SOUTHWEST FLORIDA–After Lifeway’s popular Vacation Bible School (VBS) programs were canceled across the nation in 2020, due to the global pandemic, the anticipation was at an all-time high this year as Southwest Florida churches geared up for hosting the century old program.
The days of logging into a virtual VBS are over as churches revisited the age-old tradition of this most loved program. Whether they hosted “Destination Dig,” or another fun theme, children and parents alike were thrilled to return for vivid Bible stories, drama and worship, games, crafts, and the favorite – themed snacks.
VBS remains one of the most popular church programs in the United States, Lifeway Research shows. Six in 10 Americans say they participated in VBS growing up, and 95 percent of parents whose child attended VBS say it provided a positive experience.[i]
As churches across the Sunshine State gathered for VBS, several churches in the southwest region of Florida raised money for missions, obtained record-breaking numbers, and changed up their program a bit.
First Baptist Church, Sebring
Utilizing Jeremiah 29:13, the theme “Destination Dig” focused on unearthing the truth about Jesus to children of all ages. Throughout the week, children at First Baptist Church in Sebring were taught how God reveals Himself to His people when we seek and search for Him. On the final night, in hopes to reach the entire family with the gospel, the church hosted a family night for parents and family members to be part of what their children had been learning all week.
Calvary Church in Clearwater embarked on a “Destination Dig” adventure July 12-16. Over 750 children were welcomed on campus with exciting worship and engaging stories that made the Bible passages come alive. By the end of the week, 20 children made professions of faith to unearth God’s love for them.
According to the church’s social media account, “20 kids found peace with God and gave their hearts to Jesus…We are rejoicing!”
North Naples Baptist Church
Utilizing the theme “Destination Dig,” North Naples gathered over 130 children and volunteers for a morning of Bible study, drama, music, crafts, and games. To kick-off the main event, the church hosted what they called a “Dig It” launch event that allowed children and students to tour their classroom for the week and dig into themed snacks and bounce houses.
First Baptist Church, Palmetto
First Palmetto transformed the worship center into an archeological dig site on June 7-11. The church had over 100 children embark on an adventure to learn the truth about who Jesus is.
Located in Parrish, 20 miles east of Bradenton, North River Church had more than 100 children participate in their Destination Dig VBS on July 19-23. For the missions fund challenge, the church raised $1,866 to support Haiti Bible Mission, a non-profit organization that seeks to overcome the challenges of physical and spiritual poverty in Haiti.
“A huge thank you to North River Church for partnering with us to feed 38 families in Jeremie, Haiti for a whole year,” the organization posted. “We are so blessed by your generosity.”
Fellowship Church, with campuses in Immokalee and Ave Maria, created a church-wide event to complement its traditional VBS. High school and middle school students took part in community mission projects throughout the week, evangelism training and stayed the night in church members’ homes. In the evenings, the entire church–children, students and adults– gathered for worship, preaching, age-specific breakout groups, and traditional VBS activities. In combining VBS, student summer camp, and a church-wide revival – the church provided something for every generation.
Sarasota Baptist Church
Developing Ephesians 6, Sarasota Baptist Church hosted a summer music and drama camp where children learned about the armor of God through the arts. At the end of camp, the children performed a musical program entitled, “The God Squad!”
“Our campers have had an awesome week full of games, music, and learning about the armor of God,” the church posted.
Every summer, Summit Church with three sites hosts a sports camp that drives hundreds of children from their church and community to their Fort Myers campus. To accommodate the over 500 campers and families, the church offered multiple opportunities to attend the morning sports camp in June and July.
“Children learned about how the entire storyline of the Bible points to God’s glory put on display through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and how God has created each of us to glorify Him with our lives,” the church posted.
First Baptist Church, Naples
In June, First Baptist Church in Naples kicked off “Nights of North Castle” where children were taught the importance of armoring up with truth, righteousness, peace, faith and salvation. Along with offering the traditional music, crafts and games, children also packed mission boxes and raised thousands of dollars for its annual mission project.
“Every year at VBS the boys and girls compete to raise funds for a missions project,” the church posted on social media. This year the church partnered with one of its Miami mission partners, LOVE + UNLTD Church and Pastor Mark Rodriguez.
By the end of the week, the church raised $15,037 to fully deck out and stock the Miami church’s event truck with supplies and equipment to use in sharing the love of God through block parties and its weekly ministry.
McGregor Baptist Church
From June 28-July 2, McGregor Baptist Church in Fort Myers gathered an average of 370 children each night for “Treasured.” Throughout the week, children discovered God’s greatest treasure isn’t diamonds, gems, or gold – it’s them! Over 200 volunteers, logging in 1,600 volunteer hours, led preschoolers and children into discovering how they are priceless to God through music, crafts, and Bible stories.
“VBS gets children out of their Sunday routine,” said Rita Massey, children’s ministry director at McGregor and member of the church for 39 years. “We have the opportunity to bring the stories alive for them.”
Despite being in existence for a century, Massey believes that VBS is still relevant and needed in churches today.
“I think it’s relevant because of the concentration of discipleship that you can do in one week,” she said. “Teaching God’s Word and discipling children will always be relevant.”
Next summer, children will let their imaginations and ingenuity run wild at “Spark Studios,” Lifeway Christian Resources’ 2022 Vacation Bible School theme that explores the creativity of God and His image bearers.
[i]Statistical information and data is from a Lifeway Research article “Even if they don’t go to church, Americans still love VBS“