by Kathy Carlisle
When you turn your attention to the selection of your parish vacation Bible school, you will find a variety of packaged programs from which to choose. These incorporate Scripture and references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. To explore available resources, watch for mention of programs here in CATECHIST, connect with your diocesan Office of Religious Education for recommended resources, and ask other local parishes what programs they have used.
Choosing a Theme
You will find that publishers of VBS programs offer a wide variety of themes. Some questions to consider when selecting a theme are:
*What do we hope to accomplish with our VBS? Are there particular Church teachings we want to convey? Are we looking to provide a service experience by working on projects around our parish and/or community? (Because materials exist to support these different ideas, it is helpful to have a general goal in mind.)
*Is there a Church celebration that we can build on with a parish VBS? (For example, during the Year of St. Paul declared by Pope Benedict XVI, our parish decided to focus on St. Paul and other saints. Our diocese also celebrated a Marian Year and a VBS focusing on Mary was a strong theme to help us delve more deeply into this topic in an age-appropriate manner.)
*What would appeal to the kids of our parish? (Let some children look on-line with you or flip through catalogues with VBS materials. Youngsters will react to things that you may overlook. If they see something that excites them, you are probably on the right track.)
I consider VBS an opportunity to think out of the box regarding faith formation. It is fun, and it happens over an extended period of time, which enhances the communal feeling and repetition of the message.
Choosing a Format
Most VBS program materials provide a variety of formats to adapt to your needs. This includes such options as running the program for five or ten days, each for about three-hour intervals. You can decide if you want to hold the program on consecutive days or weeks, or perhaps hold it on one designated evening each week for five to ten weeks.
There are pros and cons to each format, so it depends on the interests of your parish to determine what works best. You may try one format the first year and adjust it for the next year. During this decision-making process, it is helpful to survey potential participants and leaders to see what they think would be most effective. Selections do not have to be final, but having someone as the primary decision maker is recommended so that you can keep the momentum going on this exciting endeavor!
Targeting Your Audience
Most Catholic VBS program materials focus on elementary school-aged youth. Determine if you want to include preschoolers as part of the program, or maybe offer childcare for younger siblings as an alternative. Some resources are geared toward teen participants; however, you may decide to utilize their gifts as junior leaders in the program.
The main thing is to consider your potential participant and volunteer pools and identify which groups will be the audience for your VBS. If you decide you want to offer enrichment for adults and/or parents of participants, it will most likely be necessary to find supplemental materials.
This sounds like a lot of decision making. Nevertheless, it is best to get some of these elements settled early so you can move ahead with further planning. Try not to be overwhelmed. Remember to pray for guidance in this process because, ultimately, the Holy Spirit is an integral part of this endeavor.
Kathy Carlisle has worked in ministry for over 15 years at national, diocesan, and parish levels. She holds an M.Ed. from Loyola University Maryland. She directs the VBS program at her parish, St. Rose of Lima in York, PA, where she also assists with the religious education program.
Copyright 2010, Bayard, Inc. All rights reserved. This article is protected by United States copyright and other intellectual property laws and may not be reproduced, rewritten, distributed, redisseminated, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast, directly or indirectly, in any medium without the prior written permission of Bayard, Inc.
This article was written by the Catechist Staff and appeared in Catechist magazine, October 2010.
Image Credit: Brian A Jackson/Shutter Stock 145450387