LEADERSHIP MATTERS by Roger Yancey, D.Min.

All through the TEBA churches have been hosting Vacation Bible Schools.  VBS is one of the greatest evangelistic opportunities a church can provide reaching countless children and their families.  At the last meeting of the SBC in Indianapolis, I was intrigued by the report of Ben Mandrell, President and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources.  As part of his report to the convention, he addressed the origin and impact of VBS in the life of local churches.  What follows is an excerpt from his report he gave me permission to share with you.


VBS first began in New York City in 1898 when a lady named Virginia Hawes noticed that children had nowhere safe to go in the summertime. She became increasingly concerned that schools “no longer taught the Bible and parents were not discipling their children in the home” and so she launched the first “Everyday Bible School” in a rented beer parlor in New York’s Upper East Side as a compassionate solution to both a practical and a spiritual need. It became a huge success, growing year after year. In 1901 the New York City Baptist Mission Society picked up the banner of Vacation Bible School and established schools throughout the East Side. By 1921, Vacation Bible School had spread well into the south and was a strong program across many denominations.

In 1924, the Sunday School Board created the Vacation Bible School department led by Homer Grice and published the first manuals for Vacation Bible School for Southern Baptist churches. He blazed a trail working with the state conventions to equip and train churches. VBS exploded in the Southern Baptist Convention under his leadership.  

Today, a hundred years later, there are over 25,000 churches reaching 2.5 million kids each summer through Lifeway’s VBS resources.

VBS continues to be the largest evangelistic tool of the SBC, accounting for 25% of SBC baptisms every year. Last year, there were 60,000 professions of faith at VBS. It’s a time-tested, proven successful strategy that is still engaging, appealing, strategic, and effective today.

Since we began tracking giving to the VBS missions offering in 1999, churches have given $105 million to missions through VBS. 

 Look back at what God has done over 100 years of VBS. Look back on your own life and the impact VBS has had on your life. Raise your hand if you made some kind of spiritual decision at VBS, whether you made a decision to follow Christ, or a decision to go into full-time ministry or missions. Many of you can say that VBS was a significant part of your spiritual journey.”


I am grateful for every church that have made VBS a key part of their ministry and would encourage a church who is considering VBS being added to their ministry to children to do so.  If you need help in the development of a VBS in your own church, we have partner churches ready to give assistance.  VBS continues to prove it makes an eternal difference!

In Kingdom service,

 Executive Director, AMS