Last summer if you walked into almost any Iowa United Methodist Church it would have been silent. This summer, the music, laughter, and games are back with Vacation Bible School.
Churches had to make some changes this year by distancing groups, extra cleaning, and moving activities outside.
“We did miss last year due to the pandemic, but this year was truly Spirit-led as things fell back into place very quickly and smoothly,” said Pastor Darin Feikema of St Charles Parish. “VBS was designed to be outside for the whole time, but with the heat this year we did spend one night inside for some air conditioning relief.”
St Charles Parish has partnered with other churches in the I-35 School District for several years, joining United Methodist, Disciples of Christ, United Church of Christ, and Baptist churches together for children and youth ministry. That ministry carries over into an after-school program the rest of the year.
“We have learned that if the kids’ friends attend, we have a better chance to get additional kids to attend,” said Feikema. “We have actively asked for participation from all the churches in each of the three towns that make up the school district and have it in the park next to the school. We work remarkably well together, and God truly brings us together to share a message with our youth and our communities.”
Partnerships were also key at Corning United Methodist Church, which teamed up with Mobile United Methodist Missionaries (MUMM) this year.
“We are so grateful for the ministry that MUMM provided,” said Pastor LeAnn Robine of Corning United Methodist Church.
She said her church had just as much fun as the children they hosted.
“We saw God at work through both the kiddos and the volunteers,” said Robine. “The way that our church showed up in all kinds of ways (volunteering, cooking, donating, decorating, and of course prayer) to make this year’s VBS a success was wonderful and amazing!”
Finding volunteers during the pandemic was a Godsend for many churches, some of which had a record number of children participate this year.
“[We saw God at work] in the fact people were willing to step up and have VBS this year,” said Pastor Carl Benge of Correctionville Grace and Cushing First United Methodist Churches. “We had an abundance of volunteers and materials donated, including food items as well as crafts. The moving of the Holy Spirit was evident in the record number of children this year. We had 50 children sign up with as many as 46 and no fewer than 42 over the four days.”
Those volunteers helped created an atmosphere where children could learn and ask questions about the Bible stories.
“The kids and volunteers are amazing, and our middle and high school youth groups set a great example as they assist,” said Feikema. “It is a powerful time – especially when we have the whole group together at opening and closing to talk about the daily lesson and sing and pray together.”
“In the hallways, we heard one kiddo say to a friend, ‘This was awesome! Thanks for inviting me,'” said Robine.