GREEN VALLEY, Ariz. (BP) – Why would a senior adult church with no children’s ministry hold vacation Bible school at the church? And how could they possibly do it successfully and even bless other churches year after year?
For Green Valley Baptist Church, located in a senior adult community 30 minutes south of Tucson and next door to Sahuarita, a newer community filled with young families, VBS is the event of the summer.
Green Valley Pastor John Guillott lists three reasons why the church invests time, people and resources in this effort.
“First, we have the facilities that can handle a Vacation Bible School,” he said. Guillott, who also serves as the associational mission strategist for Catalina Baptist Association, noted that some churches don’t have the facilities or workers to be able to hold VBS.
“Second, we have the financial resources,” he said. Green Valley allocates about $8,000 in the church budget for VBS.
“Third, we have the volunteers,” Guillott said. “We tell our senior adults, ‘This is your mission trip for the summer. You don’t have to leave home, and you can make a difference in the lives of boys and girls and families and be on mission.”
The numbers help tell the story of VBS at Green Valley. This past June, 155 children ages 4 through sixth grade attended VBS.
Sixty adults – mostly Green Valley members – served as VBS workers. That number also includes children’s parents who either volunteered or were recruited to help when they stated a desire to stay at the church with their children, said Barb Tingle, Green Valley’s VBS director since 2016. Plus, Green Valley members are encouraged to see VBS as a missions opportunity and invite friends outside of church to help as well.
In addition, about 25-30 junior high and high school students served as helpers. The teens either attended VBS at Green Valley as children but “aged-out” and still wanted to come, or a parent signed them up while registering younger siblings, Tingle said. A few teens are recruited from other churches for specific roles, such as helping with music, she added.
Green Valley has held VBS for a number of years, but they “kicked it up a notch” about 10 years ago, Guillott said.
Now, it’s a community event.
“Parents start calling the church in March and April for the VBS dates so they can plan vacations around it,” Guillott said.
Seven children made professions of faith in Christ at VBS this summer. If they wish, the families of those who make decisions for Christ are referred to Common Ground Church in Sahuarita, the closest Southern Baptist church with children’s programming.
Green Valley is like the grandparent church, Tingle said.
“The grandchildren visit a couple of times a year, we love them and send them home,” she explained. “Home,” in this case, is Common Ground, a church that Green Valley helped start.
But the connections with other Arizona Southern Baptist churches don’t stop there.
The Green Valley VBS team has made an art of passing along their curricula and decor. Tingle credits the team’s heart for paying it forward to a desire for seeing VBS touch as many lives as possible.
“I would love it if more Southern Baptist churches would build relationships among themselves and help each other with VBS, back and forth,” she said.
“Our congregation is mainly made up of retirees,” Tingle said. “We generally stay in place, pay – using our resources for the Lord – and pray like warriors.” However, she acknowledges what a gift her church members give when they pass along their VBS accoutrements and vast files of digital ideas to as many as five churches, one after the other, as they did this summer.
Green Valley tries to schedule itself as the first church to hold VBS so supplies can be passed along easily. It takes a bit of scheduling and coordinating, but Green Valley manages to help several congregations with this ministry opportunity every summer.
In his dual roles as associational mission strategist and pastor, Guillott connects the Green Valley church with other churches and leaders.
This summer, Green Valley shared its VBS resources with Tucson’s Enchanted Hills Baptist Church, United Christian Fellowship (formerly Rincon Baptist), Sandario Baptist Church, East Tucson Baptist Church and with First Southern Baptist Church, Willcox.
Tingle’s passion for cooperative leadership among VBS directors extends beyond giving away decorations.
“I copy my whole VBS Google Drive folder with all the digital resources for forms and flyers – any idea to help the next churches,” she said. “If I created something that could be used for crafts or inspiration, I email it to any leader who is willing to give me their email address.”
Lucy Oliver, a freelance writer living in Tucson, is a member of North Swan Baptist Church, Tucson.
Elizabeth Young is director of communications for the Arizona Mission Network of Southern Baptists.