Albert Lea churches partnering for vacation Bible school

Published 9:50 am Friday, July 14, 2023

Collaboration is important for any job, and that is especially true when something couldn’t be done individually. That’s why Ascension Lutheran, Grace Lutheran, Salem Lutheran, Trinity Lutheran and the Salvation Army are teaming up to run a vacation Bible school at Ascension Lutheran Church.

“They have a nice ring space that we can play outside, and there’s no steps in their church, too, so it’s welcoming to everyone who might want to come,” said Eileen Woyen, pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church.

The project started with an email back in January or February, with Christie Ness, a member of Grace Lutheran Church and Woyen’s friend, asking if Trinity Lutheran Church was planning anything.

Email newsletter signup

So after Woyen confirmed Trinity Lutheran was planning on something, Woyen suggested working together.

“It’s really just pulling together resources, cause we all have children,” Ness said. “But with busy lives with families it’s nice to just kind of pull together multiple churches to teach the kids all at once.”

Woyen noted the pandemic forced the churches to change their paradigms, as things that previously worked wouldn’t work today.

Working together also made the program stronger, she felt, noting not every church had the resources to do a vacation Bible school of this magnitude individually. And a collaboration allowed the churches to serve as an outlet for the community.

“There might be children in need of learning about Jesus or learning some of the Bible stories, or just having a safe place to come and hang out for the week,” Woyn said. “We want to be that place [and] providing adults to be a safe place to be a safe place also.”

Ness agreed, noting it was a matter of resources and finding volunteers.

“One church may be better at food, another church better at crafts, another running around with the kids,” Woyen said.

Combining VBS also allowed participating churches to connect with a larger range of children.

This will be the first time for a VBS collaboration since the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Woyen, prior to the pandemic Salem, Trinity and Ascension ran a joint camp, with Grace Lutheran Church participating once or twice.

This year’s theme is Operation Restoration.

“It’s talking about how as Christians we can restore our relationships with each other, with God and with the earth,” she said.

Ness agreed, noting a joint VBS brought an activity to the community instead of focusing on a specific group or congregation.

Following dinner at 5:30 p.m., there will be a large-group gathering with music and skits, before VBS will break into age groups for different activities, including crafts, music and outdoor playtime. Groups will then come together at the end of each day.

So far, the only surprise in organizing the effort  was how easy the program was coming together.

Besides the children, the camp will allow learning opportunities for parents while children are at their VBS sessions. Any adults are welcomed to participate in the forums.

The camp, open to children entering first through sixth grades, runs from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 7-10.

“We’re doing it in the evening as opposed to in the daytime to get families [where] both parents work so they don’t have to mess with their child care,” Woyen said.

Ness said there’s excitement for VBS, and people have also inquired about the adult programming.

Registration forms are available at each participating church, or by calling 507-373-2466. People can also message any of the churches participating through Facebook.

She encouraged parents/guardians to register children beforehand. July 28 is the registration deadline, but they’re also flexible. Cost is free.

Prior to the pandemic, joint VBS programs were in partnership with Ingham Okoboji Bible Camp in Milford.

“They would do the programming for … anybody who just completed first grade through about fifth grade,” Ness said, adding that she helped with preschool programming.

“We’re just hoping people will come and join us for the fun,” Ness said.

In the meantime, Woyen is looking for volunteers. Anyone interested should call 507-377-2466.