NASHVILLE (BP) — The coronavirus pandemic has forced events to cancel, education to be modified and businesses to temporarily close or adjust operations.

But for LifeWay and the kids ministries it serves, Vacation Bible School (VBS) is still on.

“VBS is the highlight of the summer for most churches and the highlight of the year for most kids ministries,” said Chuck Peters, director of operations for LifeWay Kids. “And it is the most evangelistic outreach that most churches do all year. It’s centered on Jesus and the message of salvation. That message must be heard and must not be deterred or deferred. There is urgency around the Gospel. That urgency is only amplified during a time of crisis.”

To effectively — and safely — utilize this important strategy to reach communities this year, LifeWay is rolling out four VBS options for churches. Church leaders can choose the format that works best for their context and that meets guidelines set by local health authorities.

In keeping with the planned “Concrete & Cranes” theme, the four options are:

1. Traditional VBS — This is the “VBS as usual” approach. For some contexts, if it’s safe to meet as usual, VBS can go on as it always has. Churches may have to change the dates, but VBS can still happen as planned.

1. Neighborhood VBS — Churches can deploy volunteers to conduct socially-distanced VBS programs in driveways, on front porches, in backyards or in cul-de-sacs. This approach uses church-member “hosts” in multiple neighborhoods throughout your community to conduct a small-scale VBS at their homes. This could be a great solution for groups that are able to meet in smaller numbers.

2. Alternate VBS — Churches can use alternative timetables such as conducting VBS over several consecutive weeks (e.g. Wednesday nights, Sunday nights, Saturdays), as a back-to-school kick-off, or over Labor Day weekend or fall break. This approach allows churches to still do a delayed VBS in a low-maintenance, low-prep manner.

3. VBS at Home — VBS materials can be directly delivered to homes. Churches can post or livestream media-driven worship rallies to engage kids as viewers and use delivery methods to equip parents to facilitate Bible study, recreation and crafts at home.

“We need to think of VBS as a content-based experience, not necessarily as a gathering. It’s fundamentally about connecting kids to the Gospel through music, Bible teaching and activities,” Peters said.

“Ultimately, those things do not require a large gathering. Once we realize that VBS might look different than we are accustomed to, we can come up with all sorts of creative ways to accomplish the heart of its ministry like we have never done before.”

As a part of launching the four options, LifeWay Kids also developed a new free e-book, “4 Ways to Do VBS This Summer.”┬áThis resource is intended to help church leaders, volunteers and parents understand their options, instruct them in how to approach new strategies and inspire them to leverage VBS in new ways.

“The response to these options has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Peters. “It is possible that what might at first seem like an obstacle could turn into an unprecedented opportunity for the ministry of VBS to reach farther than ever before.”

Jonathan Howe, vice president for communications at the SBC Executive Committee, interviewed Melita Thomas, VBS and kids ministry specialist at LifeWay, April 22. Watch the interview here.