What do we do about VBS in the age of Covid-19? That is the question we recently asked at Loveland UMC.
We wanted to respect the recommendations about physical distancing, wearing masks, and sanitizing surfaces, but we also want to reach folks with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our first inclination was to cancel. We didn’t want to compromise the level of excellence that folks had come to expect. VBS is one of our signature ministries. Until this year we have been most limited by restrictions on occupancy (just over 200 kids).
We decided to go for it! Sharon White gets the credit for creating and implementing an experience that is different from anything that we have ever done before; a no-contact VBS.
We started with the curriculum provided by Lifeway called “Concrete & Cranes”. The theme verse was, “I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). We focused on how God is building on a solid foundation of Love, Forgiveness, Worth, Promise, and Life. Before the week began families were all given supplies for the daily crafts, snacks, plus some fun give aways.
The first segment was live-streamed. Sharon welcomed everyone and gave an overview of the day. We then shared the video vignette. Corrie Graham and her family taught a couple of the songs and their choreography.
We then walked the camera through a construction zone that we had set up in the narthex to add to the drama and build on the theme.
We went to a Sunday School room where Jeff Flaig and his family helped us do the craft.
Then, we went back through the construction zone to another room where Terri Doarn helped us make and enjoy a snack.
The second segment was an in-car experience. Families sang and danced to the songs that they had learned earlier in front of their cars.
Lisa Robinson led a time of Bible teaching. We had another construction vignette with a lovable project manager named Melvin, played by Pax Dellinger, who was always running behind and messing things up. We closed out the morning with Pastor Brad and Sharon giving a summary of the day and a prayer.
The three in-car groups (Bulldozers, Dump Trucks, and Excavators) also competed to raise the most money for our mission outreach, Cincinnati Community Tool Bank, and collectively donated over $700.
This was our experience: It worked! We were surprised at the interest, 85 kids registered. The kids were glad to have something to do and really got into the material. Parents often expressed their gratitude for giving them something to work on. In fact, there were some things that we will continue doing when we can go back to an in-person experience, like the live-stream option.
Live-streaming allowed folks who don’t have young children, or live in other parts of the country to get a taste of what we were doing. It also allowed families to participate on their own schedule.
Integrating the social media piece allowed us to encourage kids to post pictures of them doing the movements that went with the songs, the crafts they had made, or other projects that built on the theme. And they did!
It was also encouraging to see families participating together! Volunteers shared that they didn’t have to spend as much time corralling kids, and so could focus on the material and parents shared that they really enjoyed being able to do it as a family.
We know that these are difficult and unusual times to be the church. We share this in hopes that it will inspire your thinking of ways that you can adapt ministries in your setting. If you would like to know more, please feel free to contact Rev. Bradford Olson at email@example.com.