Virtual VBS: Texas Churches Connect with Families while Social Distancing
By Lindsay Peyton
Churches in the TAC aren’t letting stay-at-home stand in the way of VBS. They have found new and innovative ways to still reach students in the summer – without the worry.
Longview FUMC goes virtual for VBS
Associate Pastor Romnie Scott at Longview FUMC decided to try something new this year – online VBS. “It obviously wasn’t our plan,” she said.
Still, the thought of gathering children and volunteers did not feel safe in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and sticking to small groups felt too limiting, Children’s Director Loren Buchanan explained.
“It’s intimidating to do something that we’ve never done before,” she said. “It took a lot of time and energy.”
But the extra effort was worth it, Buchanan said. Children are already excited about the upcoming VBS – and registration is full.
“We worked together to make it as fun, meaningful and scripture-packed as possible,” Buchanan said. “It’s going to be fun.”
Since the church’s mission trip was canceled this year, Scott adapted its “Caring for God’s Creation” theme for VBS. Four days are planned full of lessons, scripture, arts and crafts, music, science and a mission component.
Scott explained that children will be able to work on projects with a mission focus, like collecting old towels for an animal shelter or writing cards for their grandparents.
Because of the online format, Longview FUMC was able to reach out to a different population this year, including church families, the on-site preschool, other area programs and an apartment complex they serve as a mission.
The week before VBS, church staff will distribute packets with crafts, projects and activities. Then, children can follow the lesson through online or a written option for those who do not have internet. Parents can join their children for games and help them with activities.
The online lessons also appealed to families outside of the church’s normal neighborhood. One child signed up from Colorado and will receive the packet in the mail. “You never know who you are going to reach,” Buchanan said.
Hybrid VBS at Bellville UMC
Bellville UMC has developed a hybrid program for VBS this year. Senior Pastor John Reasons said it didn’t take long to start looking at options. He asked himself and his staff, “What are we going to do in the face of the pandemic? How do you feel good about gathering 100 kids? And what about the safety of the volunteers?”
Director of Children’s Ministries Dixie Hardin also worried about putting volunteers at risk. She is a teacher and a mother for four children – and was aware that getting students to login online could be a challenge.
She worried that children were feeling burn out from spending so much time with their screens for school. “And I don’t want them to feel like this is more work,” she said.
Bellville UMC leaders decided a hybrid program would be the best solution. The stories and devotionals could be online, but packets and supplies could be picked up for crafts and science.
The usual volunteers offered to lead various videos, demonstrating crafts or snack recipes, leading games and telling stories. Children are also able to follow along with music videos.
This version of VBS will provide quality time around building faith. Instead of the usual five days of VBS, the church staggered the schedule over five weeks, starting Sunday, June 14. Packets will be available for pick-up about a week before each session. Families can watch the videos and try the activities whenever they have time during the week.
Since parents would have the tools to lead VBS in the packets, Reasons said the opportunity for creating time as a family develops. “Sometimes, it’s hard to talk about faith with your family, even when you go to church every Sunday,” he said.
Now, they can enjoy the summer together with activities and games that bring faith to the foreground.