Summer may be ending, but it’s not too early to be thinking about using Catholic vacation bible school programs in your parish next summer. Here are four steps to take, including a list of great Catholic VBS programs.
by Tracy Bua Smith
Vacation bible school (VBS) is a popular way to evangelize for both non-Catholic and Catholic churches. As we close out another summer filled with VBS fun, faith, games, crafts, music and yummy snacks, I’d like to encourage all Catholic parishes to consider using Catholic VBS programs for many summers to follow. What I mean by Catholic VBS programs are programs that are published by Catholics for Catholics. I do think non-Catholic publishers have a lot to offer as far as organization and many “bells and whistles”. Many Catholic parishes use their materials religiously (see what I did there?), but why not tap into the richness, beauty, and truth of the Catholic Church during the summer months? I say let’s support Catholic publishers that are working hard to create faith-filled and fun VBS programs that teach the faith in creative ways!
After working with our wonderful director of children’s ministry to implement a Catholic VBS program at our parish, here are four steps I’d recommend for others.
Pray that your parish will be open to a Catholic VBS program. If your parish has been using a VBS program that has been quite successful for several years, but it is not Catholic, it will be important to pray that your parish is open to at least hearing about other programs that are Catholic. You might even choose a “patron saint” of your cause…like the patron saint of your parish, or St. John Bosco (the famously fun-loving saint who ministered to wayward boys), or Blessed Chiara Luce Badano (the modern-day teen who was involved in her local Catholic youth organizations), or St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (our all-American “mom” saint who taught children the faith).
2. Research Catholic VBS programs
Research Catholic VBS programs and be prepared to share all the options with your parish priest/director of children’s ministry. Below is a list of Catholic programs to make this step a bit easier and faster.
- Growing with the Saints: My parish has used this company’s programs for the past six years and I can’t say enough good things about them! It is true that children, teens and adults can come together for a week to all learn about the Magisterium, virtues, saints, the Holy Spirit, and Marian apparitions and have a blast discovering the rich gems in the Catholic Church’s bottomless treasure chest. My parish has used all six of the Growing with the Saints programs that are out so far. Growing with the Saints calls their programs “Catholic Kidz Camp” because it’s more than VBS! I reviewed each one on my personal blog if you would like to find out more:
– Review: Vatican Express Catholic Kidz Camp (June 2012)
– Review: Catholic Kidz Camp Parade Around The Our Father (June 2104)
- Cat Chat: From their site, “A Cat.Chat Catholic VBS is a one-week program that will keep your parish buzzing during the summer months. All of Cat.Chat’s Rock-Solid Catholic VBS programs are specially designed to lead kids closer to Jesus while having a blast learning about the treasures of the Catholic faith.”
- Holy Heroes Summer Faith Adventure: If you are looking for a 100% Catholic Vacation Bible School that is free and easy to run in your own backyard, you will want to check this one out!
- K4J: Kids4Jesus: I’ve never participated in this one, but their overview explains their four different programs.
3. Contact your parish
Contact your parish priest or director of religious education to let them know about all these great Catholic VBS programs!
If you already have a personal relationship with your parish staff, you can probably just send an e-mail with a link to this post (or copy and paste the VBS links listed above). Sharing this post to the parish website might be a good way to begin a discussion about options.
If your parish staff doesn’t already know you by name, it’s probably best to broach the subject in person. An offer to pitch in and help will be appreciated, and may increase the likelihood of your suggestions being considered.
Be patient with parish staff! Most are overworked, and as any teacher knows, it is easier to stick with a known program than to start over with something new and unknown. Bring your suggestion to parish staff early, as much as a year in advance, so they have time to consider the options and consult with other stakeholders.
4. Be patiently persistent
If you have followed the first three steps and your parish is still not on board with supporting Catholic VBS programs, don’t lose heart. It may take some more prayers and perseverance, so just repeat the first three steps when you feel the time is right.
The director of children’s ministry at my parish was very open to hearing about other programs, for which I am grateful. The past six summers of using a Catholic program has been a blessing for our family and parish community. It is my hope that all Catholic parishes will one day support and promote Catholic VBS programs that are made by Catholics for Catholics.
Has your parish used any of the programs listed in this post? Also, are there any Catholic VBS programs that I did not include? Please comment and let us know!