Service-Oriented Vacation Bible School for Middle Schoolers

Feb 13, 2024 9:00:00 AM / by Ruth Sall

It is that time of year again: time to plan for vacation Bible school. I have been thinking this week about the program we started before the pandemic for middle school students. We wanted to break them out of the regular VBS structure and create a different kind of experience for them. Over the past five years, we have developed a service-oriented VBS for kids in rising fifth through seventh grades. Even with the disruption of the pandemic, the program has been growing steadily every summer.

We decided to focus on service and outreach in two ways: utilizing the skills and interests of adults in our congregation and working with groups in our neighborhood and immediate area. We wanted the kids to be able to walk to nearby places to share their service. Over the past few years, our adult leaders have included teachers and professors on summer break, retired professionals who are interested in service projects, new college graduates looking for a place to give back, and even a chocolatier who volunteered to teach the art of chocolate dipping to preteens.

We include the middle schoolers in the opening and closing gatherings of VBS. They stay together as a cohort with their adult leaders all week and learn about the theme and scripture for each day. But their program is built on projects and experiences in the community.

The middle schoolers have made chocolate trays for the nurses at the local hospital, held a lemonade stand sale to benefit Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, welcomed officers from our local police department to a coffee and donuts meet-and-greet, made fleece tie blankets for children moving to a new foster home, built bird houses, written cards to those who were sick, and more. By connecting to useful and needed service activities, the middle schoolers can spread their compassion and care for the community. The results have been deeper than we had imagined.

The kids talked about their projects all summer with great love and enthusiasm. They were energetic about walking the few blocks to deliver goodies. They made bird houses and enjoyed the delight of hanging them throughout the block and watching them for the rest of the summer for new inhabitants. More than that, the kids bring new ideas to us for outreach and connection to the community. It has been a wonderful new way to engage with the elusive preteens who embody both the joy of childhood and the exploration of teen years.

Topics: Children Ministry, Youth Ministry, Summer, vacation bible school, VBS, service

Ruth Sall

Written by Ruth Sall

Ruth Sall is the Director of Children’s Ministry and Music at Abington Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband and three daughters. Ruth loves all aspects of working with children from birth through high school through music, scripture, drama, art and prayer. Her favorite experience to share with others is walking a labyrinth.


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