The numbers didn’t look quite right. Cool Springs Baptist Church in Enterprise, with a membership of 125 and an average of 20–25 in weekly attendance, had a Vacation Bible School enrollment of 5,363 in 2021. They offered VBS online.
Yes, 5,363 is correct.
Patty Burns, VBS strategist for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, said, “I recently had the privilege to talk with Nancy Jankoski from Cool Springs Baptist. When I heard that through her efforts more than 5,000 boys, girls, teens and adults were enrolled in VBS 2021, I knew I had to meet her.
“What an inspiring and encouraging story this is,” Burns said. “Through in-person Vacation Bible School events at this small church, plus virtual VBS lessons posted on social media pages, the love of Jesus and the gospel story were shared, not just in Coffee County but around the world. Nancy used her talents, joined them with the talents of others and created a VBS event that impacted more lives than she probably ever imagined.
“I pray that other churches and VBS leaders will be inspired to think big, to reach far and to remember that with God all things are possible.”
Cool Springs’ VBS numbers also caught the attention of Lifeway Christian Resources representatives, and they called Sandy Harmann at the State Board of Missions to double-check.
“He said, ‘I know this is wrong, so if you don’t hear an answer back, I’ll change it,’” said Harmann, an SBOM ministry assistant who regularly inputs figures from Annual Church Profile reports from local congregations. “So I called Nancy, and she said, ‘No, I know it seems like a lot, but that is correct.’”
In the world of Nancy Jankoski, VBS director at Cool Springs, the numbers made perfect sense. They were something for which God had paved the way — starting with her job.
“Up until 2020 I was working as a director of religious education for Fort Rucker near our church,” she said. “When the funding for that job got cut, I switched to another job on post, and that freed me up to do more work at the church where my husband was serving as a part-time pastor.”
It also gave her the opportunity to contact all the people she had known at Fort Rucker in the past. She let them know her department was being cut, but they could receive a personal newsletter she would send out regularly with Bible study resources.
The list grew and grew.
“Rucker is the kind of base where people may be there a few weeks or up to a year and a half and then they move on,” Jankoski said. “Many go to areas that are very remote, or they may be out in the Pacific Northwest where it’s difficult to find evangelical churches of any kind.”
Continuing a Web presence for them through Cool Springs was easy. John Boss — the pastor at the church before Jankoski’s husband, Mark, who died in August 2021 — had set the church up with podcasting equipment before the COVID-19 pandemic ever hit.
Then when it did, it encouraged her to try another new thing — doing VBS online. It met a bigger need than that of her immediate congregation — it gave her the opportunity to provide VBS for all the Fort Rucker families who got her newsletter.
That’s how they ended up with an enrollment of 5,363 in 2021.
“We have a couple of people in the Middle East and other remote parts of the world. They’re still participating by logging in to our Bible study sites or YouTube channel,” Jankoski said.
She noted that while she had the benefit of being so close to a military post, every church has a mission field in its backyard.
“Whether a church is located near a military post or not, they can look for the missions, soup kitchens, women’s shelters, all kinds of places that might be the hands and feet of Jesus carrying the gospel to folks, and then work alongside them to be out in the world,” Jankoski said.