Sign up for every VBS within a 20-minute drive from your home. If you plan it out well and start early, you can end up with 6 or 7 weeks of free child care. Plus, you have the added benefit of having your kids scream, “Hey, that’s our church!” every time you drive past any chapel in any direction. Do not hold me accountable for the annoying songs your children will sing loudly ALL YEAR LONG even if your eyes start twitching. And you know how you “lose” things you no longer want your kids to play with, watch, or listen to? Well, you can only “lose” two of the song CD’s before your kids catch on.
I was that young, overwhelmed Mom that could NOT afford a babysitter. To be honest, my kids would have eaten most 16-year olds alive, and so there was that factor also. Vacation Bible School became a heaven-sent solution to this tired Momma. I don’t know where the mandate is in the Bible for churches to have yearly VBS’s, but it seems to be a thing in the South. VBS added much-needed structure to long summer days. And let’s face it, most churches buy the same VBS curriculum, so the kids literally are singing the same songs, doing the same crafts, and hearing the same stories. This is probably done to deter parents like me from abusing the system, but I value salvation and my kids were getting saved every summer for years.
Finding the Right VBS
I started scouring the internet in April, swerving off the road to take pictures of VBS information on church billboards and laying out my calendar, scheming. Here were the things I considered:
Have we been to this VBS, and how did it go? I think it is quite rude to kick out a child from VBS on a Tuesday. Good grief! I think it is polite to at least wait until Wednesday after pick-up to give a child his/her expulsion letter. I never return to churches that kick kids out on Tuesday’s. They just have bad manners in my opinion. Also, aren’t they trying to get these kids saved and into heaven? I hardly even remember Melinda with the tight lips and strained voice who said, “He can’t come tomorrow unless he decides he is going to obey Jesus.” I am pretty sure Jesus didn’t have tight lips, an angry voice, and kick kids out of VBS on Tuesday’s.
Do They Remember Your Child?
This can go one of two ways, and you have to watch carefully to see how it is going to go. There is a slight chance they remember and “like” your kid. There is a greater chance they remember “that kid” – you know, the one who made lesson time difficult, the one who spent the whole time at the registration table because they couldn’t contain him in class. If they say, “It’s good to see you”, but it looks like they might cry, then chances are your kid will make it to Wednesday because most churches have better manners than Melinda’s.
Is it worth driving that distance for less than three hours of childcare? Will it be worth it to continue to drive Thursday and Friday when you are only taking half of your children after your other little guy got kicked out? It may be worth it for two kids, but for one?
Will your child be in sensory overload as you walk through the door? Do you feel like you will be stampeded by small feet if you make a wrong turn? Will anyone even know if your child gets lost? I tried a couple of large churches, but they never worked for us. The few hours of peace do not make up for the hellish afternoon you will have.
Time of VBS
If you are a really desperate mother, you may manage to sign your kids up for evening VBS’s also. I do NOT recommend this. Childcare only works when it helps you rest, not when you are up until 10:00pm because you didn’t get home until 8:30pm. I don’t parent very well past 8:00 pm, so these never worked for me. Actually, I don’t parent super well until 10:00am either. My husband is pretty lucky that he married one of those unique people whose best time is the middle of the day! I mean, I have so many good parenting hours, but do NOT wake me up early or keep me up late!
Avoid this at all costs if you have a spirited child. Simply by saving yourself the drive time, you have doubled the amount of embarrassing interactions you will have with adults. Now not only are you apologizing for your child climbing on the bookshelf during story time, but you are also apologizing for your child’s incessant rolling up and down of the car window and tossing things out the window. If you happen to have friends who don’t tattle on your child, keep them. I don’t care if you have nothing in common with them and they are sending you subtle messages that they don’t want to hang out anymore. Bribe them with favors and cookies. They are a rare breed.
Happy Summer Planning
Over the years, we also had so many sweet surprises like the tiny church down the street from us filled with senior citizens who were happy to see my kids year after year. They delivered my kids to me with smiles and warm words and made me feel like I was doing something right as a parent. Those of you who don’t get to feel that often know that you will never forget those small acts of kindness, those expressions of generosity. It is so easy to be critical of children, but it take a special person to look past their behaviors and see greatness.