Vacation Bible School and nonreligious families - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 27 Old 06-24-2013, 04:41 PM - Thread Starter
 
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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?

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#2 of 27 Old 06-24-2013, 10:33 PM
 
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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.

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#3 of 27 Old 06-24-2013, 10:51 PM
 
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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.
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#4 of 27 Old 06-24-2013, 11:13 PM
 
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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.
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#5 of 27 Old 06-25-2013, 06:17 AM
 
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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

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#6 of 27 Old 06-25-2013, 03:24 PM
 
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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.  

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#7 of 27 Old 06-25-2013, 08:51 PM
 
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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.


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#8 of 27 Old 06-25-2013, 10:58 PM - Thread Starter
 
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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.

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#9 of 27 Old 06-26-2013, 07:55 AM
 
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We are not religious and for that reason I would not send my kids to a religion-based camp.    

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#10 of 27 Old 06-26-2013, 03:34 PM
 
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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?
 


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#11 of 27 Old 06-26-2013, 03:35 PM
 
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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.


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#12 of 27 Old 06-26-2013, 08:23 PM
 
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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.
 


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#13 of 27 Old 06-27-2013, 10:17 AM
 
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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.

 

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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.  

 

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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.


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#14 of 27 Old 06-27-2013, 10:36 AM - Thread Starter
 
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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.
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"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!!

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#15 of 27 Old 06-27-2013, 11:10 AM
 
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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
 


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#16 of 27 Old 06-30-2013, 09:18 PM
 
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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...

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#17 of 27 Old 06-30-2013, 10:23 PM
 
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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.

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#18 of 27 Old 07-01-2013, 06:28 AM
 
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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.


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#19 of 27 Old 07-01-2013, 06:58 AM
 
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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. 

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#20 of 27 Old 07-01-2013, 07:55 AM
 
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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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#21 of 27 Old 07-01-2013, 08:22 PM
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Our church (Catholic) teams with two other churches (Lutheran and Episcopalian).  They use a "kit" VBS.  Some years it is fun, some years leave much to be desired.  Because our church works with other churches, it is a very basic Christian theme.  No one knows who goes where (or if at all) to church.  It doesn't seem to be "recruitment" style at all except that it does plant the "seed" of Jesus, church, and being a Christian.  There is a bible verse or story somewhere in there, but my kids have never needed to learn them.  They usually do learn the songs--some years the songs are fun to sing along with and other years you want to hurt whoever wrote it.  

 

On the other hand, my experience with the Baptist based church causes me to place a warning (not to be rude to Baptists, perhaps this is an isolated experience).  I wouldn't sent my kid to their VBS because they did seem to try to recruit.  First through my dd and then they tried to get my dh on board-- just to send my kids to VBS.  It didn't matter that we had a church and had already signed our children up for VBS there.  It really creeped me out.  

 

So, if you don't mind you kid coming home singing "you you you, you can trust God" or whatever other song they are using in the kit of the year, I say go ahead and send them.  However, if you don't want them to ask questions about Jesus (or aren't prepared/ready for that) then don't.  

 

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#22 of 27 Old 07-01-2013, 09:57 PM
 
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I did a VBS once as a child. I think it was fun, but I could see being a bit annoyed at the parts where I felt like I was being taught about the Bible instead of having fun. I have fonder memories of other (secular) camps I went to. I went to Sunday School every week, so perhaps it was a bit of Bible overkill...but if a kid doesn't go to church that much, they might be more interested in it, and even a bit curious.

 

The VBS camps around here do look like fun, and they are really affordable. I pay a little more and send my kids to art, karate, etc. camps. We live in the Bible Belt, and churches around here can be a bit overwhelming. I've joined two churches and visited a couple of others and I was turned off by every sermon I heard, except for at the local UU congregation. 

 

My kids went to a church pre-k, and that was the extent of their Bible Study. They had a chapel day once a week, and sang some religious songs and learned a few prayers. I suspect that is the extent of the religious education at most VBS camps too. Perhaps you can get a feel for what the church is like before you send them, or talk with the parents of the children who already attended. 

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#23 of 27 Old 07-06-2013, 07:30 PM
 
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First of all, is VBS costing money a regional thing? Because I have never heard of it costing anything. It's always been free around here!

