By Anne Marie Amacher
Throughout the Diocese of Davenport parishes put on Vacation Bible School programs individually, in clusters or with other faith communities. None of the programs could be done without the help of volunteers.
“It is wonderful to see how parishes get teens and adults together and are so energized to put on Vacation Bible School (VBS) for a week,” said Mary Wieser, diocesan director of faith formation. She noted that some adult volunteers take off work just to help with VBS. “To me this is a witness to their faith in action.”
Parishes may choose from among a number of VBS themes from different vendors.
At St. Ann Parish in Long Grove, 94 students and around 35 volunteers attended “Athens: Paul’s Dangerous Journey to Share the Truth.”
Joyce Kloft, St. Ann’s minister of faith formation for kindergarten through sixth grade, said Paul’s Dangerous Journey continued the theme from the past two years’ focus on the Holy Land.
Twenty-one junior high and senior high helpers assisted. Their role was to help the young participants enjoy the week at VBS by playing the games with them, helping them make the craft item of the day, modeling behavior of a good listener during Bible time and learning to sing and to perform motions to songs.
Kloft said the young volunteers’ enthusiasm flowed from one part of the program to another. “They also led the ‘Oikos’ time that reinforced the Bible point of the day.” ‘Oikos’ is the Greek term for household or family.
Around 17 adults helped with VBS. Their role was to lead the six stations that students visited daily: crafts, games, Bible time, operation kid to kid, food court and music. They also led registration and took photographs. Adults and youth helpers worked together in the Oikos.
“No Vacation Bible School is successful without the generous support of the parish, but most importantly, of the pastor. I am fortunate to have a very supportive one (Msgr. Drake Shafer),” Kloft said. Through the generosity of St. Ann Parish, the program was offered for free this year.
St. Mary Parish in Tipton will offer “Kingdom Rocks” VBS July 21-25. A family meal will be served from 5-5:45 p.m., followed by VBS from 6-8 p.m.
VBS coordinator Kelli Jauron has led the ecumenical program for several years. This year, five churches in the community are participating; each one hosts VBS on a rotating basis. Around 150 students are expected to attend this year, with about 40-50 belonging to St. Mary Parish.
Generally, a minimum of 15 youths volunteer each night. They must be 14 years or older, Jauron said. Junior high volunteers often are graduates of VBS who come back to help. High school volunteers often work toward volunteer recognitions and are earning service hours.
At least 40 adult volunteers are needed. The majority have children attending the program, although other adult parishioners and grandparents help out, too, she said.
Adults serve as crew leaders. Each adult looks after five to seven children, moves them between stations and engages them in faith discussions. Each church representative heads a station while other adult volunteers stay at one station.
“Our youth volunteers play an important role in VBS, especially as helpers with our younger preschool children. If our adult crew leader needs to tend to an individual child, the teen helpers can stay with the rest of the group and continue through our VBS stations. We also use them to help the adult station leaders with snack and games.”
Wieser, who visited a few VBS programs this summer, said closing ceremonies — featuring children singing and performing moves — give joy to parents and grandparents who attend.
VBS is a “wonderful evangelization tool.” And parishes involved in ecumenical programs have an opportunity to show off their hospitality and their active parish life.