Survey Shows Vacation Bible School Is Still a Vital Ministry in Churches Today

Back in the 1890s, a pair of Sunday School teachers — D.T. Miles of Hopedale, Ill., and Virginia Hawes of New York City — both had the same idea.

School kids were off for the summer.

Why not invite them to church to study the Bible? And maybe sing a few songs and have some fun along the way?

The idea was a hit.

Today, Vacation Bible School — better known as VBS — remains one of the most popular church programs in America.

Six in 10 Americans say they went to VBS growing up. Two-thirds of American parents say they plan to send kids to VBS this summer — even if they skip church themselves.

And almost everyone involved had a positive experience, according to a new survey from Nashville-based LifeWay Research, which surveyed 1,200 American adults about VBS.

“Each week of the summer there are thousands of VBS programs going on around America,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “It’s one of the things that people love about church.”

VBS attendance & memories

Twenty-two percent say they went every summer growing up, while 14 percent said they went most summers. Another 13 percent went occasionally. Five percent went more than once. But 40 percent never went.
Many went because of a family tie. Forty-two percent say they went because their family attended that church. Twenty-five percent went because their parent or another family member was one of the leaders. Twenty-six percent went because the church was near their home. Twenty-five percent went because a friend invited them.

Among their memories: spending time with kids their own age (46 percent), learning Bible stories (45 percent), singing songs (40 percent), creating crafts (37 percent) and playing games (34 percent).

One in 6 (17 percent) remember making a spiritual commitment at VBS.

Most (88 percent) say VBS helped them better understand the Bible. That includes two-thirds who either completely agree (37 percent) or mostly agree (26 percent). Twelve percent disagree.

Americans who didn’t go to VBS as a child also didn’t go to church at all (31 percent) or went to a church that did not offer VBS (31 percent), were too busy (10 percent), weren’t invited (7 percent) or didn’t go for some other reason (15 percent). Five percent say their family went to a church that offered VBS — but they weren’t interested in going.

More than half (61 percent) of American adults who did not go to VBS agree they have some positive thoughts about the program. That includes 28 percent who completely agree (14 percent) or mostly agree (14 percent). Thirty-three percent slightly agree. Thirty-nine percent disagree.

A majority of Americans (57 percent) who did not go to VBS also believe the program could have helped them better understand the Bible — at least a little. Forty-three percent disagree.

About half (52 percent) agree the program could have impacted their spiritual growth. Forty-eight percent disagree.

The survey’s results are a great reminder why VBS matters, said Jana Magruder, director of LifeWay Kids.

“It’s a strong affirmation of the work that churches put into VBS programs,” Magruder said. “I hope churches are encouraged by this research to continue to host VBS for their communities.”

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Source: Baptist Press