[Summer 2020] Unique ways Arkansas churches are conducting VBS

Vacation Bible School (VBS) has been a timeless tradition done during the summer at churches to help engage children and advance the Gospel. This year has already presented unique challenges in how that presentation is presented. However, churches across the state have embraced this ‘new normal’ and are still using VBS as an essential tool in children’s ministry.

Drive-Thur VBS at Zion Hill

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Zion Hill Baptist Church in Cabot held a unique drive-thru experience as they capped off their week of virtual VBS.

Pastor Terry Fortner was already planning to record and post himself reading the Bible stories online for the kids, but their volunteer children’s ministry wanted to do more. On Saturday, July 25, after some thought and planning, adult volunteers dressed up in construction clothes (as the theme from Lifeway was Concrete and Cranes) and set up stations associated with each activity involved in the church’s parking lot.

Just over 50 or so families pulled through the parking lot to visit each station. A worship tent was set up so the kids could listen and learn the motions to the songs they’d learned. Fortner and his wife were at a station doing the bible stories. A craft station was also involved where cars watched the craft be made then were given their own to do when they got home. All of this and more was done without any family leaving their vehicle. A safe and fun alternative to VBS during the coronavirus pandemic.

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VBS packages were also compiled and delivered to the homes of children in their congregation that weren’t able to attend that Saturday.

“A lot of hard work went into it but it was very rewarding,” Fortner said. “Everybody felt good about it. It was good to see the kids because we’ve been missing them.”

Terry said they had some very grateful parents for the opportunity, and a few families said when it was safe to do so they would be attending a service to see what Zion Hill was all about.

Traveling Sports Camp

Fellowship Baptist in Huntington has a different approach to the VBS experience altogether. Seventeen years ago, on a mission trip in Pennsylvania, Gary Martin, senior pastor at Huntington, was helping run a regular VBS for a church plant. A church that was traveling through from Georgia to Philadelphia broke down on the side of the road and asked for help. Martin said they asked if his crew could run the first day of the sports camp they were hosting just 30 minutes away, and he said sure.

The rest was history as Martin saw how excited the kids got and the impact it left with them. This began their own journey of doing sports camp in place of the typical VBS curriculum. It’s the same concept just with sports, but not just any sports – activities like gaga ball, street hockey, and archery are just some of the ones offered during the week.

Recently, they held a sports camp at their church in Huntington as well as their satellite campus in Truman. The week prior, at Huntington, they saw 17 professions of faith. At Truman, they saw 34 professions.

“Both weeks went really well for us,” Martin said.

The sports camps are primarily done in the summer and Martin said they typically go all over the United States. He said they’d probably been to about 15-18 states so far. Due to COVID-19, many churches had to cancel their camps this summer, leaving only two left on the calendar. However, Martin said they’ve already had 8 churches reach out and ask if they could come to host their camp on their campuses next summer.

“It’s as good for our church as it is for the ones we go to,” Martin said. “Sports camp becomes a stage in which we can present the Gospel.”

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