News Articles

6/26/97 Revamped VBS materials bring ‘stampede’ of good reports

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A “stampede” of good news about Southern Baptist Vacation Bible Schools is coming in from around the country.
Taking advantage of the Baptist Sunday School Board’s VBS theme for 1997 — “The Wild and Wonderful Good News Stampede” — churches are using horse-riding cowboy pastors, pony rides, petting zoos and even a full-fledged rodeo to interest children in the gospel.
In May of last year, the BSSB scrapped its already completed VBS materials for 1997 and designed a new format on a fast-track production schedule. The new theme-permeated materials are heavy on evangelism and include rotation schedules, common Scripture passages for all age groups, a contemporary worship rally and a strong emphasis on missions.
The western theme and renewed focus on evangelism are apparently paying off. Consider these examples:
— Chris Hawks, minister of outreach and singles at North Kannapolis Baptist Church, Kannapolis, N.C., came up with a unique way to promote VBS at his church — hold a rodeo recognized and sanctioned by a local rodeo association. It took about six months to clear and prepare an eight-and-a-half-acre lot next to the church for the June 13-14 event. Approximately 2,400 people attended “The Good News Stampede Rodeo” which featured constant promotions for the church’s upcoming VBS.
Hawks, an amateur bull rider himself, shared his testimony on horseback during intermissions. At a ministry tent set up on site, 450 “Cowboy Bibles” donated by an Oklahoma church were distributed. The following week, North Kannapolis had one of its largest Bible schools in 15 years with 160 children enrolled. And Hawks has been invited to participate in three more rodeos sponsored by North Carolina churches.
— Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas enrolled 3,203 children in VBS this summer, its largest Bible school in 10 years, according to senior preschool-children’s minister Sondra Saunders. Only half of those attending were from Prestonwood, 23 percent were from surrounding churches and about 22 percent were unchurched. Ninety-four professions of faith were reported along with 22 rededications during the week.
Saunders said church members spent about a week decorating their church with haystacks, real fenceposts and chuckwagons. They even had a cowboy ride a real horse into the sanctuary, do rope tricks and share his testimony.
“The materials were excellent,” Saunders said. “It’s a great way to reach out to unchurched kids and their families. We’re following up with those children who made decisions by making personal appointments with them and their parents in their homes. And we always have a new Christians class that starts the week after Bible school.”
— John Little, minister of music at Cornerstone Southern Baptist Church, Lamar, Mo., said he knew this year’s VBS was different “when I heard how loud the kids were singing the worship songs.”
“We are a church that runs about 90 in Sunday school. We had an average of 67 children each night (in Bible school), and six of them were saved during VBS,” Little said.
A special feature of Cornerstone’s VBS was the missions offering collected during the week.
“We used boots to collect the money and we made a contest between the boys and the girls. The group that collected the most would get to put a pie in the face of our pastor. The kids got into it so much we had to add people for them to throw pies at. By the end of the week we had collected $451.81.
“Our teachers loved it. We were ready to keep going at the end of the week.”
— Metro Baptist Association in Jackson, Miss., is going all out to promote VBS this summer. According to Larry Garner, director of church services, the association trained 280 workers, built 10 “Western Town” sets for churches to use during their Bible schools and even got an area farmer to donate 20 bales of hay.
“One of our pastors (Richard Powell of Colonial Heights Baptist) rode a horse into his church sanctuary. They were planning to renovate it in July, though, or he probably wouldn’t have gotten away with it,” Garner joked.
Oak Forest Baptist, also in Jackson, combined adult seminars on topics such as time management, parenting and financial planning along with VBS classes for kids. Garner said churches in his association “have really been using VBS effectively this year to penetrate their communities for Christ, especially in transitional neighborhoods. VBS is one of the greatest tools for evangelism that we have. It’s non- threatening because it centers on the child, upon whom we all can agree.”
In Mississippi, Garner said three out of every seven conversions in Southern Baptist churches occur as a result of VBS.
“What we ought to do is quit having revivals and start having three weeks of VBS!” he said.
— First Baptist Church, Carrollton, Texas, reported 1,250 children enrolled and 72 professions of faith at its June 16-20 VBS.
“We’ve always had a good experience with VBS, but this year’s was really awesome,” minister of childhood education Kristi Wilson said. “Our teachers keep going on and on about it.
“The theme was great because it was so easy to work with. We rented western costumes, had a fiberglass ‘Trigger’ on stage and used a cowboy band with a steel guitar, banjo and drums during our worship rally. We even had a petting zoo with farm animals.”
— Floyd Price, pastor of Scottsville Baptist Church near Bowling Green, Ky., had been skeptical about the theme at first, but his church decided to go all out. Last year, Scottsville had 80 in Bible school; this year they had 120. Thirteen children made professions of faith and 300 attended the VBS commencement service.
“We had a parade on Sunday before VBS started,” Ken Goforth, minister of music and youth at the church, said. “We used horses and carts and hay wagons. We had a children’s rodeo with games and pony rides and everyone was dressed in western garb.”
Thirty-four youth and adults from the Scottsville church will take “The Good News Stampede” on the road in July — to Massachusetts. They plan on conducting Bible schools and backyard Bible clubs in the Boston area.
— Central Baptist Church, Winchester, Ky., had the “best-ever VBS in the 87-year history of our church,” Rick Hatley, associate pastor for education, said. “We enrolled 466 and had 15 make professions of faith. Our people wanted to continue on, but we had to stop. The folks at the BSSB have done a tremendous job in turning around the VBS ship.”
— First Baptist Church, Oxford, Ala., averaged between 150-175 each day in its Bible school.
“We had excellent attendance because both the kids and the teachers were excited about VBS this year,” pastor Ron Ethridge said. “One teacher told me the materials were ‘totally awesome.’ Another told me it was the best presentation of the gospel she had ever seen in VBS.
“About the only problem I can see for the Sunday School Board now is, ‘How is it going to top this next year?'”

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  • Chip Alford