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Vacation Bible School: Why It’s a Summer Tradition

Here are ways you can bring biblical stories alive for your kids.

Vacation Bible School
Credit: Getty Images
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Did you go to VBS as a kid? Ever teach it? Wonder what those initials mean? Come on, you know what I’m talking about, the marvelous institution of Vacation Bible School.

The regular school year is winding down soon, if it hasn’t ended already (and what a crazy year it has been for students, parents and teachers alike). What does summer hold for kids? Camp, maybe summer school. AND VBS.

I remember going as a kid, and I have fond memories of teaching it as an adult (and dragging my own kids to join us). Here’s what I think it offers and ways to engage your children:

Keep the Bible on their radar. So many of our holidays relating to the Bible are during the school year. Christmas, Easter, Lent, Holy Week. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some great Bible stories to tackle—and re-enact—in the summer.

Think about Jonah and the whale. You’ve got a hot day and a group of kids wishing they could splash around in some water (VBS clothes are not your typical Sunday School wear—swimming suits are in order). 

Set up that little plastic pool and pour an inch or two of water in it. Then let one kid be the whale and one Jonah. Watch them act it out. If everybody gets wet, all for the good. You’re making memories, memories to last a lifetime (“Remember when you were the whale, and I was Jonah?”)

Use the outdoors. Hard to imagine, but our biblical heroes didn’t languish in air-conditioned splendor. And they didn’t have TVs or computer games to distract them (let alone TikTok). They lived much closer to the Creation. 

Tents were a crucial part of the ancient world. Whenever I picture Abraham, Isaac, Sarah or Rebecca, I can see them coming and going from a tent. And the author of much of the New Testament? A tentmaker. The apostle Paul.

Pitch a tent in the backyard or a park or the church lawn. Let the kids close their eyes and listen to the sounds outside—the birds singing, the squirrels chirping, the wind blowing (okay, and probably a car or truck rushing by). Have them imagine what it’s like to pray that way. Close to the Creator.

Make it fun. Help kids know that the love of God can be experienced playfully as well as prayerfully (the two are one). Tell them the story of the manna in the wilderness—and then sprinkle some nuts or granola from the heavens into their hands. They’ll taste and see how gracious the Lord is.

With a hose outdoors and some bricks or sand you can create that rock in the wilderness that Moses struck to get water. Let kids experience the story. There are plenty of VBS curriculums, but sometimes the best ideas come from your own imagination. Call it the Holy Spirit.

I’ll never forget as a kid singing “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho…” going around a circle of chairs seven times. And then, with a great shout, we made those walls come a-tumbling down. There’s a biblical story I’ll never forget.

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