By Joni Baker
It could have happened to you last summer. You may have been stampeded by a thundering horde of children.
There were lots of ’em—some 13.3 million, in fact, according to a recent study.1
Where? At your church—at Vacation Bible School.
It boggles the mind, but an estimate based on the three-quarters of American churches that held VBS last summer shows some 13.3 million kids attended. These churches conducted 3.3 million hours per week of learning about the Bible or 380 years of Sundays, all in one summer.
What an opportunity!
Who are these kids and what do they want, anyway?
From the looks of things, they want to have fun. While that’s been true of kids as long as anyone can remember, this generation brings some unique needs and perspectives. They appear to need constant noise, activity, and movement. They are used to being entertained. And ever since their pudgy little toddler fingers could push a button, they’ve been learning from electronic toys and computers, and playing with video games.
All the more reason to make sure VBS continues to draw and keep their attention. VBS should be meaningful and packed with learning and inspiration about the Lord—but it also must be fun.
For 2009, Standard Publishing introduces a brand-new VBS with an unapologetically fun theme based on vintage and current TV game shows—“Studio GO! Game Show” promises and promotes “Real Teamwork, Real Service, Real FUN!”
“We don’t apologize for making VBS fun,” said marketing manager Bob Wallace. “Kids need to be engaged and involved, and learn best by participating and doing something. ‘Studio GO! Game Show’ teaches Scripture and vital life lessons in a truly fun atmosphere that’s a bit glitzy and retro.”
Whether spinning a wheel, selecting a box, or trading one mystery prize for another, kids have fun as the daily game changes to fit the day’s lessons. Although some games are modeled on television game shows well known to earlier generations, for students at VBS, all the games are brand new and different each day. The games help teach the day’s lesson.
The games also involve some “real” characters—a toothy game show host called Wade Winalot (see sidebar story on Daniel Read), and not-yet smart adult characters Professor Wordsmart and Coach Armstrong. Children are empowered as they compete against these VBS characters—and win.
As an added bonus for those thinking about recruiting staff to work at VBS, “Studio GO! Game Show” creates a setting that kids of all ages enjoy. For older, more experienced TV watchers who are helping with VBS, the games evoke the atmosphere of TV shows they remember.
“When we field-tested this course, we were really delighted by how much fun the adults had,” said Wallace.
“Savvy VBS directors know this is important because the more fun the adults have, the more they energize the whole program for the kids. And the more fun the adults are having, the easier recruiting will be in the future.”
EXPERIENCING GOD’S WORD
But the game show theme is the framework for the lessons themselves that teach how God works in the lives of everyone who trusts him. They all point toward action, with a “GO!” command each day: “GO! Lead,” “GO! Risk,” “GO! Tell,” “GO! Obey,” and “GO! Serve.”
The memory verse for the week is Joshua 1:9, which helps kids remember that God is with them wherever they go.
At “Studio GO! Game Show,” kids will participate in games to start each day, but will also experience God’s Word at PrimeTime Bible Challenge, create crafts at Spotlight Creations, and enjoy snacks and games at Backstage Food & Fun.
They will then meet real-life servants at Service Showcase, and also take part in service projects.
“Service continues to be a strong theme in our VBS for 2009,” said Ruth Frederick, editorial director for children’s product at Standard Publishing. “We have discovered that not only do churches respond well to opportunities to teach kids about service through practical, hands-on projects, but the kids love it as well.
“In VBS, just like other learning situations, there is nothing like experiencing something to make learning real,” she said. “Whether playing a game, memorizing a Bible verse through a song, or helping an elderly neighbor, VBS gives children an experiential way to learn that is exciting and memorable.”
The field-tested lessons and activities work in classroom settings or with children grouped in small crews that move from site to site. The program is adaptable for preschoolers through teens. In addition, small group materials for adults are also available.
SUPPORTING CUSTOMERS, SPREADING THE TRUTH
Standard Publishing is one of the nation’s leading publishers of VBS. Its award-winning VBS programs consistently rank high with consumers for biblical content, thorough lessons, and the variety of extra materials available. In 2008, Standard Publishing’s VBS received a “Best” rating from Christianity Today’s Your Church magazine, and also received recognition in the Telly Awards and from Kidzmatter Ministry.
Additional materials include downloadable resources and Web-based tools, and CDs of everything from name tags to thank-you notes, and music song sheets to sound effects.
Standard Publishing also offers participating churches the opportunity to create their own customized VBS Web sites with unique URLs, even those churches that do not have a church Web site. Using a Web site builder, a church can upload photos, logos, and forms to customize its site.
In addition to providing information about an upcoming VBS, the site can streamline registration by allowing participants to sign-up online, and also provide such documents as medical release forms, permission slips, and emergency contact forms.
At www.vacationbibleschool.com, VBS leaders will find additional helps, free downloads of graphics and music segments, and a forum for churches to share experiences, tips, and even their gently used décor, costumes, and sets. These tools are in addition to other helps such as a Director’s Guide, a Decorating Pak, and a Planning DVD for promotion.
“We want to do all we can to ensure the success of churches that will be using ‘Studio GO! Game Show,’” Frederick said. “We are so excited about this fun theme and the truth that ‘everyone wins with Jesus.’ Our summer programming team continually seeks new ways to support our customers and help provide the very best experience possible for churches.
1As reported in Christian Retailing magazine, 10 November 2008, from a 2007 survey of Christian educators commissioned by David C. Cook.
Joni Sullivan Baker of Loveland, Ohio, operates Buoyancy Public Relations.
Additional information is available at www.vacationbibleschool.com.