For years, churches have offered opportunities for local children to spend their summers singing, reading the Bible, and playing games. Vacation Bible Schools (VBS), which included weeks of summer camp activities, stories, songs, and free babysitting, have been a staple of American churches for generations.

I still remember my years at VBS in many separate churches. Every church ran its program with slight variations, but they were also similar in many ways. Everything is designed to include community members who are not currently a part of the church.

This year, a small church in Florida has decided to transform how it operates its program. The new format for First Baptist Church of Vero Beach’s VBS is inspired by its mission statement, which includes sharing the good news and making it applicable and understandable to all ages. 

The goal of this mission is for the church to become an intergenerational community. Rather than offering VBS solely in the summer, the church spread it out throughout the year and focused on opportunities for community service and mission work.

Kristina LaGuardia, Minister of Children, Youth and Families at First Baptist of Vero Beach, decided that Vacation Bible School needed to go through a change. She saw several needs in her church and believed a reconfigured VBS could be a solution.

LaGuardia saw a disconnect between various generations in their church, with each group acting independently of the others. This caused concern about the church’s ability to collaborate and make an impact.

In addition, she worried about the hearts of the children who were coming to their summer events. Seeing that children’s exposure to missions was lacking at younger ages, LaGuardia wanted to teach them to help serve their community at a young age and get them outside the church’s walls.

LaGuardia strongly believed that things do not need to stay the same. She organized a program to replace VBS titled “Mission Vacation Bible School.”

Mission Vacation Bible School began as a single, one-day event, but plans for more one-day events throughout the year are already in place. The church’s first Mission Vacation Bible School brought together forty attendees and guests. These people of all ages wrote two hundred cards for community members, including firefighters and nursing home residents.

When asked why they did this, LaGuardia said she wanted to reiterate to the community that the church was a place of caring and would be there for anyone in need. She wanted the church to be viewed as a shelter.

While the church transitioned into mission work, LaGuardia retained several aspects of traditional VBS. She still wanted the kids to enjoy and learn from the experience. This included a short message for those in attendance and some songs. They even kept a theme verse for the event, using Matthew 22:39 as the motive for their Outreach: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

During Mission Vacation Bible School, LaGuardia observed children enjoying the service and camp aspects. She also saw parents experiencing the same community and discipleship as their children. This full family experience is often lost in traditional VBS.

According to LaGuardia, some church members who could not attend for various health or travel reasons wrote cards from their homes for the event. An active prayer team in the church also allowed more to remotely participate in the event.

LaGuardia has more events planned throughout the year. The goal is to make the activities less overwhelming for families and give the children opportunities to learn and serve during breaks from school.

Recognizing needs in her church and community, Kristina LaGuardia strives to bring the church together, from small children and their parents to seniors and church staff members. With the new Mission Vacation Bible School, LaGuardia plans to serve the community under a united church.

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