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VBS strong; one trend prompts concern

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–As has been the case for many years, the number of professions of faith in Southern Baptists’ Vacation Bible School 2008 is equal to 25 percent of the convention’s baptisms, but the shortening of the VBS week by some churches is raising concern.

LifeWay Christian Resources’ VBS is recognized as “the most successful outreach tool Southern Baptists have to positively affect children in making a decision to receive Jesus Christ as their personal Savior,” Jerry Wooley, LifeWay’s VBS specialist, said.

Despite the evangelistic value of VBS, Wooley said he sees a trend that does concern him: The number of churches that are shortening VBS to fewer than five days is on the rise.

“Our information from churches that submitted a Vacation Bible School report and/or gave information on their Annual Church Profile tells us that 76 percent had VBS that lasted five days, 7 percent lasted more than five days, and 17 percent shortened their VBS to fewer than five days,” Wooley said.

Wooley described VBS as “carefully organized to create a total experience with Bible study, missions, recreation, evangelism, crafts and music. When any part of this is abbreviated or left out, the children are losing out on something of spiritual value.”

Wooley said he hopes churches will do whatever it takes to offer an entire five days of VBS to their children.

Statistics for VBS 2008 show that of the nearly 2.9 million children, youth and adults who participated, nearly 87,000 made a decision to receive Christ.

“That is tremendous news,” Wooley said.

Another trend is the rise in the number of churches hosting VBS in the evening — 69 percent in 2008.

“Staffing issues seem to be the primary reasons churches are hosting more evening VBS programs,” Wooley said. “With more parents employed and more children involved in day camps and other child care, along with schools that are now doing year-round schedules, it just seems to make a lot of sense. It’s also more convenient for the churches who offer teenagers and adults their own VBS.”

More than 25,000 churches offered VBS in 2008. Most met at their local church locations, but some conducted their VBS in parks, backyards and at other sites.

“The bottom line,” Wooley said, “is that we know VBS makes a huge difference in the lives of everyone who participates, from the ones who attend to the ones who teach and work on recreation, decorations, snacks and follow-up. Our prayer is for everyone to have the best and most spiritually fulfilling week possible.”
Polly House is a corporate communications specialist at LifeWay Christian Resources.

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