Triad Baptist takes VBS home this summer
Josh Denhart and Tim Gerber didn’t know each other before COVID-19 hit the U.S. and cast doubt on the summer tradition of Vacation Bible School for many churches and communities.
Denhart lives in West Des Moines, Iowa, and leads KidMin Science — a ministry that stages science shows, creates bible schools, and helps churches train volunteers. Gerber lives in Kernersville, North Carolina where he’s executive pastor for children and ministries at Triad Baptist Church.
Enter a global pandemic that required Dehart to create a new science bible school curriculum and for Gerber to find a home-based program to continue Triad’s 26-year-long VBS legacy and protect children, families and volunteers from COVID-19.
It was a perfect match. From July 12-Aug. 9, Triad will join a record number of churches globally offering Denhart’s new Faith Lab @ Home program this summer. Register now through July 11 on Triad’s Faith Lab @ Home page.
KidMin Science founder Denhart said Faith Lab @ Home is the ministry’s fourth VBS and first designed for home use.
“This is going to be the strongest year we’ve ever had for our science bible school offerings with 95 percent using the at-home version,” said Denhart — a former Iowa high school chemistry teacher and children’s pastor whose ministry grew out of a traveling science show developed for his school district.
Denhart produced Faith Lab @ Home in just six days after the COVID-19 pandemic canceled every performance scheduled for KidMin Science’s largest outreach — “The Amazing Chemistry Show” — which uses science to illustrate God’s rescue plan of salvation. (Triad hopes to offer several showings of the program on its campus later this summer provided it is safe to do so.)
“On March 11, our entire calendar of events fell apart,” said Denhart, a husband, father of four and science whiz with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry education from the University of Northern Iowa, a masters degree in effective instruction from Viterbo University, and national board certification for young adult and adolescent science.
“I sat still for three weeks and read the Bible’s Book of Ecclesiastes and listened to God,” he said. “I heard ‘Eat, drink, and tell yourself your labor is good.’ ‘Thank God for your daily bread’ for it and to ‘take every thought captive’ to Jesus Christ. I know this was going to be a time when I would be called upon to work very hard.
“I started developing Faith Lab @ Home on Thursday April 9, and launched the program six days later on Wednesday, April 15,” he added. “I wanted to create this family version because of God’s design from Deuteronomy 6 where parents are called to be a primary spiritual influence in their children’s lives.
“Whether a dad and a mom or a single parent, I didn’t want a ‘sit and get’ curriculum but a ‘play-and-pause’ curriculum that would be fun and highly engaging and doable.”
Each Faith Lab @ Home session follows a five-step process that families can complete at their own pace with music, video devotions, hands-on projects like building boats out of aluminum foil, towers out of marshmallows and pasta, bridges from straws and tapes, and science challenges like trying to find the right household materials to cushion an egg’s fall without breaking it.
“Anyone can do this,” Denhart said. “I wanted to create a slow-moving softball parents could hit for a homerun at home. I’m not seeking to use science to prove the existence of God; I’m seeking to use science to help me better tell the story of God.”
VBS becomes SBS
Gerber said Triad Baptist will cover the cost of every Faith Lab @ Home license issued to families who sign up.
Visit Triad’s Faith Lab @ Home page to register for the free program designed for families to enjoy each Sunday evening from July 12-Aug. 9. Those who sign up will get access to the Faith Lab @ Home portal and the videos, music, science projects, and other resources to complete all five sessions.
Although Faith Lab @ Home’s projects use household items most will already have at home, Triad will also provide supply kits as a courtesy to members and those who live locally.
Beginning July 11, those can be picked up for each of the five weeks from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturdays at the church, where Triad will operate an adventure ride following social-distancing and other public health guidelines and have a photo backdrop. (Members can also pick them up from 10 to 10:30 a.m. Sundays from July 12-Aug. 9 at the Activity Center.)
Families also have the option to buy Faith Lab @ Home T-shirts and CDs with the same songs available from the Faith Lab @ Home portal plus three additional songs. The T-shirts and CDs are $7 each.
Throughout the five weeks of Faith Lab @ Home, Triad will use its social media channels to engage with families participating in Faith Lab @ Home and to offer prizes.
‘Everything had to be rethought’
Gerber said Triad couldn’t offer its traditional VBS in 2020 with the changes brought by COVID-19.
“Everything had to be rethought this year, and because families still have spiritual needs, and need support now more than ever, we wanted to find a way to still offer a hands-on, engaging, spiritually sound and gospel-centered alternative,” Gerber said.
“We considered many options for our first Staycation Bible School, or SBS, and believe we found that with Faith Lab @ Home.”
Gerber said the program opens up new opportunities for Triad which launched its first VBS in 1994. Last year, the week-long ministry in July brought more than 700 children onto the church’s campus.
“We’ve always been limited by space and the number of volunteers to how many children we could accommodate but with the move to SBS this year and Faith Lab @ Home, space at church is no longer an issue,” he said. “We now have an open-ended opportunity to reach families anywhere.
“We’re excited about what God will do through this new family-led, church-supported approach as VBS becomes SBS, and encourage those who may not have a VBS option this summer or who think this would be a good addition to their summer schedules to consider joining us and registering.”
Triad’s Faith Lab @ Home SBS comes as many churches have scratched Vacation Bible Schools from their summer schedules because of COVID-19-related restrictions and concerns.
In a Ministry-to-Children.com survey, 40% of churches reported canceling their VBS programs this summer. Another 12% said they would offer them with modifications, 34% moved them online, and the rest rescheduled for fall.
“By spreading the program out over five weeks, we’re hoping that gives more flexibility and makes it easier for families to successfully participate and work it into their summer schedules,” Gerber said.
“I hope the result will be spiritual learning, family engagement, and excitement,” he said. “I’m excited about embarking on this journey with our own grandson (4 and a half), and think he will enjoy duplicating the experience with us even after his own family experience!”