Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Vacation Bible School for all children

This is not at all what I'd planned on writing about today. But it's information that I feel could benefit a family. Perhaps your family, or a family you know.

Churches across the US are having their annual Vacation Bible School, either this month, last or next. One week of every summer, most churches sponsor a fun-filled, wholesome and welcoming 5 days of music, Bible stories, snacks, games and crafts. All of the churches that I've been involved with have offered this absolutely free to the entire community.

There's another element that I was reminded of today. I was in our local grocery store, chatting with one of the cashiers that I'm friendly with. She was asking about our church's Vacation Bible School (abbreviated as VBS). I'm one of the snack ladies for our VBS, and just happen to have my ear (or nose, as the case might be) where it needs to be, to know most of the goings on in VBS-land. This woman at the grocery store mentioned that her daughter has Down syndrome and she was unsure if a church would be willing to take her for a week of VBS. I replied that our church is very welcoming towards children of all ability levels, and I felt many, if not most, churches are welcoming, as well.

This is my information to those of you with special needs children or family or friends of someone with a special needs child. Church-sponsored VBS weeks are fantastic opportunities to include a special needs child in a mainstream group activity. Most churches are flexible in ways that schools often are not. A child may participate in one, two, three, four or all five days of the week, as the child is able. There is no commitment whatsoever for the child and their family. If a child can not manage with the group setting for the full 2 1/2 to 3 hours, it can be arranged for this child to be brought later, or picked up earlier. If a child has special dietary requirements, many churches will work with the parents on this. And there is also the opportunity for a parent to volunteer with the age group that their child will be placed, if the special needs child should require a parent nearby.

I bring this up as I don't know if it is widely known just how accommodating a VBS program can be for families. A phone call to one of the churches on your community could give you the information you need.

5 comments:

  1. Great reminder! And to Lili and everyone else who helps with VBS programs, God bless you. VBS is so important!

    As a child, I lived in a rural area and we attended a small, country church. The VBS program was near and dear to my mom's heart. I remember tagging along in the car as she drove from house to house inviting children to attend.

    There were a lot of families in our church's community that did not attend church. My mom would invite the children and then she, dad and other VBS volunteers would pick up and drop off children who were allowed to come. Mom taught a class, planned activites and arranged the snacks. I still remember how on Friday night of VBS week we would always have a wiener roast and watermelon.

    When I was a child, I could not fully grasp the importance of what my mom was doing. I had been taken to church three times a week since I was born. I went to VBS every year. It was the 'norm' to me. Now, it touches my heart whenever I think about it. My mom is in her 60's now and every once and a while someone will come up to her and say "Do you remember me? Thank you for picking me up and taking me to VBS or Sunday School when I was a child. You really made a difference in my life."

    I can't wait for my church's VBS program next week. To everyone involved in VBS, let's keep allowing God to reach out to communities and touch the lives of children!

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    1. Above, I meant to says let's keep allowing God to reach out 'through us'... :)

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    2. Beautifully said. What a wonderful tribute to your mother, having people remember what she did for their lives. When we're planting seeds we don't always get to see them grow. I applaud your mother's dedication to serving the Lord.
      Have fun next week in your VBS!
      Thanks for leaving a comment!

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  2. Hi Anonymous, my mom became a Christian because her neighbors took her to Sunday School. You never know ...

    Lili, our church is blessed to have a counselor-in-residence who is very skilled w/children of different abilities and who helps with VBS programming and supervision of the most challenging children to make it accessible. The occupational therapist in me wants to add that many children, including but not limited to kids with ADHD and autism, have sensory issues. Their brains don't interpret sensations (touch, movement, flashing lights, loud sounds) the way most of us do. Our VBS begins and ends the evening in the sanctuary with (loud!) music from our praise band. Often there are flashing lights ... of course the noise/activity of many children ... and this can be completely overwhelming and can scare some of the kids away from VBS or, because they can't modulate their reactions to the stimulation, they have behavioral issues as a result. A simple solution is to take them out of the room--maybe they can watch the proceedings from a tv monitor in a quieter area, or sit in the vestibule, etc., but this simple action can make VBS a much more pleasurable activity for them.

    Hope I didn't get too technical! Kids in a wheelchair or with Down's have more obvious needs but there is a high prevalence of kids with sensory issues and their needs are more "hidden".

    I would also add, it's a great experience for kids to become more sensitive to the needs of others and I'm all for inclusion when it can be reasonably managed! :)

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    1. HI Kris,
      Good point about children with sensory issues, This is where some coordination between parents and the VBS staff can make all the difference for a child. If the VBS staff are fully aware of a child's particular needs, then arrangements can be made to have the child escorted to a place that feels "safe". And this is what I've found so wonderful about many church VBS programs, their willingness to make the experience a good one for every child.
      Thanks for commenting!

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