 

I went to a couple growing up, and they were fine. Not overly religious or anything - definitely not like Awana or anything. Just a bunch of kiddos having fun, doing activities. 

 

I would probably send my child just for the fun and to learn some about the religion, but I would also be open to sending my child to a similar type of event for Buddhism or something too. Don't know how DH would feel about that....but we will cross that bridge when we get there lol. 

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#24 of 27 Old 07-07-2013, 04:14 PM
 
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No, we would never send our kids to VBS. My DH would think I was completely off my rocker if I even suggested it. I went as a kid (grew up in a pretty average Presbyterian church) and DH went for a week when he went to visit his Grandmother in another town—he hated VBS with a passion. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either. BTDT, don't want my kids to have to do it.

 

I think I mainly thought it was kind of boring. I was a regular Sunday School attendee and it was at my church with a bunch of the kids I went to church with and it is just not something I have fond memories of. I do remember YMCA day camp and sleep away camp that was church sponsored. I loved the sleep away camp, although it wasn't super religious. It was very outdoorsy. VBS, to the best of my recollection, was boring with stupid little Jesus crafts. I'm sure there was a snack and a song in there somewhere, too. I am certain it could be done better, but since we're not religious I would never bother to investigate it. I think if you're Christian or agnostic with Christian leanings it might be appropriate. I'm not, though, and I would like to be present when religion is presented to my kids in a religious setting. (If they're studying it in school I don't feel the need to be there, or if a friend is telling them about their church/temple/mosque/etc that's fine, but if a religious institution is teaching my kids their religion I want to know what is said.)

 

My husband is a pretty ardent atheist and I am not religious, either, and the kids barely recognize themselves as culturally Christian although I have told them the most significant Bible stories. We are in the South, but in a college town. There are VBSes around, but plenty of other options. We'd much rather spend our summer days at dance camp, or theater camp, or the pool. They could offer to pay me to send the kids to VBS and the answer would still be a resounding NO. We also did not send our kids to church preschool. They have been to church on a very few occasions when we all went with my parents, but VBS would never be on our radar. I have friends who have sent their kids to Dharma camp, though.


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#25 of 27 Old 07-07-2013, 04:36 PM
 
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Nooooo way. I mean, if my son asked to go, I'd definitely let him, but I wouldn't suggest it.

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#26 of 27 Old 07-09-2013, 09:29 PM
 
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First of all, is VBS costing money a regional thing? Because I have never heard of it costing anything. It's always been free around here!

 

 

 

Our registration fee is around $15 to $20 a child.  It's mostly to offset the cost for the snacks, the craft supplies and then the curriculum stuff: the kids usually get a lanyard, a CD of the music, a toy animal, etc.  Not everyone ends up paying, though, it's what our church states the registration fee on the form, but people just don't do it.  

 

All our people are volunteers except our CE director who is a staff position.  Our church secretary volunteers too, but I think it's during her normal work hours, so I guess you could say she is getting paid.  I have volunteered for the last 6 or 7 years, but then sometimes they hold it when I already have plans to be out of town, so I can't do it.  I used to make my kids come.  Neither of my children are Christian.  One refuses to come now, and the other one is old enough to help, and she wanted to do that this year, but we were gone.

To volunteer, you do have to take a class called "Safeguarding Our Children" and pretty much be involved in the church somehow, generally as a member or a child of a member.  I don't think we have non-church members volunteer unless they are part of our Children's Center school, at which point they've already had extensive background checks.

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#27 of 27 Old 07-17-2013, 04:02 PM
 
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I would expect VBS to ge heavily Christian themed as its based on the bible, right? I dont understand why yoh would want to bring your children there if you didnt believe in the bible's teachings. I dont understand people replying they got upset when VBS was too much Christianity? Huh? Im a Christian, an dthere is no way I would enroll my kids in an Athiest camp,as those arent beliefs for our family, no matter how cheap it ws or how many neighbors were attending. And if I did send them, I definitely wouldnt complain when my child came home and told me there was no such thing as God, and that Jesus was just a man, and nothing more.

i think you would be better iff looking for a camp run by a UU church or just a regular parks and rec camp. Those are usually cheaper and lots of fun!

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