VBS, pandemic style

Children enjoy VBS crafts at home during the pandemic, thanks to materials provided by the Children's Ministry Initiative, which resources Korean United Methodist Churches in the United States. Photo courtesy of Children's Ministry Initiative.
Children enjoy VBS crafts at home during the pandemic, thanks to materials provided by the Children's Ministry Initiative, which resources Korean United Methodist Churches in the United States. Photo courtesy of Children's Ministry Initiative.
Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church offers a drive thru VBS during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo courtesy of Mount Pleasant UMC
Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church offers a drive thru VBS during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo courtesy of Mount Pleasant UMC
Families drive through to pick up VBS supplies and dinner at Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church. Photo courtesy of Mount Pleasant UMC
Families drive through to pick up VBS supplies and dinner at Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church. Photo courtesy of Mount Pleasant UMC
Families drive through at Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church to pick up VBS supplies and dinner. Photo courtesy of Mount Pleasant UMC.
Families drive through at Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church to pick up VBS supplies and dinner. Photo courtesy of Mount Pleasant UMC.
Once at home, families enjoy activities from the VBS packets. Pictured: Four siblings from the Rongitsch family participate in VBS arts and crafts. Photo courtesy of Cheryl Lowe.
Once at home, families enjoy activities from the VBS packets. Pictured: Four siblings from the Rongitsch family participate in VBS arts and crafts. Photo courtesy of Cheryl Lowe.
One VBS craft from Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church tells the story of Noah. Photo courtesy of Cheryl Lowe.
One VBS craft from Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church tells the story of Noah. Photo courtesy of Cheryl Lowe.
During the pandemic, Children's Ministry Initiative, which resources Korean United Methodist Churches in the United States, filmed videos for VBS curriculum to share with churches and families. Photo courtesy of Children's Ministry Initiative.
During the pandemic, Children's Ministry Initiative, which resources Korean United Methodist Churches in the United States, filmed videos for VBS curriculum to share with churches and families. Photo courtesy of Children's Ministry Initiative.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Children's Ministry Initiative, which resources Korean United Methodist Churches in America, has created a virtual VBS, complete with interactive videos of snack time, sing-a-longs and storytime.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Children's Ministry Initiative, which resources Korean United Methodist Churches in America, has created a virtual VBS, complete with interactive videos of snack time, sing-a-longs and storytime.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Children's Ministry Initiative, which resources Korean United Methodist Churches in America, has created a virtual VBS, complete with interactive videos of sing-a-longs.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Children's Ministry Initiative, which resources Korean United Methodist Churches in America, has created a virtual VBS, complete with interactive videos of sing-a-longs.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Children's Ministry Initiative, which resources Korean United Methodist Churches in America, has created a virtual VBS, complete with interactive videos of craft time, sing-a-longs and story time.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Children's Ministry Initiative, which resources Korean United Methodist Churches in America, has created a virtual VBS, complete with interactive videos of craft time, sing-a-longs and story time.
During the pandemic, some churches offer take home VBS materials. Here, a church in Detroit provides VBS kits to its families. The VBS supplies have been developed by the Children's Ministry Initiative, a resource for Korean United Methodist Churches in the United States. Photo courtesy of Children's Ministry Initiative.
During the pandemic, some churches offer take home VBS materials. Here, a church in Detroit provides VBS kits to its families. The VBS supplies have been developed by the Children's Ministry Initiative, a resource for Korean United Methodist Churches in the United States. Photo courtesy of Children's Ministry Initiative.
Two children enjoy VBS activities in their home that have been organized and distributed by the Children's Ministry Initiative, which resources Korean United Methodist Churches in the United States. Photo courtesy of Chlldren's Ministry Initiative.
Two children enjoy VBS activities in their home that have been organized and distributed by the Children's Ministry Initiative, which resources Korean United Methodist Churches in the United States. Photo courtesy of Chlldren's Ministry Initiative.
During the pandemic, the Children's Ministry Initiative, which resources Korean United Methodist Churches in the United States, provides online VBS materials so congregations can offer VBS over Zoom. Photo courtesy of Children's Ministry Initiative.
During the pandemic, the Children's Ministry Initiative, which resources Korean United Methodist Churches in the United States, provides online VBS materials so congregations can offer VBS over Zoom. Photo courtesy of Children's Ministry Initiative.

Summer is synonymous with Vacation Bible School (VBS). But VBS, pandemic style, requires pairing safety with creativity.

Take a look at how some United Methodist churches are adapting.

Keeping social distancing and safety protocols in mind, church leaders at Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church created a drive-thru VBS. Each Monday for four weeks, families pick up packets of VBS-themed stories, arts and crafts, along with a hot meal, delivered right to their vehicles.

Once at home, VBS participants have all the materials necessary to enjoy a VBS lesson, including accompanying videos located at the church website.

Mount Pleasant UMC’s 2020 theme of "Listening to God" is told through the stories of Noah, Jonah, Zacchaeus and Peter. The VBS kit, according to Martha Hallquist, children's minister at Mount Pleasant UMC, includes a scripture/story page, family devotion page, game page, challenge of the week, song for the week, and a bonus page such as a family skit, all packaged in a large envelope. Each child also gets a craft bag

Approximately 120 families are receiving VBS materials and meals.

"I appreciated that Martha, the children's minister, worked to find a way that we could still have that experience of reliving the Bible school stories that help shape your life, in this coronavirus atmosphere," Cheryl Lowe commented. She and her husband, the Rev. Vance Lowe, a retired United Methodist pastor, did the VBS activities with four of their grandchildren.

At the Children's Ministry Initiative (CMI), staff  created VBS curriculum to serve the Korean United Methodist churches in the United States. With the 2020 theme of “Rocky Railroad: Jesus' Power Pulls Us Through," churches and families receive stories, songs, crafts and snacks ideas. Churches may customize their VBS experience and order packets to hand out to its members or participate online through the VBS portal. At the VBS portal, interactive videos demonstrate how to make themed snacks, guide sing-a-longs with words onscreen and provide step-by-step instructions for crafts.

“The churches who are using our resources range from churches with five children to large size UMC churches with over 250 children,” says the Rev. Tarah Lee of the Korean United Methodist Church of Greater Washington. “As of today, we have 78 churches involved, churches all across the U.S. from Hawaii to Seattle to Denver to Oklahoma, to Alabama and Michigan.  We also have Korean congregations from various denominations in the U.S. taking part, including Korean Baptist Church, Korean Presbyterian Church, United Methodist Church, Korean Community Church, and even a church in South Korea.”

The CMI, KUMC of Greater Washington and Korean United Methodist Church of Detroit also sponsored churches and families who could not afford VBS packets.  

“It has been such a blessing to work together,” Lee comments, “but, most of all, to help churches bring God's Word during this time of uncertainty and isolation.”

Crystal Caviness works for UMC.org at United Methodist Communications. Contact her by email or by calling 615-742-5138.

This story was published July 29, 2020.