New approach to VBS proves popular with parents and kids

Submitted article
Hudson residents Cecilia, Jameson and Owen McNulty and puppy Cooper enjoyed a summer evening of song and learning at Gloria Dei's outdoor Vacation Bible School in July.

Not even a pandemic can stop some summer traditions.

Forty families found safe and fun things to do outside the virtual realm at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church’s outdoor Vacation Bible School on Wednesday evenings in July.

Held in the church parking lot – with plenty of space for participants to be socially distant -- families brought chairs and blankets for kids to get comfortable while listening to the Bible story leaders and singing and dancing along with the song leaders.

Add a few puppies and some Happy Meals to the scene and you have a recipe for a perfect summer evening.

Michelle McNulty, of Hudson, whose three children enjoyed their own church’s online VBS, said she appreciates Gloria Dei’s different approach.

“My kids absolutely love the outdoor program. It’s nice for them to see other faces and feel like they’re a part of something. It’s so well thought out,” says McNulty.

Planning for this year’s VBS began immediately after last year’s June program but by spring organizers realized that summer activities would be impacted by COVID-19.

“It came down to a discussion of Zoom versus the parking lot,” says Alissa Hardy, a Gloria Dei volunteer. “In the end, we felt that many parents would welcome an in-person event.”

Hardy, a parent of two young participants, says she is thrilled that her kids are able to do something that feels normal.

“So much of their routine has been disrupted over the last few months. VBS is a part of summer that we didn’t want to take away if we could do it safely a different way,” says Hardy.

And given the stressful times, the church felt compelled to carry on.

“At a time like this when we need God’s hope and one another, we must continue reaching out with the love of God in Jesus,” says Bob Brantsch, Director of Christian Education at Gloria Dei.

Most of the families attending are not members of Gloria Dei. Many have attended VBS at Gloria Dei in the past or are enrolled in the church’s preschool or Mother’s of Preschoolers (MOPS) group.

Each evening, families are given supplies to take home with them to use on their own time – an art project; games; activity sheets and a snack that goes along with the night’s theme.

While she appreciates the take-home materials, McNulty does have one problem with them.

“The kids are always so excited to make the snack and look at everything when we get home, but by then it’s bedtime,” she says. “We have to convince them that it has to wait until morning.”