Photo courtesy Marty Barley.

Many people look back at their youthful times and remember the delightful summers of  Vacation Bible School (VBS). Heavens, that was so much fun. Some say VBS is one of the greatest evangelism tools of the modern Christian Church. VBS is positive, purposeful and exciting.

Back then…

VBS began in 1894 when Mrs. D.T. Miles, a Methodist pastor’s wife, decided to give the children of Hopedale, Illinois, a productive activity during the summer. Miles, a former public-school teacher, enrolled about 40 children in that first Bible school, which lasted four weeks. Parents contributed $1 per child for supplies, and the Bible Society donated Bibles. Classes were held in the local school, and an adjoining park was used for recreation. Miles and her teenage assistants led the children in singing, storytelling, contests, recreation and crafts.

Mention VBS and adult’s whole mood change. They become animated in their discussion and remember something noble about church. They remember a time and place when a child could innocently enjoy crafts and recreation, learn about God and Jesus Christ and have a blast too!

VBS is a great way for churches to connect with their local neighbors. VBS offers an opportunity to provide a child with an unforgettable experience and lasting recollections. This phenomenal event generates memories that help lock Bible truths in a child’s heart and mind for a lifetime. The church needs the kind of training which when instilled in a child, they will never forget.

Stephens City United Methodist Church (SCUMC) has run Vacation Bible School at least since the 1940s when Ray Ewing attended (1942-43). Until sometime in the early 1990’s SCUMC did not have Bible themes or pre-prepared VBS lessons. Each teacher and their helper had to develop their own plans, stories, lessons, crafts and music.

The ladies of the church would serve either homemade or store-bought cookies and Kool Aid from the upstairs kitchen and brought downstairs to each class. Snacks were always eaten in separate classrooms. The kitchen and Bible classrooms were in the old fellowship hall that was torn down in 2000 to make room for an improved, completely accessible, 19,000 square foot addition.

Music was played in each separate classroom with individual turn table record players bought by the church and every class room had one. When Pam Barley assisted with Vacation Bible School in the 1980’s, most of the teachers and helpers were the youth group members. There was no specific individual in charge to lead like Jacquetta Owen does today. We never had a combined presentation in the fellowship hall, programs always remained in separate classrooms. Until about 1995,  it was never referred to it as VBS, we always referred to the event as Vacation Bible School. There were no VBS kits or decorations to purchase. Everything was made by the teaches and helpers.

Mary Levesque was the first person to facilitate the entire VBS at our church which she led from 1995 until 2003.  Levesque started the issuance of VBS tee-shirts, hand screened by the late Bill Owen. Bill printed the VBS tee-shirts until his passing in 2008. The shirts were $2.00 each and Levesque would buy a shirt for any child who could not afford one. Levesque bought the VBS lessons at the former Jane and Jan shop in Winchester, Virginia. She also remembers store bought VBS kit’s being available during her time with VBS at our church.

Why we support VBS…

The Barna Group, a Christian research firm indicates nearly half of all Americans who accept Jesus Christ as their savior do so before reaching the age of 13 (43%), and that two out of three born again Christians (64%) made that commitment to Christ before their 18th birthday. Additionally, the trajectory for a person’s lifetime habits and behaviors—including spiritual behaviors—are often set in childhood. How many unchurched children does our VBS register each summer?

VBS 2022…

Pastor Bertina Westley said “Make Waves” will commence on July 17 thru July 21, from 6 pm – 8:30 pm Sunday to Thursday. The church fellowship hall will be transformed into a beach party atmosphere for the whole summer season. A strong emphasis is placed on small groups to help children connect and focus on Bible school curriculum. Registration for the five-day class is free on the Stephens City UMC website. For more information, contact Vacation Bible School (VBS) Facilitator Jacquetta Owen at 540-450-4601.

Pastor Wesley invites children 4-12 years old to join us at Stephens City UMC located at 5291 Main Street for this wet and wild VBS adventure. “Children will learn that what you do today can change the world tomorrow. When you put your trust in Jesus, you can “Make Waves,” said Pastor Westley. “Through exciting activities, engaging lessons, and God’s Word, children (Little Wave Makers) will understand how they can share God’s love with the people in their lives.  A special thanks to all the church volunteers that make this event an annual success,” Pastor Westley said.

The biblical content built into the VBS curriculum lays foundational truths that can help kids to grow spiritually.  Kids who attend VBS will come to believe that Jesus gives them confidence so they too, can make positive change in the world. VBS offers an opportunity to provide a child with an unforgettable experience and lasting recollections. This phenomenal event generates memories that help lock Bible truths in a child’s heart and mind for a lifetime.

According to Facilitator Jacquetta Owen, VBS is one of the favorite annual events at our church and a flagship program. “Every year we explore a different theme and design activities, crafts, skits, songs and games that reflect that theme.  For children, these early interventions can become the foundation of a Christian life as they understand that God loves them and cares for them. Everything is upbeat and positive as we present various stories from the Bible and reenact some of the events,” Owen said.  The program allows kids to participate in recreation, take part in hands-on mission projects, make discoveries and enjoy snacks together.

Deborah Phillips is a volunteer who assists with class registration and crafts. “VBS allows us to meet kids and their parents from all walks of life and education levels. Many do not attend church regularly, so it is an opportunity to introduce them to Jesus and reveal that church can be a fun and relaxing atmosphere,” Phillips said.  She believes that VBS lets kids learn how to interact with each other and to respect others like Christ teaches. As an adult volunteer, Phillips said she enjoys the opportunity to meet parents in the neighborhood and to evangelize in a fun, low-key manner.

2022 SCUMC Summer VBS was 5 nights of Bible lessons, music, games, singing, dancing, puppet shows and dramatic retelling of familiar Bible stories all to the theme of “Making Waves” for Jesus. Using our Time Machine, VBS was highlighted by visits with “Adam & Eve” and “Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch.”

Thank you…

Stephens City UMC would like to thank Virginia Hills Church in Front Royal for offering their VBS theme decorations. Virginia Hills generously donated scenery, backdrops and even a tiki hut from their recently completed VBS session. We are so grateful that they thought to pass this gift along to us.

We also thank Garber’s Ice Cream Company of Winchester for their donation to support our awesome Ice Cream Party on the last night!