Does VBS Still Work? Let’s talk about it.

I started this blog for two reasons.

I wanted to be able to stretch myself and grow myself as a writer.

And I wanted to encourage other people and empty my cup so to speak.

I wanted to start this post that way because I think it’s important to underline the fact this post is meant to be encouraging if not also challenging to some extent.

I haven’t been in ministry for a long time. On June 2nd I’ve been on staff at my church for 11 years now. But in that time I have learned quite a bit from seasoned experts.

The truth is I’ve seen VBS work.

I’ve also seen it not.

Here’s one of the lessons I’ve learned from seasoned veterans.

You should stop doing VBS if… your weekend ministry looks nothing like it.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE VBS. When it’s done right. I think it can be an awesome tool for the church to reach the community, engage parents and families, and change kids lives.

But if it looks nothing like your kids ministry.

You should stop.

I’m not at your church.

I don’t know your culture.

I can’t see your context.

But I can tell you that VBS has a hard time being effective if it looks nothing like your children’s ministry.

I know a church who’s VBS budget was more than their entire annual kids ministry budget.

Did you catch that?

Their church was spending more in a week on kids than they did the other 51 weeks of the year put together!

The question this church had for the experts I learned from was: “Why do our families with kids that come to our VBS stop coming to our church later?”

That question they really didn’t want answered.

The reason the people stopped coming on the weekend was the church had shown them a vibrant, exciting kids ministry and the next weekend shown them leftovers and scraps.

The question posed back at this church was why not take your weekly budget for VBS and give it to your children’s ministry to use during the year.

Which means no VBS.

No big flashy week.

No exciting rush of seeing an auditorium full of kids.


A kids ministry with resources.

A curriculum that the ministry can use year long.

A permanent space for kids to use on the weekend.

Weekly investment in kids and families by your ministry.

Personally our church doesn’t do VBS.

One reason is we really feel like every weekend is a VBS. We put the same time, effort, and energy into each weekend that we used to when we did a VBS.

My point here more than “stop doing VBS”; is that one thing I’ve learned from watching experts is that flashy doesn’t always mean fruitful and sexy doesn’t always equal significant.

The truth is our ministry uses a lot of lights, production, and video. But that has no lasting impact if it’s not paired with hard work and investment.

And VBS can make your church feel like it’s doing something significant for kids. But hard work and real dollar investment over a year versus a week makes a difference.

The best (albeit brutally honest) analogy I’ve heard compared this to parenting.

I told someone I trust tremendously and who has a long record of leading a great organization and being in ministry the story of the church with a VBS budget larger than their entire annual kids ministry budget.

He compared it to a divorced dad who never pays child support payments but at Christmas buys his kid an XBOX.

It’s the perfect (although hard to hear) analogy.

The truth is there are churches who can barely pay for the kids ministry to have a paid staff person oversee it.

But at VBS the church will pay thousands to experience a week of fun.

Is it cool?

Is it flashy?

Does it feel good?


But compare it to the dad analogy, can you really say that the XBOX makes a good gift when the family can’t pay the electric bill?

The hard truth is VBS is a great tool when it’s paired with a vibrant kids ministry. Not when it’s trying to replace it.

Most likely if you’re in kids ministry you’re reading and thinking: “Amen!”.

But before you go railing against leadership you need to realize that for a senior team to get behind a kids ministry they need to understand you want the CHURCH as a whole to succeed.

That means, yes kids ministry needs real resources and real dollars invested in it. But it also needs a kidmin team that sees the value and investment that is being made.

If you’re in leadership you may be thinking “Yeah but you don’t know our context…”

And I don’t.

But you do.

So the question to ask is:

“Does VBS compliment our kids ministry or compete with it?”

Because if it competes the truth is there’s going to be a winner and a loser. Which doesn’t end up looking much like ministry.

Photo by: Ben White on Unsplash

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