The COVID-19 pandemic and shelter-in-place orders have created a lot of uncertainty, and may make you want to rule out the possibility of offering a Vacation Bible School this year. But that could be a huge mistake.
Many leaders are anticipating huge turnouts for their VBS programs this year, BECAUSE of the pandemic. Many other summer camps are being canceled proactively. If shelter-in-place orders are lifted, parents will be desperate to get their children out of the house and socializing. If they are still stuck at home or limited to small gatherings, they will be looking for ways to keep their kids occupied.
Online games, streaming media, and video chat have taken advantage of the vacuum. Why can’t we as a church? This is a huge opportunity to evangelize and draw in families, even beyond the “usual suspects.” What if each of your regular families invited two other families to participate? What if you could exit this crisis with more families in your ongoing ministry than when it started?
Your best bet this year is flexibility, which may mean having a Plan A (for if social distancing is relaxed) and a fall-back Plan B (with a delayed schedule, smaller groupings of children, or an online experience).
The bottom line is this: You do not have to put off your decision to host a VBS this year or start planning it. In fact, this is a great time to get started, while many of your leaders may be bored at home, twiddling their thumbs. Most of your preparation will be the same, whether you end up going with your Plan A, Plan B, or even a Plan C.
This free guide will walk you through your options, detailing what you will need to keep in mind for each one:
- In-person experiences
- Traditional summer format: This would be a typical VBS approach, probably with some adaptations for safety.
- Segmented: If social distancing rules limit the size of gatherings, you can offer mini-VBSes, each with 10-20 kids. Gatherings could meet in neighborhoods or at the parish.
- Delayed: If the shutdown continues through the summer, you could delay until an in-person gathering is possible, probably on a weekend or during evenings in the fall so as not to conflict with school schedules.
- At-home experience: In this approach, families could participate online from their homes, via video conference (e.g. Zoom), on-demand videos, and/or printed instructions.
This reproducible eResource is sold with a lifetime license for use within a parish, school, or diocesan office. You are allowed to make unlimited copies for use within your own community. You may also email these to members of your team or participants in your program. If you serve more than one parish or school, each should purchase its own license. You may not post our eResources to any web site without explicit permission to do so. Please contact us if you have any questions. Thank you for cooperating with our honor system regarding our product licenses.
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The Pastoral Center
Paul Canavese serves as director of The Pastoral Center (PastoralCenter.com), author, frequent conference speaker, and pastoral consultant. He has his MTS from the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley. He directs GrowingUpCatholic.com (focused on coaching parents) and GospelLiving.org ("intentional daily life Catholicism"). He has served in a wide range of parish ministries, most recently as a pastoral consultant at Corpus Christi Parish in Piedmont, CA. Paul also has 20 years of experience in software development and management with technology startups and social media. Along with his wife Ann, two daughters, and seven chickens, he lives in Alameda, CA, where they operate a mini-urban farm and looks for creative ways to build community in their neighborhood.