nights—teaching the kids while giving parents an opportunity to go Christmas shopping. Some churches have conducted successful weekend Vacation Bible School.
Many children’s workers routinely buy several VBS programs each year. They know that publishers put a tremendous amount of energy and effort into their courses, and they know they’ll be able to use that material throughout the year if not in a traditional VBS program.
Suppose I’m a children’s minister at a church that has quit doing VBS. What would you say to encourage me to offer VBS again?
I have for the last few years had the privilege of helping lead the VBS at our church. I’ll have to admit there have been times through the year when I’ve thought I shouldn’t try to help the next year because generally our church program takes place at a very busy time in our Standard Publishing production cycle.
But then when I am there and I hear the kids sing . . . and I see their excitement . . . and I hear what they tell their parents . . . and I see the lives touched . . . then I know I don’t want to miss out on that.
So I would challenge someone who has quit doing VBS to look again at the wealth of wonderful materials available . . . to see the creative things that have been developed to make conducting a VBS easier than ever . . . to ask God to open doors and raise up people to help.
I’d ask them to remember that the impact of VBS can be enormous. It can make an eternal difference in the life of a child!