Camps and Vacation Bible School (VBS) are classic summer activities that churches use to reach children both in their congregation and within their community. Both, though so simple, seem to have the most impact on young people’s lives. As school starts back, we want to reflect on what God did this summer around the state in Arkansas Baptist churches. 

We talked to two churches, and numerous others sent reports of how their VBS and camps went.  

Gosnell BaptisChurch had 149 kids and volunteers at VBS, and they had nine salvations by the end of the week. 

“We were excited to just get back to having VBS. Although our numbers were a little down from previous years we had a great time,” Jamie Wright, director of VBS at Gosnell, said. “One elderly lady who is a member of our church told me that she asked her great-grandson who was in our 1st/2nd department, ‘What was your favorite part of Bible School?’ She said she thought he would say recreation or cookies and Kool-Aid. But he replied, ‘We got to learn all about Jesus!’ That excited me because that is what VBS is all about. I loved that the curriculum this year focused every day on a story about Jesus. To the praise and the glory of His grace!” 

Oak Grove Baptist Church in Pocahontas did something a bit different than previous years, but it still proved to provide Kingdom impact. 

“We typically do a five night VBS with a family night at the end. We do a meal, missions, Bible study, craft, and music rotation. It’s normally a two-and-a-half-hour event,” Amanda Bundren, director of VBS and the pastor’s wife, said. “This year we did three nights for two hours each night. [We] combined missions with Bible study and did music at the end in a big group. We normally do Pre-K to 12th grade but this year we did Pre- K to 6th grade. We also did not do a family night.” 

They had 46 kids in total and saw four salvations. Out of that VBS, they have had two new families begin to attend regular services. 

“The most exciting thing was having VBS again. I have been involved with VBS since 2010 and not having it was heart breaking. We were going to attempt a one day event last year with a partner church but numbers rose in our area, and we had to cancel it,” Bundren said. “Seeing the kids excited, hearing them learn about Jesus, and singing along with the VBS theme song was the highlight of the summer. So thankful that we were able to have VBS even if it looked different than in years past.” 

Here is what some other churches and associations had to say about camp and VBS 2021:  

Current Gaines Association: “We have had a wonderful summer season. It has been so great to get our VBS & camps going strong this year. There were 88 in attendance at youth camp this year. From that 88 we had 10 salvations reported and many other decisions made. Children’s camp did not disappoint. There were 152 in attendance and 15 salvations and at least 10 other decisions. God has been moving big time in the Current-Gaines Baptist Association. We were also able to continue our World Changers: Home Edition and had six teams complete seven jobs in Clay and Randolph counties. This gave the youth the opportunity to share the Gospel on the streets in their own communities.” 

First Baptist Church, White Hall: “We had Sports Crusaders come and lead a basketball, baseball/softball, and cheerleading camp. It was so great for our community with reaching kiddos who had never been to our church. There was a Bible Study component where children learned from the kings of the Old Testament and how Jesus is the King of Kings and wants to be the King of our lives. We had six children come to know Christ and we are working to get their families plugged in to our church.” – Jennifer Weaver, Children’s Minister 

First Baptist Church, Rogers: “Over the last two years First Baptist Rogers has gone outside the box for VBS and produced and gave away their own Vacation Bible School materials. Over the last two years churches in different states and countries have used the curriculum for free. The kids’ ministry team wanted VBS to be more evangelistic and different.  

Over the four-day VBS, on two different campuses, kids heard the Gospel shared through testimonies from crafts, music, missions, and recreation leaders. On Thursday, the church staff and deacons were ready to receive kids who made a decision during the Bible study invitation time. Over 70 kids came forward and met with these leaders. One deacon had the opportunity to pray with his grandson during this time. The kids’ team keeps hearing stories of how God worked during this time and several kids have already signed up for the new believer’s class and scheduled baptism.  

