We're celebrating 90 - that's 90 years of providing the very best VBS curriculum, resources, and training - by going to the archives for ideas and advice that is just as relevant today as the day it was first printed. The following article was originally published in 1998 in The Sunday School Leader.
(It's not too late to plan an Adult VBS. Think beyond the summer months and consider year-round possibilities.)
Which of the following approaches to Bible study would you prefer?
- Intergenerational Bible study.
- Small-group Bible study.
- Thematic Bible study.
- Weekday Bible study.
- "Lunch Bunch" Bible study.
- Women's Bible study.
- Men's Bible study.
- Other __________.
What resources can meet each of these needs? Actually, one resource can meet all of these options at the same time!
Adult Vacation Bible School may be the most flexible and adaptable resource available for special adult Bible study groups and experiences. Regardless of time, location, grouping, or age group, Adult VBS can meet the needs of adults inside and outside your church.
Vacation Bible School for adults is distinctive. Adults can be grouped in many different ways based on the situation and the interests of those involved. Single adults, young adults, shift workers, business people, senior adults, neighborhood study groups, and college students are some of the target groups that can be offered an opportunity for special Bible study. In fact, a church might offer several different studies for different target groups, with some groups oriented toward different learning styles. One group may respond well to a study in which verbal/hearing learning styles are the primary approach, while another group may be visually oriented.
The short-term nature of Adult VBS appeals to a lot of unchurched people, particularly those who do not want to make an ongoing commitment to Bible study or Sunday School membership. Adult VBS generally has a defined beginning and end. This makes Adult VBS an outstanding outreach approach. The informal nature of Adult VBS offers an opportunity to build relationships with unchurched people. As relationships grow, unchurched adults may be more willing to become part of an ongoing class.
Adult VBS is an anytime, anywhere Bible study. The suggested structure for Adult VBS is built around a 90-minute time frame. The amount of time can be adapted to what leaders want to include and how much time is available. The recommended schedule is:
- Bible study - 60 minutes
- Planned fellowship/recreation - 30 minutes
Recreation and fellowship are important parts of Adult VBS, especially when Adult VBS is used as an outreach tool. If the 90-minute time frame cannot be used, adjust the schedule to allow at least a few minutes for fellowship and the building of relationships.
PLANNING YOUR ADULT VBS
Organize your planning efforts to make the most of the time you have available both for planning and for conducting your Adult VBS. Everyone is busy. Very few people have time to waste. The most effective way to plan is to enlist selected people for specific actions and then turn these people loose to do their work. The list of plans that need to be made include:
- Enlist key leaders (study leader, recreation leader, snacks leader, small-group leaders, and so forth).
- Identify target groups for the study.
- Order appropriate curriculum materials and other equipment or resources.
- Deliver materials.
- Train leaders.
- Develop detailed daily schedules and plans.
- Schedule and conduct planning meetings.
- Plan and conduct church and community publicity.
- Keep accurate records.
- Plan and conduct follow-up actions with prospects discovered.
- Invite prospects to enroll in Adult Sunday School classes.
No doubt other actions will need to be added to this list. Are refreshments planned? Will transportation need to be provided for any adults? Are there non-English speaking groups that could be reached by enlisting a bilingual teacher for a study with these special groups? Special teams may be needed to address these and other special needs.
GET THE WORD OUT!
One of the greatest mistakes leaders make related to special studies and events is failing to get the word out to people who might be interested in the study. If the study is planned for senior adults, make sure local organizations that address the needs of senior adults are aware of your plans. Senior adults may be involved in local community clubs for seniors. Make promotional posters and ask for permission to place these posters in obvious locations. Place posters in locations where senior adults do business, such as cafeterias and doctors' offices.
If you want to reach single parents, find out what local groups and organizations are available for these people. Government agencies may be willing to provide information to people who come through their offices for help. Support groups and community agencies may be willing to pass information along.
Always make sure that everyone in the church is aware of the plans. Be sure that adults are informed of special studies and are encouraged to tell their friends - or better yet, bring them.
Be sure to start promotion early. Many people plan their vacations well before school is dismissed for the year. Make sure publicity is planned that indicates the dates and broad plans as early as possible. March is not too soon to start conducting detailed promotion. If possible, plan next year's VBS dates before the end of this year's VBS and lock those dates into the annual church calendar.
Vacation Bible School is not just for children any more. People are hungry for a word from God. Offer adults inside and outside the church family an opportunity to discover how to live a fulfilled life. Offer Adult Vacation Bible School.
Written by Richard E. Dodge, who at the time, served as Adult Ministry Development Designer, Bible Teaching-Reaching Division, Sunday School Board, Nashville.