Debbie is painting the backdrop and set for our community VBS. This year the theme is “Saddle Ridge Ranch,” which is available at LifeWay stores. We partner with 4 other community churches — a Presbyterian church, two United Methodist churches, and another Baptist church — for VBS each year. All of our churches have about the same attendance, which is under 100 on average, so partnering with other churches helps share the cost, provides lots of adult helpers, and lots of kids for VBS.
Our VBS costs have run a little more than $20 per child in recent years, and we anticipate about 100 children, plus 60-70 workers. Here’s our schedule for the week of June 27 – July 1:
5:00 PM: Our bus leaves our parking lot to make the trip to this year’s location at Chestnut Level Baptist Church.
5:30 PM: A snack supper is provided for $1 per child, and $2 per adult to help working families get there together.
6:00 PM: VBS starts each evening.
8:00 PM: VBS ends.
8:20 PM: Bus arrives back at our parking lot in Chatham.
We start on Sunday evening to give us time to set up that afternoon. We don’t serve the snack supper on Sunday, but Monday through Thursday nights we feed 80-100 people supper. Each church pays a pro-rated share of the expense of VBS based on the number of children (not adults or workers) each church has enrolled for the week. Usually the host church for that year spends a little more than the other churches, but over 5 years it all balances out. What is your church doing for VBS this year?
The four Chatham pastors — Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Episcopalian — met today to discuss our joint lenten services. We’ll have a simple dinner and 30-minute service each of the five Wednesday evenings during lent. We also have a community thanksgiving service, community Holy Week services, and a joint vacation Bible school. Here are the 4 benefits these services provide:
Larger attendance. This may be obvious and is not very spiritual, but frankly a larger group at these services encourages everyone. Rather than 4 services with a handful each, we have one service with good participation.
Shared traditions. Baptists and Presbyterians get to take communion by intinction at the altar when we worship with the Methodists or Episcopalians. Because the four pastors also share preaching responsibilities at each other’s church, we learn from each other about different worship practices, liturgical symbolism, and theological distinctives.
Common faith. Despite our liturgical and theological differences, community services highlight our common Christian faith. We are all Christians who love and serve the same God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Good fellowship. Several of these events involve table fellowship — eating, in other words. We enjoy seeing our neighbors at these events and it helps foster continued friendships.
Joint community services work in our small town. They may not work as well in other settings, but these ecumenical events build stronger bonds in our community. What do you do with other denominations or groups? How do you bridge theological and liturgical differences?