I received this message from a daycare in Oklahoma: ‘I couldn’t have done this without your curriculum. The kids have asked almost all year when we were doing Bible school again. We planned it last week but had all but 4 out with RSV. This week everyone was well. 10 kids (1 with Asperger’s. 1 with Cru de chat who is nonverbal and vision impaired 1 with CRMO who is autistic and nonverbal) thank you again. We are looking forward to next year.’” 

Crossroads New Baptist Church, Little Rock: “We saw three salvations as a result of Friday night and Saturday VBS with 14 students, preschool through 8th grade, enrolled. On Friday night, kids heard a clear Gospel presentation from Debbie Moore, former missionary to Liberia, and from Bobo the puppet as he and his friend, Mrs. Becky, discussed the story of Jonah and the big fish.  

On Saturday morning, they heard from Reserve Officer Bob Fielding, who serves as a police chaplain. Officer Bob shared how there is no need to put off praying to be saved, which prompted one young girl to pray in her room on Sunday night as she felt God speaking to her heart. God works through VBS whether it is for one day or one week!” 

 Harmony Baptist Church in Eldorado, Arkansas: “Our VBS was great! We had great volunteers to work and great support from our church staff. We had a daily attendance of 50 kids. Missions was good with over $700 raised by kids. Greatest news — we had five salvations and baptisms.” 

Beech Street FBC, Texarkana: “This year we partnered with WinShape Camps and three other local churches to do a five day, 8am-5pm day camp. We also partnered with Chick Fil A and a local school. The camp was held at a local school and Chick Fil A provided lunches. It was a great community outreach. The children’s ministers from four churches worked together to further the kingdom. It was a huge success and we had 276 kids who heard the Gospel, 25 first time decisions were made and 55 kids who had more questions and need follow up. We have a planning meeting this week for next year and will be asking other local churches to get involved for 2022.” – Michelle Lawrence, Minister to Children 

Calvary Baptist Church, Camden: “We had VBS at Calvary July 19-22, a day later we left for Puerto Rico to help lead VBS with a new church plant. Although, we were about half the numbers of our VBS (it has been a slow return to the attendance we had in all aspects of our children’s ministry pre-Covid) it was one of the best Vacation Bible School weeks we’ve had. Not so much of the number of salvations but we had a lot of new kids that we have never seen before. I know without a doubt seeds were planted. There were so many new families that attended our family night on Wednesday night with the parents attending VBS with their children and making the rotations to Bible study, music, crafts, recreation and snacks. It was so much fun! And parents actually played games and helped their kids make their crafts! I was so proud of them! On Thursday, I had the opportunity to visit with three little boys that had questions about salvation. They didn’t make a decision right then, but no doubt, I am certain Jesus is tugging at their hearts.     

Our time we spent in Puerto Rico was wonderful! We were able to attend their little church family of 17 in the home of one of the members of the Sunday we were there. Even though, the whole service was in Spanish, we were so very blessed to feel the Holy Spirit move in our midst. We helped them with scheduling and preparation work of Vacation Bible School in the area of Juncos, close to San Juan (Yes, we lugged around a 50 lb. suitcase full of VBS curriculum and crafts and Destination Dig items through airports). It was held in an outdoor covered pavilion (which sure was handy since it is Puerto Rico’s rainy season). We had it Monday through Wednesday morning 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. with feeding the kids lunch. We really didn’t leave each day until 2:00 pm. This little church loves fellowship time, and it is so great! We had 30 kids each day from the neighborhood and surrounding area. What a blessing the whole week was! The same as our VBS, I have a peace in my heart that there were seeds planted in the lives of children. I know without a doubt in both events, we were obedient to God of the Gospel presented daily. It was so wonderful to see our Annie Armstrong Mission offering at work with the NAMB with Send Relief. Incredible! This trip was life changing, heart changing, and eye opening. We are scheduled to go back next July and lead two Vacation Bible Schools! We cannot wait!” 

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