Vacation Bible School too much for youngins?

by Joshua McNary on July 12, 2011

As you may have heard on Episode #2 if The Parental Office podcast, my wife & I have been trying to include our oldest boy (almost 3 years old) in more and more Church sponsored and formed devotional activities. Vacation Bible Schools around the country are currently underway and my Church’s is next week (still time to sign up if you are in Eastern Iowa).  We are planning to include our toddler all five days… but is he ready or able and should he attend?

Over at Steadfast Lutherans, they had a post yesterday noting one Church’s liturgical-based VBS program (interesting read in and of itself), in which they stated they have stopped doing VBS for the youngest children:

“We have also cut out some classes for the youngest children and that has helped bring a spirit of calm as well. “

Later in a comment there is some clarification:

“Yes, we no longer have classes for the 3-year-olds. We found it counter-productive to the idea of Vacation Bible SCHOOL to have children coming in who hadn’t even been to preschool yet. Also, there is a group of folks in our area who like to use the churches’ VBS programs for summer day care – particularly for their littles.”

My wife (see her devotional site for women) actually picked up on this thread and commented:

“My oldest is almost 3 years old and I’m trying to work with him on the readings and songs before we go to VBS next week – so he can hopefully focus more on learning and less on the new experience.”

And finally another comment states:

“At our church we do accept 3 year old VBS students. They do hear and learn the Bible stories, and we think that that is great. Often their families start bringing them for daycare, more or less, but bring them back year after year and they learn more and more about the faith that way.”

I suppose I am with my wife on this one at this point; let’s try it and attempt to expose the Word & faith in Christ’s saving work every way we can, even when young.  Plus a little “preparing” the little guys is good for them and us to better understand what serious stuff is being taught between the fun and games at VBS.

The flip side is, as I suggested in the podcast this week, are we overdoing it? By doing so are we really in fact just showing our faithlessness in a God who bestows grace on us and our children through Christ? Or are we doing exactly what we were commanded to do by Scriptures in our Parental Office?  Where do we draw the line between Law (action) and Gospel (faith) in such cases?

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Brian Yamabe July 12, 2011 at 11:11 pm

This is a tough one because I’m not involved directly enough with VBS to see the problems. Mari went last year when she was 3 and had a great time even though she still has trouble getting through the Divine Service and we didn’t have her in Sunday School this past year because she really was that disruptive. We were always prepared and able to pull her out if she was being too disruptive. We were hoping to give her exposure to the Gospel as long as her presence wasn’t a barrier for others.



Marie July 13, 2011 at 8:17 am

I think the young ones can learn, but it is also a question of how much time and energy the parents and Church Leaders are willing to spend. Noah (will be 3 in Sept.) could not attend Sunday School without me there to keep him on task. Even though I am excited for him to start Sunday School I admit sometimes we are more disruptive to the other children than I’d like and Noah learns more from our teaching time at home. We’ll keep trying different activities to see how he learns best. We all are continually learning, right?


Tyler Coan July 13, 2011 at 11:52 am

I don’t see it as a problem as long as its not disruptive. My son Elijah is only 2, but I look forward to the days he can sit all the way through a church service. We try every now and then to get him to sit through a church service. He usually lasts up until the sermon, then we have to put him in the nursery or take him into the cry room.

I think it’s important to get children in a routine, including participating in church. The only way to break bad habits is to reinforce positive behavior and correcting the bad. You’ll have some bumps in the road, but it’s part of the learning process.

Same goes for potty training. Uff da.


Joshua McNary July 13, 2011 at 11:44 pm

Hi Ty, thanks for commenting. We actually are going to probably do a podcast on “getting through Sunday service” sometime soon… that is a big thing for parents I think.

We want to expose our kids to the Word, but feel guilt when they behave badly in church. The condemning Law in full action, indeed.

Keep visiting the site and hop you are enjoying the podcasts.


EmilyC August 30, 2012 at 4:56 pm

CPH has a very good “Parents and Twos” curriculum for Sunday School that I get to teach every week at church. We have some “ones” and “threes” in there as well and since the parents come for the whole hour, there is always enough help. The lessons/activities are crafted for little ones’ short attention spans. This is a very good way to introduce them to the Bible stories in an age-appropriate way. I haven’t heard of any VBS curricula with a “Twos” component, though.


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