Peer mentorship drives vacation Bible school success


By Emmaline Jurgena
The Catholic Messenger

Opportunities for mentorship abound among adult and teen volunteers at Vacation Bible School (VBS) programs throughout the diocese.
Mary Wieser, diocesan director of faith formation, noted that not only can adult volunteers at VBS serve as mentors, but teen volunteers can also gain experience mentoring younger children.

Children and helpers dance together at the St. Ann’s “Bug Safari” themed Vacation Bible School. The program ran from June 9-13 at the Long Grove parish.”

“It really is an opportunity for evangelization; we have a wonderful opportunity to witness our faith,” Wieser said.

At Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf a total of 45 teens volunteered at VBS this year, serving 122 children throughout the week.


“I am very proud of the youth volunteers…[VBS] is an opportunity for peer mentorship and the younger ones look up to them,” said director of Youth Ministry Sara Scogland.

The teen volunteers at Lourdes took on leadership positions and contributed input and ideas to the VBS planning process, which helped with the successful execution of the “Great Bible Reef”-themed week, Scogland said.

Teen volunteers at St. Ann Parish in Long Grove also participated in peer mentoring, and benefitted from adult guidance. “We really do promote volunteerism and peer mentoring. From sixth grade on up [the teen volunteers] get to work alongside the adults … they see how it’s done rather than just being told what to do,” said Joyce Kloft, minister of Faith Formation at St. Ann’s.

The “Bug Safari” at St. Ann’s VBS began with 67 children signed up, a number that grew after children requested to bring friends to join the fun. Of the 35 volunteer helpers, roughly half were teens.

Kloft observed that this number has been growing every year since she began working with VBS, a trend she attributes to volunteers who enjoy working with children and return each year.

Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport took the idea of peer mentorship one step further by creating opportunities for fifth- and sixth-graders to assist even younger children during some parts of the camp. Pastoral Associate Susan Stanforth observed that fifth- and sixth-grade participation increased as a result.

Sacred Heart’s “Parade around the Our Father (with St. Joseph of Cupertino)” VBS incorporated carnival-themed elements with 20 adults and 18 teens serving 53 children.
Times, dates and themes for VBS programs vary throughout the diocese, and some will be held later this summer. All of them share something in common.

The VBS programs held at parishes, and the efforts made by the volunteers are important to the diocese as a whole, Wieser said, adding that many VBS programs are a “community effort” made by the whole parish. “There is a lot of time and talented efforts that our adults and young adults put into making [VBS] a good, viable and fun time,” she said.


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