Churches see ‘greater family involvement’ with drive-thru VBS summer programs

Huguenot Road Baptist Church of North Chesterfield, Virginia held a drive thru Vacation Bible School in July 2020.
Huguenot Road Baptist Church of North Chesterfield, Virginia held a drive thru Vacation Bible School in July 2020. | Matthew Hensley, Pastor for Discipleship and Mission

Churches across the United States are holding a drive-thru version of Vacation Bible School this summer in response to social distancing safety guidelines meant to curb the spread of COVID-19 and are reporting more family involvement in response.

One of these congregations is Owosso First Church of the Nazarene, located in Owosso, Michigan, which began its drive thru VBS program on Monday.  

Brett Meyer, head of Discipleship Ministries at Owosso, told The Christian Post about how they adjusted VBS programming in light of canceling indoor mass gatherings.

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“During a normal VBS inside the church, children would travel around to different stations where they would get a Bible story, learn a verse, do a craft, eat a snack, and then worship together,” explained Meyer.

“We created stations in our parking lot for worship with our songs being transmitted to the car using an FM transmitter, Bible story using actors at several stops, prepackaged snacks to go, a take home craft and Bible verse.”

Meyer also noted that they added an extra station at the end where they had volunteers present to pray with the family in the car if they had any requests.

“One of the benefits of the drive-thru model is we now have greater family involvement,” he said. “Instead of dropping the kids off and picking them up, parents now get to experience the story themselves and hopefully interact with their children after they leave the parking lot.”

Owosso First Church of the Nazarene in Michigan holds a drive-thru Vacation Bible School in August 2020.
Owosso First Church of the Nazarene in Michigan holds a drive-thru Vacation Bible School in August 2020. | Kelsi Nichols

The first day of VBS had 67 kids take part, which was less than half of the normal attendance for them. However, Meyer said that it was still an overall positive experience for all involved.

“I believe our volunteers had just as good a time if not more so than our families that came through,” he said. “Our teens also came out to help so it was a great multigenerational gathering reaching out to the community we are called to serve.

“While we were limited in what we could physically offer, there was certainly no limit to the blessings that came through our gathering.”

Another congregation that opted to do a drive-thru VBS this summer was Huguenot Road Baptist Church of North Chesterfield, Virginia, which held its summer kids event last month.

Amanda Lott, associate pastor for Children and Family Ministries at HRBC, reported that they had 83 participate this year, which was a little over half of their average of 160.

“We contemplated in-person in various forms, but none of those was deemed a safe option for students and leaders,” recalled Lott.

“Drive-thru gave us the flexibility to see the families in person at pick up and get Bible materials and fun activities in their hands.”

The church had what Lott described as “VBS in a bag,” with a large bag that had all lesson materials and a snack divided up into each given day.

“There was no worship gathering, no rotation to classrooms, no decorations in rooms. But there was a lot of energy from leaders who adapted materials, packed bags, decorated the drive-thru route, and welcomed families for pick up,” she explained.

When asked by CP what she hoped participating families took away from the experience, Lott replied that she was hopeful for a greater impact in the long run on those involved.

“We are excited for the long-term impact the learning time can have on the whole family, not just the child who was in the classroom. We are pretty certain that there are families who have never opened the Bible with their children and will now have done so at least once during their learning time,” said Lott.

“I am also hopeful that our leaders take away a new appreciation for the value of being nimble and flexible — this could have long-term impact on our ability to act quickly and creatively in the future.”

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