Pictured here: The four VBS and Sunday school teachers from St. George
on their last day of VBS this summer (2019).
Sarah Fothergill is a church school teacher at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Kearney, NE. She was kind enough to share about Vacation Church School 2019 at the parish, and she also shared VCS resources from 2018 and 2019 (student workbooks for 2nd-8th grade students) that were created by St. George teachers. Invaluable!
Link to the VCS 2018 Workbook: Armor of God
Link to the VCS 2019 Workbook: Where Your Treasure Is, There Your Heart Will Be Also
How many students attended your church school for the 2018-2019 school year?
We had approximately 20 students attend on a regular basis.
How many students attended Vacation Bible School 2019 and what was the age range?
We had 28 students, ages 3 through 13.
Please describe the registration process for students.
We asked parents to register (for free) via e-mail, Facebook, or on a card located in our parish hall. We asked for registration information to be completed a week prior to the start of VBS. Registration cards asked for parent names, contact info, children’s names, ages, allergy information, and t-shirt size. All students receive a free t-shirt with the theme on the front. The kids love wearing these shirts year-round and it’s a great way to “advertise” VCS and our bible verses to friends and our community.
How did you establish the theme and develop the curriculum/materials?
The teachers typically meet at the beginning of the summer to discuss ideas. Our first curriculum was Kh. Gigi Shadid’s “Time to Go to Church” and our second curriculum was “Behold the Light” from the GOA. For the past three years, we have written our own curriculum. Our themes were Fruits of the Spirit (2017), Armor of God (2018), and Treasures of the Heart (2019). We try to make sure that our lessons include Scripture memorization, Scripture study and learning about the saints. Our crafts have included making prayer ropes, icons, wind chimes for the church, prayer rocks, and popsicle stick memory verse helpers.
For our youngest age group, verse memorization incorporated pictures since most of them could not read yet. We found songs online that were suitable (many of them word for word from Scripture) that helped this age group learn their verses. Lesson times were often coordinated with a hands-on activity so the children could listen and participate while keeping their hands busy. For example, we created Play Doh fruit while learning about one of the Fruit of the Spirit.
We also enjoy using “kindness coins” each year which we distribute to students when we see them helping one another, volunteering answers in class, and being extra kind to other students and adults. The students can cash in their kindness coins at the Kindness Prize Store on the last day of VBS to purchase items like candy, small toys, journals, crosses, prayer ropes, and stickers.
How many days did Vacation Bible School run? Please give us an idea of the average daily schedule.
We ran our VBS Monday through Friday, from 10:00 am to 12:30 pm. Monday through Thursday began with morning prayers and hymns in the church sanctuary followed by a message from our priest. Then we separated into classes for lessons, activities, songs, and verse memorization. We had a snack break and then finished our lessons and completed crafts. This year we had two classes (ages 3 through 1st grade in one class, and 2nd-5th grade in the other. We also had breakout sessions for grades 6 and up). At the end of the day, we met in the sanctuary for a puppet show highlighting the week’s theme and finished with closing hymns. On Friday, we walked to a nearby park for a sack lunch and fun time playing at the splash ground.
How did you publicize details about Vacation Bible School to the parish (bulletin, email, flyers, social media, etc.)?
We advertised in our church bulletin, newsletter, and Facebook group.
Were other parishes invited to participate (Protestant, Catholic, Pan-Orthodox)?
Invitations were not sent to other parishes, but we did have some non-Orthodox children attend who were relatives or friends of our parish children. We have found that our VBS week is a neat way to introduce families and friends to Orthodoxy and the importance that the Orthodox Church places on teaching our children about their faith.
How many staff were recruited?
We had four teachers (2 in each classroom). We also had a couple of volunteers help in each class. Several parishioners offered snacks.