As you travel through your community this summer, you may notice signs in front of various churches announcing "Now is the time to register for Vacation Bible School." These signs are usually colorful and present a theme attractive to children — "Kids Adventure Week" or "Kingdom Rock". Many denominations now offer these opportunities for children to spend a week experiencing daily Bible content in interactive ways. This may all bring back memories for you of your summer days at a vacation bible school.
Coincidentally, a pamphlet, "How to Plan and Conduct a Vacation Church School" published by the International Council of Religious Education in 1937 came across my desk. Now, I am curious as to the connection between today's vacation Bible schools and this pamphlet. I located an article in Christianity Today (June 2003) titled "From Beer to Bibles to VBS: How America Got Its Favorite Summer Tradition". The article stated vacation Bible school began "unofficially" in the 1870s and later in 1898 continued in New York City with the rental of a saloon for her school by Mrs. Walker Aylette Hawes. Dr. Robert Boville is credited in this article and in Wikipedia as establishing the VBS movement with the Daily Vacation Bible School Association and the founding of the World Association of Vacation Bible Schools.
The pamphlet from the International Council of Religious Education affirmed that the Vacation Bible School movement was started in 1901 by Dr. Boville. The pamphlet is a complete "how to" booklet on vacation Christian education in the 1930s. It provides detailed instructions on promotion, activities, resource material and organization. The pamphlet further indicates the mission of the schools as "Cooperating Protestant Churches with a vision of the possibilities of the new vacation schools will initiate a community coordinated program for children, youth, and adults for the entire summer. They will demonstrate their leadership in the community through their interest in Christian character building and make religious education an integral part of daily life through a happy summer experience." From the banners and Church website descriptions, it does sound like that religious education and happy summer experience continue.
Please share with us your experiences in Vacation Bible School.