Vacation Bible School, June 3-7, is one of the most important weeks in the life of First Baptist Church. I make that statement because Lifeway consistently reports more baptisms result from that event than any other event in the church year. I made my first step towards God during VBS at the First Baptist Church in West Memphis, Arkansas. Though I did not get saved then, I was confronted with the truth of the Gospel. By the way, the VBS I attended was a two-week school. I have not proposed that idea here for the simple reason I am too old to begin to look for another pastorate.
What is the history of Vacation Bible School? The following is according to Growing Kids Ministry: The year was 1894. As a Sunday school teacher, Mrs. D.T. Miles felt she was too limited in her time to teach the Bible to children, so she began a daily Bible school during the summer. This school lasted four weeks and enrolled forty students.
Eliza Hawes was next up to bat. She was the director of the children’s department at Epiphany Baptist Church in New York City, who started an “Everyday Bible School” for slum children. She rented the only place available—a saloon—during the summer in 1898 to run a Bible school for six weeks. Included in her daily Bible school were music, Bible stories, memory verses, games, crafts, drawing, cooking, and more. Hawes continued her efforts for seven years. By the time she retired from this kingdom work, she supervised over seven separate schools.
Dr. Robert Boville became aware of the Hawes’ summer program and recommended it to other Baptist churches. Boville established a handful of summer schools which were taught by students at the Union Theological Seminary. During one summer, one thousand students were enrolled in five different schools. In 1923, he began to promote VBS internationally and founded the World Association of Vacation Bible Schools.
If Boville is responsible for establishing VBS as a movement, Standard Publishing takes the credit for popularizing it. The publisher created a full-scale VBS program in 1923, divided it by grade level in 1948, introduced a single-theme concept in 1952, and by 1987, offered more than 120 tools for churches wanting to run a VBS. In 1998, the publisher reported that more than 5 million children attended VBS programs every year.
My prayer is God will give us a wonderful week of ministry!