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Vacation Bible School and nonreligious families

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
It seems that nearly everyone I know, religious and nonreligious alike, sends their kids to VBS in the summer. We aren't religious, although we did send our kids to a church-based preschool because it was close, well priced, and we liked the program/teachers, so I'm not averse to them being exposed to religious stuff in a setting like that.

I'm considering sending my kids to one week of VBS this summer because it's so darn cheap ($40 for 3 hours/day for 5 days!) and lots of their friends will be there. Do any of you send your kids to VBS? How do you like it, and how much of it is bible-focused versus just fun-summer-stuff-focused?
post #2 of 27

I volunteer to help with VBS at my church, and I've done mostly music throughout the years.  The curriculum and music has varied, with some years it being pretty simple, like campfire songs, and some years it being a pretty aggressive pop style praise music that has me kind of rolling my eyes, and yet doing all the movements, trying to get the kids involved.  We always have 5 different sections, one being games, another craft, story, snack, & music.  The snack isn't always so great, but I think that depends on who is running it.  I mean last year, ick, they used spray cheese!  And we made little animals with hotdogs and pretzels.

 

I have pleasant memories of my days in VBS as a teen helper.  My 14 year old actually wanted to help this year, but we were out of town when it was going on.  There is definitely a Bible component in most curricula.  There is a Bible verse every day, the songs are about the Bible verses or the stories, and we'd read a Bible story and say a prayer at the end.  But, yes, it's pretty inexpensive, so we get a lot of kids just because of that. 

 

Maybe you can ask and check out the curriculum being used. In the past we've used Augsburg Fortress.  There is also Cokesbury, and my kids have done the K4J curriculum at the Catholic church too.  They aren't religious, but they enjoy it anyway.

post #3 of 27
Our experiences varied widely. Dd (9-10 then) has been to two, mostly because she wanted to join her cousins. The one at DH's church went with a camp theme, and did bible stories around a firepit after the crafts, etc. She liked that the priest chose the most actionpacked stories he could get away with that were still preteen appropriate. The other was very much about indoctrination, to the point of pissing DH off...and he's the religious one among us. The kids brushed it off with some discrete eyerolling to get to the fun stuff but if they had been younger I would have pulled them out at the first sign that it was heading in that direction.
post #4 of 27
I was on the other side of the fence. I was the non religious kid that went with the neighbors because it was cheap. I remember having fun and making Jesus out of a wooden ice cream spoon; the kind you got from the ice cream man in the 70's. That's pretty much it.
post #5 of 27
We are a UU family. I've sent both my kids to religious preschools but so far the religious aspect has been non existence.
Ive never sent my oldest to vbs. baby still too young. If you have a local UU you might want to check that out. Been to some great summer programs with the UU
post #6 of 27

We are pretty casual about religion. Rare Sunday attendance (can't recall the last time) and we celebrate the holidays in a mostly secular manner. Both dc attended a 1-week neighbourhood VBS with all of their friends for a few summers when they were young. It seemed like every kid in the neighbourhood attended, whether they attended that church or even belonged to that religious denomination. It was a local thing. DD also attended an overnight camp associated with the same church because her good friend was also going. 

 

The kids had fun. Most of it was games and crafts and songs, albeit with a fair amount of  "Bible Stories" flavour - Noah's Ark and David and Goliath type of stuff. It was all very pleasant and happy. They were okay with the religious teachings. There wasn't any scary Fire and Brimstone and Damnation stuff. It was all generally in keeping with our family traditions though. I didn't find any of it any more challenging than I normally do when I have to somehow integrate religion with my scientific/questioning/atheistic tendencies.  

post #7 of 27

We don't do camp anyway (nothing against it - kids just don't want to and we have the luxury of a parent home in the summer), but there are lots of secular camps around here - is it the only thing going in your town? Maybe you can call and ask about the curriculum? Personally, it would have to have very liberal teachings and a lack of pressure to convert for me to send my kids to VBS.

post #8 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ragana View Post

We don't do camp anyway (nothing against it - kids just don't want to and we have the luxury of a parent home in the summer), but there are lots of secular camps around here - is it the only thing going in your town? Maybe you can call and ask about the curriculum? Personally, it would have to have very liberal teachings and a lack of pressure to convert for me to send my kids to VBS.

That's why we've never done it in the past -- I'm home with the kids and have never thought to do a camp, beyond little 1-hour per day week-long "camps" that are more like classes, where I sit and watch.

The reason I'm considering camp at all this year, and VBS in particular, is simply that lots of our neighbor friends are going, and it's so cheap that it's an easy thing to add to our summer for them to have fun with their friends. It's only 1 week -- 5 days for 3 hours per day. Some neighbors do it for several weeks, but we'd just do one, for the novelty of it.
post #9 of 27

We are not religious and for that reason I would not send my kids to a religion-based camp.    

post #10 of 27

Here's something my older daughter has done with friends of hers: They chose a week in the summer where they all had free time, researched some activities they wanted to do, petitioned us with a budget (which the parents approved - less than a week of regular camp), then got us/grandparents to take them to the activities. These were preteens. Alternatively, we have done lots of exchanges in the summer - you take my kids, I take yours. These things feel like camp w/ friends, but essentially you know what you are getting. Maybe that's how you can get some time in w/ the neighbors who do VBS?
 

post #11 of 27

PS If you decide to do it, I would be upfront about what is going to happen there with your kids. Some denominations/settings are more high-pressure than others.

post #12 of 27

Limabean, I don't remember how old your kids are. If they are old enough, I would talk with them in advance. About different religions: "Some people believe..." An answer that worked with my Dumplings, when they asked "are these stories true?", maybe around ages 6 or 8, was, "These stories are so old that no one knows if they are true or not. Even if they aren't true, they are good stories with lessons people learn from". At the time, that felt like a balance between our Jewish heritage, their Christian friends, and my atheist beliefs. In your position, I would probably take advantage of the VBS program, but plan on talking much about the propaganda lessons they hear.

