School will be out in a few weeks, and kids will soon have too much time on their hands.

For parents, it can be difficult keeping children entertained and stimulated for all hours of the day.

Luckily, there many vacation Bible schools available in the area that combine fun, adventure, camaraderie and sound biblical foundations with a history that dates back more than 100 years.

It’s also a great tradition that is offered by numerous local churches.

Most vacation Bible school programs are run for free or at a very low cost to the parents, and most make accommodations for families that struggle financially.

Intermingled with arts, crafts, music, games and snacks are spiritual lessons that are made to be fun so children forget they’re learning.

Combining forces

This year, RiverRidge Church in Wilmot and Westosha Lakes Church in Paddock Lake are combining resources to help defray the costs of supplies for both churches but will hold two separate VBS programs in hopes of reaching a greater number of children.

According to Lisa Ring, director of RiverRidge Kids, this summers VBS is titled “Roar: Life is Wild-God is Good.” It is an African adventure for kids to explore God’s goodness and power through this wild life. It will be June 24-28 at Trevor-Wilmot Grade School and is open to children from grades K-5. A preschool program for ages 3-5 is also available.

“This is only the second year our church has been in existence. Last year we held our VBS in four homes over two weeks and over 100 kids attended. This year we are hoping to have 200,” said Ring.

“I believe the parents like the fact that their children are in a fun, but safe learning environment. All our leaders over the age of 18 will have had background checks done.

“It also gives the parents a few hours in the morning to themselves while their children are having a blast at a very low cost.”

Westosha Lakes children’s ministry director Heather Nelson met Ring through a mutual friend. They connected after RiverRidge’s VBS program concluded last year.

“She graciously gifted all the decorations and miscellaneous supplies left over from her VBS to ours at Westosha Lakes for our August ‘Shipwrecked’ 2018 VBS program. In total, Lisa’s gift saved us hundreds of dollars,” she said.

“This year, we decided to collaborate earlier in the VBS planning season. Our plan is to share supplies, support, strength and ideas for our program.”

The Westosha VBS program runs Aug. 5-9 and features the same theme and program, but at different locations.

“I am most looking forward to the trial-and-error stories. Every VBS has them. No matter how many hours you pour into them, something always goes off the beaten path,” she said.

“We anticipate as well as we can, for our groups and volunteers, but I am especially thankful that Lisa and RiverRidge will be holding their VBS first, so she can share her stories of successes and those not-so polished.

“I am looking forward to Day 3 of VBS the most. On that day, kids of all ages will hear the story of Jesus. No matter what denomination, it’s clear, and so powerful. It’s the Gospel, the reason we pour our hearts into VBS.”

Going green

Last summer, St. Mary Lutheran Church offered a “Christmas in July” theme for its annual VBS. This year, the church will be seeing lots of green with “ReNew: The Green VBS.”

“We’re doing a whole churchwide green initiative and converting our unused playground into a church garden. It’s so fun,” said Beth Kerscher, director of children’s ministry. “Last year we decided to try our new themes, as it appeared many Kenosha Christian churches use the same annual VBS kit, so we want to offer something different.”

Held July 28-31, the St. Mary Lutheran program, for grades preK-5, offers an evening program aimed at making it more available to working families, Kerscher said.

“The working parents for years missed out on participating with their kids ... because so many VBSs were during the day. The ratio of stay-at-home parents in our congregation is super low ... so we are very non-traditional,” she said.

“The few families that cannot do evenings have other options in the area, but also the evenings are hard for them because they do work full time and the children are already at a camp from dawn till dusk, so adding four more hours is ruthless. But we find more and more of our families excited about evenings. And, it’s cooler.”

Emphasis on clean water

St. Anne Catholic Church in Pleasant Prairie will also be offering the “Roar! Life is Wild, God is Good” VBS program from July 22-26. It is open to all children from preschool through fifth grade.

According to Mary Mowry, director of religious education at St. Anne, participants will enter a safari-type atmosphere and explore all the astounding ways God is good even when life becomes difficult.

“Kids love learning about children from around the world who share their concerns, joys and interests; they like seeing how these children experience the love of God in their lives. This primes them to also learn about the lives of five different saints during the week,” she said.

“The kids also learn about the wonders of God’s creation. They come to understand their responsibility to take care of God’s people and creation by participating in a fundraising opportunity.

“This year, we will be raising funds to ensure different communities throughout the world have access to clean water.

“Finally, the kids are energized by learning new praise and worship songs. Parents love that their kids continue singing these songs at home long after VBS is over.”

A musical VBS

First United Methodist Church is offering “MAD Camp” in lieu of traditional VBS Aug. 19-23, with a performance for parents, grandparents and friends on the weekend.

According to Kris Brown, children’s ministry director, the camp focuses on music and drama.

“Instead of a traditional VBS format, we learn and then present a musical. We are open to anyone age 5-18, even children who don’t identify with a faith community,” she said.

“Our theme this year is ‘Jailhouse Rock,’ an upbeat musical from Celeste Clydesdale, which teaches children about our freedom in Christ as believers.

“The musical opens as the children embark on a fun week of hiking and swimming at Camp Koinonia. But much to their disappointment, when they arrive, a torrential downpour leaves them ‘jailed up’ in the mess hall. While the children are inside, the camp director and the junior counselors teach them about Paul, Silas and Peter’s experiences being ‘locked up’ and how prayer and praise makes a difference.”

This is Brown’s 20th year, directing a “MAD Camp,” and she has learned the Bible stories in greater depth alongside the children through acting and music.

“Acting out the stories, singing the songs and sharing how the lessons can be applied to life today helps to deepen our faith,” she said. “Many people in the church-led programs liked this when I was young, so I wanted to pass it on.”

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