Planning for Vacation Bible School can bring to mind distributing flyers inviting the community or church buildings teeming with children learning and singing songs.
This year, Pastor Michael Harvey of Harvest Church in Petroleum Valley Campus, Petrolia, and Pastor Daniel McCrosky of Expressway Church in Freeport (both in Pennsylvania), did things a little differently. Each pastor took their VBS on the road with the help of an evangelism grant from the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey.
“[For] VBS this summer we tried something different from our normal children’s summer ministry. Rather than host a VBS-like event at our own facility that would attract and serve primarily our own children, we decided to reach out to five communities that we have been serving in various capacities throughout the year,” Harvey explained.
McCrosky initially planned to hold Expressway’s VBS in the nearby town of Freeport, but ran into a snag.
“The City of Freeport was excited for us to hold our Vacation Bible School on their baseball and football fields so the entire town could have easy access, but with COVID restrictions, their city league baseball tournaments and the International Baseball Tournament running all through July, it made it impossible for us to do it this year,” McCrosky said.
“So in our discussion of our options — because not doing something was not going to be one — a church member said we should do a Vacation Bible School at the Sheldon Park Housing Projects.”
Less than five miles from Expressway, Sheldon Park houses 192 units and two community centers, one of which is the LLoyd Hayden Community Center operated by Bonita Hayden, whose father started it 30 years ago.
‘Praying and planning’
“Miss Bonita couldn’t have been nicer and was excited for us to come and conduct the VBS here,” McCrosky said. “So we went to work praying and planning.”
The church couldn’t meet inside due to COVID, so they bought eight-pop up tents to house activities.
Harvest’s VBS on-the-road effort also was not without challenges. The church had to strike a balance between serving their children and having them serve other kids.
“It provided an opportunity to address the consumer versus contributor mindset that churches can easily fall into, where ‘how my needs are being met’ is foremost rather than ‘using my gifts and talents to serve others first.’ It focused our gospel presentation because we knew we had one opportunity to reach the children who attended from each community,” Harvey explained,
Both churches experienced positive outcomes.
“While we served a smaller amount of children each evening, 90% (45 kids) represented the unchurched or ‘de-churched’ in each of the communities we visited. Follow-up efforts using the contact information we gathered at the event have started, and we have already seen one family from the outreach attend worship with us.
“We trust God will continue to produce growth with the seeds that have been planted,” Harvey said.
McCrosky noted their effort “has dramatically changed our church. In our council meeting this week, everyone was thinking of ways to go back into that community to minister to the children and parents. Our church wants to make this an every-year activity plus more. We are going to do our best to love them all to Jesus.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — This article was written by LaVeta Jones and was originally published by BRNUnited, news source of the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey.