by Sharon Ely Pearson
It’s not yet Spring and the groundhog saw his shadow, so Winter is still supposed to be with us for awhile. But many teams of church educators and volunteers have begun the annual process of planning for summer – which means Vacation Bible School.
According to Wikipedia, the origins of Vacation Bible School can be traced back to Hopedale, Illinois in 1894. Sunday School teacher D. T. Miles, who also was a public school teacher, felt she was limited by time constraints in teaching the Bible to children. So, she started a daily Bible school to teach children during the summer. The first Bible school enrolled forty students and lasted four weeks. A local school was used for classes, while an adjoining park was used for recess.
We’ve come a long way in the past 120 years. Today, countless publishers crank out new VBS kits with themes each year and it is a very profitable business for them. Lots of moving parts, fancy packaging and kitchy gizmos and gadgets to go along with the theme. I’ve noticed in recent years how closely many have followed the reality TV shows or latest craze – Survivor, Cooking it Up and of course, anything that plays on the words Son – SonShine, SonRise and SonLight. For many of the non-denominational publishers (such as Group and Standard), their VBS programs interpret scripture literally and focus on cute Bible stories that encourage children to accept Jesus to save them from their sins.
It has been encouraging to see some VBS curriculum move out of this mold and focus on helping children put their faith into action by studying environmental issues, children’s literature and peace.
Every year, Virginia Theological Seminary’s Center for the Ministry of Teaching publishes its annual VBS review of materials and this year is no exception. This year’s CMT 2012 VBS Picks is an excellent guide to weed through all the resources that are heavily marketed to churches. Ministry-to-Children.com also offers an overview of VBS programs from a Southern Baptist and non-denominational perspective. Depending on your theology, all you need for picking a VBS program is within these sites!