 

If it is too troubling on Monday, they don't have to go back on Tuesday.
 

post #13 of 27

I loved VBS as a kid.  It was the only summer activity going where I lived and there was always a mom or two willing to shuttle us around to every camp possible.  Where I grew up, the churches absolutely welcomed kids from other churches to attend.

 

I have thought about asking DS if he would like to go.  While we don't attend church, I do think there is an educational value in him learning about various religions.  However, when I asked a mom from our town about "outsiders' attending her church's VBS, she sort of crinkled her nose and said the attendance was really strong from within the church and she didn't know if there was room and people that don't attend church are always trying to drop kids off.   Ok fine, that tells me what I need to know about your church.  I would hope this is the exception, not the rule.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ollyoxenfree View Post

 

The kids had fun. Most of it was games and crafts and songs, albeit with a fair amount of  "Bible Stories" flavour - Noah's Ark and David and Goliath type of stuff. It was all very pleasant and happy. They were okay with the religious teachings. There wasn't any scary Fire and Brimstone and Damnation stuff. It was all generally in keeping with our family traditions though. I didn't find any of it any more challenging than I normally do when I have to somehow integrate religion with my scientific/questioning/atheistic tendencies.  

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ragana View Post

PS If you decide to do it, I would be upfront about what is going to happen there with your kids. Some denominations/settings are more high-pressure than others.

 

A friend told me her son asked to go to VBS with the neighbor boy.  He came home and told her that "dinosaurs are made up by the devil" and he was "going to burn in hell unless he accepted J.C. into his life."  The kid was 7yo and it scared the hell out of him. She refused to let him go back.

post #14 of 27
Thread Starter 
Well, shoot. I checked, and enrollment is full at the church where my kids went to preschool (a liberal Methodist church where they mostly focus on the "being kind to others" lessons from the bible), and I don't feel comfortable sending them to a different church where I don't know the staff or curriculum, and where my kids aren't familiar with the staff and setting. So it looks like we won't participate, but I will keep it in mind to sign up earlier next summer at the Methodist church.
Quote:
Originally Posted by mamarhu View Post

"These stories are so old that no one knows if they are true or not. Even if they aren't true, they are good stories with lessons people learn from".

I *love* the wording of this! We've always done the "some people believe" thing, but I like the above wording even better. Thank you for this!

ETA: Caneel, your last paragraph freaks me out -- that's awful!!
post #15 of 27

We had our kids in a Methodist preschool - the preschool was a "mission" of the church, but in respect of the diversity there, they didn't mention religion at all (all of the other church preschools at least say grace, etc.) They even went as far as not celebrating holidays except for their own preschool-specific ones, like a harvest day in the fall.

 

Well, sounds like the issue is moot for this summer! smile.gif
 

post #16 of 27

Probably because VBS is just plain fun :) Whether religious or not kids love the games and togetherness they share with other kids during that week...I went as a kid although my family wasn't very religious and I loved it...I am sending my 5 year old L as well but we do attend church there too...

 

 

I do have to say though this is the first time I have ever seen VBS costing anyone any $$...That is a new one on me...No one charges where I live and it is for 3-4 hrs M-F with a big Jamboree party/Picnic/Carnival on Saturday for the whole family to enjoy...

post #17 of 27

Nonreligious people use it only because it is the cheapest place around. It is the cheapest place around to draw in as many people as possible, especially nonbelievers. And be clear, VBS is the business of conversion. You aren't nonreligous people to them. You are nonbelievers with souls to harvest.

post #18 of 27

I loved VBS as a kid.  All the singing and odd religious stuff ( I was being raised LDS, VBS was catholic, I think?)  was awesome.  Great crafts and activities and I got to be with my friends.

 

I sent one of my children to a local VBS (Methodist) and pulled him after 2 days.  It was poorly run and he wasn't having fun.  It was also more overtly Christian than I wanted it to be, but not at all in your face.  Maybe if he'd been older I would have tried to make it work.

post #19 of 27

Well it's VBS.  It's going to be overtly Christian.

 

I have never heard of paying for VBS.  When I was a kid, it was two weeks (two weeks!!!) and staffed by volunteers, and now that my daughter goes it's one week and still staffed by volunteers.  One church here has so many kids, they recruit like 600 volunteers - we don't do that one.  How do you screen 600 people? 

 

My daughter goes to the VBS at my mom's church.  The church itself is far too conservative for us but the VBS program is one of those kit-style deals.  Lots of denominations use them so they're pretty basic.

 

I have noticed that some churches heavily recruit for VBS - bring your friends, call your classmates!  Those churches usually have a bigger budget for kids' activities.  The churches that try to keep to their church families usually know their resources and volunteers are limited. 

post #20 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by JudiAU View Post

Nonreligious people use it only because it is the cheapest place around. It is the cheapest place around to draw in as many people as possible, especially nonbelievers. And be clear, VBS is the business of conversion. You aren't nonreligous people to them. You are nonbelievers with souls to harvest.

Yup.

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