Why I Hate (and Love) VBS

VBS Immanuel 2019

My church just wrapped up another year of VBS. This was my sixth VBS at Immanuel. During my time as pastor, we’ve hosted Agency D3, Journey off the Map, Submerged, Galactic Starveyors, Game On, and most recently In the Wild.

I think our volunteers and staff would agree with me when I say, after five days of games, songs, crafts, and semi-controlled chaos, I was exhausted. VBS requires a tremendous amount of work, and each year I’m reminded about the reasons I “hate” VBS.

  • The Mess! The worship center gets torn apart. Sunday school rooms are decorated and destroyed. Glass is covered with finger prints. Carpet is covered in glitter and sprinkles. VBS is a mess … but that’s why we have buildings, right? A dirty building may be a sign of a lazy custodian, but it’s usually a sign of life, activity, and ministry. Early in my ministry, an older, wiser pastor reminded me that church buildings are built to get dirty.
  • The Schedule! Admittedly, I’m a creature of habit. I like to do the same things on the same days at the same time. Without my normal routine, it’s just hard to get done what I need to get done. VBS is a wrecking ball to habits and routines. The mornings are full. Staff meeting is abbreviated. Sermon prep is tight. VBS will crush your schedule … but that’s ministry, right? Not habits and routines, but people and relationships.
  • The Babysitting! Each year our church pays for a VBS ad on Facebook. Each year I read through all the comments. Many comments are people in the community tagging friends who are excited to have a week of free – dare I say it – babysitting. Surely churches know they’re being used by parents … but didn’t Jesus actually enjoy spending time with children? And isn’t it an honor that people trust us with their children?

At the end of each VBS, I’m not only reminded of the reasons I “hate” VBS, I’m also reminded of the reasons we “do” VBS. In addition to the thoughts above, here are a few reasons our church loves hosting VBS in the summer.

  • The Gospel! VBS is a week of sharing the gospel, singing the gospel, discussing the gospel, and memorizing the gospel. What an incredible opportunity! People in our community – many of whom do not attend church on a regular basis – voluntarily bring their children to us knowing that we will talk about Jesus all week.
  • New Prospects! Finding time to connect with unchurched families is a challenge, especially if you have kids at home. School, sports, activities, homework, chores – life is busy! Add church activities to that mix, and schedules get tight. VBS offers an opportunity to connect with unchurched families in your community.
  • The Body! It doesn’t matter how big your church is, you need an army to pull of VBS! One of my favorite parts of VBS is watching our church family come together and serve together. Young and old. Mature believers and new believers. Long time members and new members. The body has to work together to make VBS go.


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