Birmingham Association diversifies VBS training opportunities

Birmingham Association diversifies VBS training opportunities

By Grace Thornton

The Alabama Baptist

Audrey Krier said when it comes to Alabama Baptist churches and summer, one thing is universal — and it’s not the heat.

It’s that number of trained Vacation Bible School (VBS) workers is on the decline and has been for about a decade.

So last year Birmingham Baptist Association — where Krier serves as VBS director — formed a task force to figure out why the decline was happening and how to develop new strategies “for this valuable outreach,” she said.

A variety of reasons rose to the surface.

“Some of the largest churches have either opted for writing their own material for VBS or have gone to alternative summer activities,” she said. “Many small churches have aging congregations or lack resources to hold VBS.”

‘Training is critical’

Some churches were skipping training their workers because of lack of time or resources, Krier said. “And training is critical. Statistically, for every trained worker, there’s a profession of faith that happens in VBS.”

Daniel Edmonds, state missionary overseeing state VBS efforts, agreed that the more trained laborers there are the better the harvest.

“We are seeing better numbers when more people are trained,” he said.

When it came to figuring out how to address the decline in the Birmingham area, one question quickly emerged in the conversation, Krier said — why were they holding separate trainings in the same city to teach the same material every year?

A common goal

“In years past the association would hold training that would be attended by churches with Caucasian leaders serving predominately Caucasian congregations and the African-American churches would hold training for the African-American churches,” Krier said.

It hadn’t been done that way intentionally — it had just ended up that way, she said. And when they tried to figure out the reason, they quickly realized there was no reason.

So last year they decided to combine their efforts and partner together, Krier said.

“Last year because both teams already existed the teams became one with responsibilities being shared through team teaching,” she said. “This year there is one team made up of a diverse group of leaders.”

For the past four years training had been held at Eastside Baptist Church, Birmingham, in an attempt to serve the needs of all types of churches, Krier said.

“Eastside is located in a transitional community, which did move us closer to being able to appeal to a larger more diverse group,” she said of the church, where she also serves as children’s pastor. “This year Sixth Avenue Baptist Church has graciously agreed to host the Vacation Bible School clinic for BBA.”

Vernessa Barnes, minister of education for children and youth at Sixth Avenue Baptist, said it’s been a very helpful partnership.

“Particularly with the climate of things in the world, it’s always good to practice what we preach,” she said. “When we’re able to work together as the body of Christ, I think people truly see Christianity from a different light.”

And the more churches get involved from both communities, the better it will be, she said.

The Sixth Avenue clinic will be held April 29. A jump-start training will be held Feb. 23 at Raleigh Avenue Baptist Church, Birmingham.

‘Conscious effort’

Mike Johnson, pastor of Eastside Baptist, said it has been a “conscious effort” to build bridges and work together, and it’s paid off in a lot of understanding and headway being made for the gospel.

Adult VBS at his church has brought in people from both communities during the past few years and it’s brought a lot of great relationships, he said.

That momentum at Eastside has carried over into Krier’s effort to unite the two teams for the sake of sharing the gospel in Birmingham.

“It’s just been a wonderful marriage of the two teams such a mutually advantageous thing. Good things are happening. Barriers are being knocked down,” she said. “We just want to be an encouragement to others to do a similar partnership.”