Vacation Bible School, or VBS, is a fun-filled program many churches offer, usually during the summer (“vacation”) months, to connect with the children and families in their communities. Vacation Bible School is an outreach meant to bring in children who don’t normally attend church and to teach them the gospel. As an evangelistic tool, VBS helps churches fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19).
Vacation Bible School began in the 1890s. A New York doctor’s wife wanted to find a way to keep children off the streets in the summertime, and so she rented a large beer hall in the East Side in order to conduct what she called “Everyday Bible School.” Her idea expanded, and eventually the New York City Baptist Mission Society established several of these Bible schools around the city.
A man named Robert G. Boville, formerly of the Baptist Mission Society, was key in the program’s expansion to other cities around the country. By 1907, he had established a national committee for Vacation Bible Schools.
Today, Vacation Bible School is a popular summer activity for Christians and non-Christians alike. Churches generally run Vacation Bible School for a week, and each program has its own theme (medieval castles, water parks, the Old West, etc.) that children can explore. A week of VBS usually includes games, snacks, crafts, skits, and, of course, Bible lessons. There is always a connection between God and the theme, allowing kids to discover God in a creative way. Many Christian publishing companies offer curricula to guide churches in setting up and running a VBS program, but some churches choose to write their own curricula.
Over the years, many churches have used Vacation Bible School as a fun, low-pressure evangelism tool. Many adults today can attest to the fact that VBS was where they first learned about Jesus Christ, resulting in their salvation. Vacation Bible School is a good way to reaffirm the commitment of God’s people through the centuries: “We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord” (Psalm 78:4).