For several years, the Catholic, Methodist and Presbyterian churches in Jesup, along with the ELCA churches American Lutheran and Zion (Jubilee), La Porte City, have teamed up to have Jesup Community-Wide VBS. They usually have about 100 kids, and our numbers skew young, with lots of prekindergartners and kindergarteners participating.
COVID-19 changed all that.
Gathering with so many people was clearly not feasible. However, not wanting to give up what was a positive community event they decided to try an online version of Vacation Bible School, using pre-recorded videos. Someone different was in charge of each session and made one video per week. Each week for 5 weeks they released one “day” of videos via an email list and private Facebook group. Participants picked up any needed supplies, plus a snack, from the United Methodist Church each week. They even offered T-shirts. Supplies included what was needed for the usual arts and crafts that are part of the traditional Vacation Bible School experience.
All over the synod other congregations faced similar challenges of how to offer a safe Vacation Bible School experience for children isolated at home.
Many went with an online version which consisted of packets to use at home that could be picked up with video curriculum.
Some churches like American, Grundy Center, who also worked with neighboring congregations offered an in-person outdoor kickoff event, with social distancing, where participates could pick up supplies and then participate online through videos the rest of the week.
One of the advantages of this format is that families can participate when their schedules allow. It also allowed people to participate from anywhere. Redeemer in Waverly had families from Minnesota and California participate.
COVID 19 has brought many challenges but also opportunities for creativity. Northeastern Iowa Synod congregations have risen to the occasion with flexibility, boldness and faithfulness.