Feldman’s vacation Bible school wasn’t located on church grounds. Along with five other Prince William churches, All Saints’ holds week-long sessions of vacation Bible school in the suburban back yards of parishioners and on their porches and driveways.
Last month, Feldman was the leader of a cadre of volunteers who visit dozens of homes, bringing supplies with this year’s theme — “Facing Fear! Trusting God!” — to assembled children throughout the county.
“God is all over this,” Feldman said as she pulled up to a townhouse where a dozen children, all wearing blue Bible school shirts, were singing under the direction of three church staff members.
“Change my heart, oh God, I want to see your glory . . . change my heart, oh God,” the children sang in the carport of a suburban rambler.
In the past, when children went to vacation Bible school, they spent a week on church grounds, singing songs, coloring Bible characters in workbooks, memorizing scripture, enjoying punch and cookies while learning biblical lessons.
For decades, vacation Bible schools have been a rite of passage for children in many households, which counted on the programs to provide religious instruction to their children and occupy them for a short time during the summer.
Making a change
But five years ago, the leaders at All Saints’ decided to change the congregation’s vacation Bible school.
Members of the mostly white congregation noticed that attendance at its traditional programs was dwindling. They also noticed their the vacation Bible school did not reflect the cultural diversity of the community, which had become more and more African American and Hispanic. All Saints’ formed a partnership with another church, and together they took their lessons and activities to the suburban cul-de-sacs. They called the new program “Community VBS.”
We “wanted to break down all kinds of walls . . . whatever keeps people from Him,” Feldman said. “In going out into the community, we had the opportunity to reach people of different backgrounds who had never stepped inside a church. People from not just racial backgrounds, but from all backgrounds as well. That is what Community VBS is all about: No walls between God and his people.”
Now the program has expanded to include a half-dozen churches in Prince William County, including a predominantly African American church. Feldman said the program has not only increased attendance at vacation Bible school but has also helped enlarge the churches’ congregations.