Vacation Bible School, jointly sponsored by Fort Calhoun Presbyterian Church and St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, will look a bit different this year as safety precautions have taken place due to COVID-19.
But as the June 22 to 26 event transitions from group activities at the churches to videos and family activities at home, Cheryl Miller, director of children's ministry with Fort Calhoun Presbyterian Church, said VBS looks to provide a message of fellowship for children as it has for decades.
"We have been doing this program together for almost 50 years and would hate to miss the opportunity to share God's love with the kids our our community this year," Miller said. "For some kids, this is the only time they hear the message of Jesus' redeeming love. We may not be able to share that message in person but are excited to share it in a new way that everyone in the family can experience."
Families that signed up VBS by Friday are ensured to receive packets, which the churches order, including all supplies needed for at home activities. Miller said registration will remain open, but families that sign up now will not be guaranteed all of the needed supplies.
"We will order some extras, but when they are gone that is all we have," she said. "They will still get access to all of the video content and instructions."
The theme of VBS this year is "Rocky Railway," a curriculum put out by Group Publishing. Each day, families will watch short videos, which include messages about Jesus helping with tough times, KidVid videos of kids reinforcing the message of the day and music.
"For example, Tuesday they will learn that Jesus' power gives us hope," Miller said. "What a great message for the circumstances we are currently in."
The videos are designed to be short, so kids can get to their activities.
"Vacation Bible School is traditionally an active week of Christian fellowship for the kids," Miller said. "The struggle with providing an at home VBS is that we are missing the fellowship part, and we want kids to learn in an active way … The nice thing is that they can do these anytime during the day or week instead of only 9 to 12, Monday through Friday."
While many crafts and activities will be done at home, some community-based activities include a wooden train near Sievers-Sprick Funeral Home and "Rocky Railway BINGO" through the churches' Facebook pages.
"There will be a display put up that will include a large wooden train and a ticket booth," Miller said. "Families can take their pictures looking through the train windows and are encouraged to add a 'ticket' to the outside of the ticket booth daily that they will write their 'God Sightings' on."
Miller said there are no set times for families to visit the display, so they encourage following appropriate social distancing guidelines. She also said the train will be sanitized daily.
Though traditionally the age range of VBS is preschool through fifth grade, this year kids of all ages are encouraged to participate in activities.
"The older kids usually help at VBS but since they can't this year they can participate with their families," Miller said. "Our hope is that they may even lead some of the activities for younger siblings if they have them."
Miller said VBS had 105 kids signed up in 51 families by Saturday afternoon.
"We are excited to provide an opportunity for families to experience VBS together, and the response has been great," she said.