Vacation Bible School was back in full swing, in some form or another, for most Arkansas Baptist churches this summer. Leaders at Woodland Heights Baptist in Conway decided to continue its new approach to VBS, the version used in 2020, and saw God do some amazing things, church members reported.
“As for our backyard VBS events, we did these last year out of necessity when COVID-19 hit. It wasn’t the normal 300–400 kids that we would typically have with our traditional model, but we saw so much fruit, especially with kids who might not normally come to the building,” said Steve Lasiter, children’s and outreach pastor. “From Matthew 22:39, Woodland Heights is calling 2021 ‘The Year of Neighboring,’ so when we began our VBS planning several months ago, we felt the Lord leading us to once again open up our yards and love our neighbors as ourselves.”
The concept was to host backyard VBS all summer long — members could pick up VBS kits that included craft kits, door hangers, everything essential to VBS that one couldn’t necessarily pick-up on a whim.
“We kicked off our ‘summer of VBS’ June 9 with a block party at Simon Park in downtown Conway, after getting approval from the city. Church and activities weren’t really canceled that night, we just moved church downtown,” Lasiter said. “In addition to parents registering their kids for different events, we had a crew cooking and serving hotdogs while our youth praise team led worship. After 30 minutes or so, we gathered everyone around the Kris Allen Pavilion as the praise team led us in a couple of silly kid songs as well as ‘The Blessing.’ My wife, Joanna, then presented the gospel using ‘salvation color foam boards.’ It was so God to allow this moment of sharing Jesus with not only those who came but also downtown merchants as well as those walking down the sidewalk, just to see what was going on. We then ended the night with Big Poppa Bubble, a local bubble artist.”
Throughout the summer, Lasiter said they’ve seen God work and plant seeds in their community. A few of those are:
- Ministered to and loved on a young boy (and his family) whose baby brother recently passed away from SIDS.
- A young girl with three types of cancer was able to participate in VBS.
- A brother and sister who attended a backyard event last year (and were saved and baptized as a result) are now Woodland Heights members and hosted a backyard event this year with their grandmother.
- At one event, seeds were planted into the hearts of unchurched teenage boys who responded to the door hangers in their neighborhoods — they made salvation bracelets with the group and were able to share Jesus at the end.
“Our last backyard event took place Aug. 6, and we then celebrated with a VBS Family Night … [Aug. 11] where we invited all the families who participated,” Lasiter said. “We brought in shaved ice, water slides, food trucks, Conway Train, and of course Big Poppa Bubble made his presence again. We watched God bring so many new faces to our parking lot and what we’re seeing goes beyond the one-week encounter (not that God doesn’t use that as well — He does!). Relationships, trust and community is happening, and we look forward to seeing God cultivate these relationships.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — This article was written by Steve Lasiter, children’s and outreach pastor at Woodland Heights Baptist Church in Conway and was originally published by the Arkansas Baptist News.