NASHVILLE — Over the next eight weeks, 25,000 Southern Baptist churches will be opening their doors to their communities and inviting thousands of unchurched families — spiritual orphans — to experience the gospel through the time-tested ministry of Vacation Bible School (VBS).
Churches will collectively enroll 3 million kids, students and adults during this short time, for an average of 120 people per church. This is an amazing number in itself, but a closer look at the statistics reveals even more exciting news that should call each of us to prayer every time we see a sign or banner announcing a VBS.
History tells us that 10 percent of everyone attending VBS this summer will be unchurched. This is a staggering 300,000 individuals and does not include the child who puts his grandmother’s church name on the registration card but in reality doesn’t attend except for Mother’s Day. Nor does 300,000 tell the complete story of the actual number represented by these unchurched kids.
Think about it for a moment. Most of these 300,000 individuals are kids. To this number we must add parents, younger and older siblings and possibly a grandparent or two who also lives in the home. When everyone is factored in, we estimate that 1,050,000 unchurched individuals will be identified this summer.
The average VBS of 120 (which includes both kids and workers) will result in 12 unchurched individuals actually attending VBS and an additional 30 unchurched family members at home.
Another statistic that should call all of us to prayer is the number of professions of faith recorded as a result of VBS. Again, based on history, there will be 80,000 professions of faith made during the weeks of VBS alone. This does not account for the thousands of people who are exposed to the gospel during VBS and make a profession of faith during the following weeks, or the thousands of family members who make professions of faith as a result of follow-up contacts at the homes of children attending VBS.
After 115 years, VBS continues to be one of the strongest evangelistic ministries in Southern Baptist life. Millions upon millions of lives have been transformed as a result of a weeklong ministry first envisioned in 1898 by Virginia Sinclair Hawes, a transplanted Southern Baptist living in New York City.
As you pray for the Bible schools in your community this summer, thank God for the life and ministry of Virginia Hawes and her willingness to listen to God’s whisper to minister to immigrant children on the East Side of New York. Thank God for the members of Epiphany Baptist Church who, while at first were reluctant to support the ministry, helped birth a movement called VBS in the U.S. and Holiday Clubs internationally.
As you drive by a church displaying a VBS banner, take time to thank God for the congregation’s willingness to listen to God’s whisper to reach out to the spiritual orphans of the community. Ask God to give every worker a driving desire to clearly share the gospel message with every kid, teenager and adult who attends.
The number one issue most VBS leaders express is the need for more workers.
Pray that God will provide workers for the harvest. Ask God how you personally might respond to the need for workers not only in your own church, but the church down the street.
Pray that workers will understand that their greatest contribution to VBS will not be how well they present a Bible story, sing a song or make a snack, but how well they build relationships with the kids, teens and adults attending VBS.
Pray that VBS leaders will see that the true evangelistic potential of VBS is not just the week of VBS but the weeks that follow as relationships are built through continued connections.
Ask God to give VBS leaders a vision for intentional follow-up that goes beyond a “thanks for attending” postcard.
Thank God for the 1,050,000 unchurched individuals. Ask God to give congregations the ability to see the unchurched families participating in VBS as a precious gift that must be cherished and cared for not only during the week of VBS but every day and week afterwards.
Thank God for 80,000 professions of faith that will be made during VBS. Ask Him to help church leaders disciple these new believers well, that they in turn will be used by God to transform the world.
Thank God for 2,200 individuals who will publically accept a call to vocational ministry as a result of participating in VBS. Thank Him for millions of people around the world who will be impacted by the lives and ministries of these individuals giving themselves to full-time service.
VBS doesn’t just happen. It requires enormous work and resources. But most of all it requires enormous prayer. The results are worth it!
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jerry Wooley is Vacation Bible School ministry specialist with LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)