Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The State of Vacation Bible School

By The Barna Group

Costumed skits, scavenger hunts on the lawn, puppet shows and safari-themed snacks and sing-a-longs—it’s either the best birthday party a kid could ask for or the free kids’ program the church down the street puts on every summer.
For many kids in America, summer means Vacation Bible School, or VBS. But it’s not just fun and games. Today, these kids might be gluing popsicle sticks together in a church classroom, but in the near future, these will be the next wave of emerging adults on the Church’s doorstep—deciding whether to step in or out for a lifetime.
Since as early as the 1870s, children’s summer Bible programs have committed their efforts to one goal: the spiritual development of children, who will hopefully grow into spiritually developed adults. In fact, previous Barna research 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, an idea explored in George Barna’s book, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions.
Nine out of 10 pastors today indicate their church offers some sort of Sunday school program, so many children in the church are receiving an intentional spiritual education today. But what about all that free time during the summer? And how about children outside of the church? That’s where VBS comes in.