Churches Get Creative with VBS During Pandemic

As we end our two-part series about VBS in West Ohio during the COVID-19 pandemic, we share stories of a program that took participants into their backyards and another that unknowingly changed the lives of the leaders.

BOLT! VBS Focuses on Outdoor Activities
Some young people may have become tired of virtual learning. At Reynoldsburg United Methodist Church, children’s minister Laura McCoy selected a Vacation Bible School study designed specifically for families and churches during the COVID-19 shutdown.

The selected study, “BOLT!” from Go! Curriculum, has a sports theme and balances online content with group activities for families to do outdoors, getting them out of the house.

For this one-week study, families were directed to pick up their “kit” with supplies. “The program was created with three days of online content,” McCoy said, “so on Tuesday and Thursday, we interacted with the students via Zoom.”

A website was set up for participants to have access to all videos and other aids needed for the week. Reynoldsburg’s IT staff created videos featuring McCoy and others to add to the online videos provided by the study.

Outreach was a part of VBS. Tuesday and Thursday were collection days for donations dropped off for the VBS mission project: a food drive to benefit the Ohio Food Market, a local pantry.

Serving a mix of children from the congregation and the community, McCoy was pleased with the attendance.

“Parents were appreciative,” she said. “This was a great opportunity for them to disciple their child at home. Before the COVID-19 shutdown, I would not have considered something like this. We love VBS and the connections it creates! This just reinforces that ministry doesn’t have to be done in the church."

VBS Transforms Adults and Children
With COVID-19 pandemic restrictions keeping church buildings closed, children’s coordinator Kari Blackburn decided in April to have a virtual Vacation Bible School at Scioto Ridge United Methodist Church in Hilliard. Creativity was key, and Blackburn and her team were up for the challenge.

This one-week study is a yearly program seen as community outreach. Although many participants return each year for VBS, one new family participated this year.

Taking from the Cokesbury “Rocky Railway” theme, Blackburn and her team recreated a study that was fun and relational and allowed families to participate fully. The study was full of videos, activities and music, much like an in-person VBS.

Each family was given a box with supplies needed for the weeklong virtual study. All students viewed the opening for each day on the website. Parents could choose whether to be in a “crew,” a small group. Those in a crew saw friends on Zoom, conferenced with their leader, had games and could use Flipgrid, a social media platform for educators to upload and comment on photos and videos of their activity throughout the week. Those not in a crew were free to do the study and activities at their own pace.

The shift to virtual VBS proved favorable for parents, leaders and Blackburn.

In the future, another virtual VBS is possible. Some adults also realized they needed the VBS study for themselves. “I was glad for VBS,” Blackburn said. “This has given me a chance to reimagine what we have been doing and make it better. Kids need to see Jesus modeled and reinforced by parents. When that happens, children connect with Jesus.”