SOAPBOX: Why Daytime VBS is Not Reaching Children

As someone who has been involved with Vacation Bible School programs for over 10 years, and now as a parent of two children, I have come to believe that daytime VBS programs hosted by churches are not reaching all of the children they could reach.

Daytime VBS programs are a “tradition”. As someone who grew up in an LCMS church, I know the mentality of “this is the way we’ve always done it”. However, forcing a VBS into the day fails to look at the changes in our society that have occurred since 1980. My premise is this: churches do not allow families or single parents the ability to get their children to VBS programs held during the day. Let’s look at some statistics.

Single parent households are on the rise and single mothers are significantly more common. According to census.gov, in 1980, of all households with children, 19.5% were single parent households. This has grown to 29.5% in 2008. In 1980, 18.4% of children were born to unmarried women. This has grown to a staggering 40.6% in 2008.

Additionally, census.gov shows that dual income households with children under the age of 18, have increased. While not significantly, since 1990, it has risen from 64.3% to 66.1%. Nearly 2/3rds of American households with children who are are old enough to attend VBS have BOTH parents working.

So, what does this all mean? How do kids get to VBS? There normally isn’t a bus service. The church doesn’t pick up the kids. That means, parents are responsible to get their children to VBS. As we have seen, single parent households are on the rise and dual income households hold a strong majority. This means, there isn’t a “spare parent” who can ferry the children to a daytime VBS. Children may be at summer day camps not affiliated with the church, or a child care center, or left home (those children who are old enough, obviously). This SIGNIFICANTLY limits the church’s ability to reach out into the community.

Given those statistics, it’s easy to extrapolate out that a church’s volunteer base is also shrunk due to high school students working summer jobs or at summer school, middle school students stuck at home with no transportation, and parents at their day jobs.

Nighttime and weekend VBS programs have their own draw backs such as competing with local athletic programs and parents/students being too tired to have another activity. But, I believe my point stands: if you want to reach the largest amount of children possible, do NOT hold your VBS program during the day. Or, at the very least, offer another alternative.

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