Having trouble attracting your middle school students to Vacation Bible School? If your church is like most, young children come to VBS in droves. But middle-school students avoid it like . . . well, like pipe cleaner crafts and puppet shows.
"Some kids think they're just too old for Vacation Bible School," says Carla, mother of Ben, a ten-year-old boy who was reluctant to go to VBS until one summer he attended VBS at a church, where the middle-school class had been restructured with 'tweens in mind.
"He loved it," Fuller says. "And believe it or not, I couldn't get him away from his Bible."
I taught Ben and the twenty-nine other kids in his class that summer. Yes, we had thirty kids every day! That was up from five the previous year. Attendance had been so bad for years that we had considered canceling our middle-school class. But we knew middle schoolers still have lots to learn about the Bible. They still need to learn about Christ's love for them. They still need VBS.
So we changed our format drastically. We promised them no baby songs. No pipe cleaner crafts. No snacks in the shape of whales or arks. No duck-duck-goose on the lawn. No kidding!
Instead, we set high standards for these kids—in both attendance and achievement. We required that class members keep a prayer journal, engage in thoughtful discussion each day, and memorize significant passages of the Bible. Woven into each lesson were competitive and cooperative games, skits, and worship with candlelight and contemporary music.
At times we had to separate this group from the rest of the VBS activities. Sometimes we had to change a craft to suit the interests of our middle school group. But the real "bait" for the week was a daily outing after class. After a sack lunch, the kids were off to spend the afternoon in what we dubbed Middle School Mania. They went roller skating, swimming, bowling, and—the highlight of the week—tubing at the lake. Another teacher and I handled the morning classes, and a team of parents chaperoned the kids each afternoon.
We think we hit the right formula to attract our 'tweens to VBS. With a little extra effort and a willingness to meet their specific needs, you can help ‘tweens have fun, explore the Bible and hear the message that God's great love is something you never outgrow.