Children running outside through bubbles.
Shift Ministry Models

Hybrid Challenge: Vacation Bible School

Holding an online and in-person VBS
by Faith+Lead | October 13, 2021

By Stephanie Mason

This example of ministry is appropriately provided in a hybrid format for you via video or the written post, both available below.

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In 2020 shortly after COVID became a reality in our ministry context, the leadership team at Hope West Des Moines realized that if we wanted to provide a Vacation Bible School (VBS) experience, it would have to happen within the home. We did the best we could to make it feel as “normal” as possible.

Fast-forward to 2021 and we had a lot more options to consider. COVID numbers seemed to be falling and vaccinations were available to a wide group of people. It looked like we could offer an in-person VBS option.

We started the process of thinking through what our options really were and what we could do to bring VBS back into the building in a safe way. We also considered how best to include families, churches, and communities worldwide who had joined us online the previous year.

We now needed to figure out how to offer:

  1. VBS in-person at the scale we had in the past; and 
  2. VBS online for those who needed it because of the pandemic or because they enjoyed the online version last year and wanted to participate remotely again.

Some decisions were easier than others. 

  • We knew we had a strong theme: “Planet Hope: To Eternity and Beyond!” 
  • We had the ability to record and livestream the opening and closing that included music, dancing, Bible teaching, and skits. 
  • We also felt that we could provide supply lists and instructions for optional crafts each day that were doable for a single family or large group. 
  • Music is also a big part of our VBS and each year we record videos to train the song leaders and for use throughout the year during children’s programming.

But then there came a point when we realized we could not provide the same experience for the online group when compared to what we had offered the year before. 

The hardest decision for us was to drop the story component. Our story breakout is where a smaller group of kids get to hear the Bible story again, why it is important, and how it applies to their life. We were stretched thin on resources and knew that we couldn’t pre-record the story, but we also didn’t have the staff and equipment to record it live. 

It was something that we had to let go. We wondered: By scaling back the online offering, are we doing a disservice to others and failing to achieve Hope’s mission to “reach out to the world around us and share the everlasting love of Jesus Christ!”?

In the end, we had to remember that God is good, and God is going to do God’s thing. We needed to trust God and do the best we could with the gifts and limits we had been given. It ended up being an incredible experience. Across all 6 campuses we had over 7,500 kids attend in person and another 1000+ online. That number just reflects those who chose to register. Our online attendance included people from not only all over Iowa but across the United States (including California, Arizona, North Carolina, New Jersey) and the world in places like Japan and Norway.

We can’t wait to see what God has in store for VBS in 2022!

About the Author
Stephanie Mason is the On-Site Director for Hope West Des Moines Preschool at Lutheran Church of Hope. She previously served as the Special Events Coordinator on the Youth and Family Team at Lutheran Church of Hope. She has served for 7 years. She lives in West Des Moines, Iowa with her husband, Pastor Ben Mason and two kids Lydia and Sam

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