2020 was shaping up to be a big year. I was in the second half of my first year leading our Children’s ministry at church, my husband was also in new role at church (same church, just different job) after 13 years in youth ministry and I was planning my first ever VBS.
I had it ALL planned out.
Teachers for every age – Check
Kids signing up early – Check
Full “Decorating Suite” ordered – Check
Reinventing some non-essential, yet timely wheels – Check
Global Pandemic Plan – uhhhhh… no. No plan for global pandemic VBS planning came with my handy, nifty-galifty VBS Directors Kit.
Quarantine began in March. Surely, it would be over by June. So, we planned on. Forged ahead. Pretended it wasn’t a “thing.” Until we couldn’t. As June approached and it was obvious we weren’t going to be doing “normal” VBS, we started formulating Plan B – push it back a few weeks to see if cases leveled off. Then Plan C – push it out a few weeks and also reduce class size, cancel “Friday Fun Day Carnival,” then our stay-at-home orders were extended and restricted leading to Plan D… and finally, the one that stuck… Plan O.
By June it was obvious only one plan would actually work, and work safely. Outside. It was the only way we could ever manage to do any sort of VBS in 2020. We would do the whole thing outside. In July. In Alabama.
There was just one problem – many of our volunteers were at-risk of severe disease. So we couldn’t in good conscience ask them to commit to this. So, we came up with Plan O.2. VBS Outside – with just staff running it all. 4 stations – families stick together, do the close-contact stuff at home.
That’s what we were left with. The remnants of “normal” VBS all crammed into sweaty, humid, and sunny July. This plan was safe as far as COVID-19 goes – very limited interactions among children who aren’t normally together, outside, staff stayed WAAAAAYYY far back, etc.,
But it brought its own challenges. We had to set up and tear down the entire VBS every single day because Summer in the South can be brutal with afternoon storms. We didn’t want our pirate ship sailing away and landing the next neighborhood over.
We had other challenges too… but let me tell you what I learned about kid’s ministry throughout all of this.
1. No man, or woman, is an island. I’ve never been more grateful to have a singularly-minded group of coworkers around me in my entire life. At 7 am when it was time to drag everything out… they were there. At 11 when it was time to drag it all back in and we were gross, hot, cranky and sweaty, they were there…
2. Kids are resilient. Yes, it was hot, but to be honest, I don’t think the kids noticed that much. The discomfort was felt much more among the adults. For this reason, and during this season of coronavirus, I would 100% recommend doing children’s ministry events and classes outside without any hesitation. The kids will come, they will love it, and they probably won’t complain much about the heat. As an adult, you’ll be feeling it… but the kids just frankly don’t seem to care! They’re just happy to be WITH other kids.
3. And this is the most important… Jesus showed up. I know there shouldn’t have been any doubt… but I will admit that around mid-May I began to wonder if this was going to be some major regret I’d never get over in my life if we attempted to do this. Common sense screamed against it. My own fears and anxieties screamed against it. But the Father blessed it anyways. The Word was taught, fun was had, we got outside of ourselves and focused on people with life-long legitimate issues beyond the annoyances of 2020, and no one got sick. Not one person. It’s as if God knew about this ahead of time or something…
This is not to say everything should be “business as usual” in kids’ ministry right now. Obviously not. VBS outside in July will NEVER be my Plan A, B, C, or D outside of this time. But, there is something to be said for feeling the tug to do anything in your human abilities to take the Word to the children who need to hear it, and trust that God’s got the rest, because He does. 2020 didn’t surprise Him… and it doesn’t stop Him from working in us and through us.
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”- Hebrews 10:23