Thinking Out Loud

December 4, 2012

Concordia Decides Enough is Enough with VBS Entertainment

Concordia VBS

VBS (Vacation Bible School) is a major industry. Let me be clear, VBS is big business. In North America, nearly two dozen publishers compete — in every sense of the word — for your church’s summer Christian Education dollars to be spent on their program. Each year the programs get more and more elaborate and involve an increasing number of ancillary products which help vindicate what each publisher spends on marketing.

And according to one publisher, each year it gets, from a Biblical viewpoint, more and more silly. Concordia Publishing has decided to swim against the current. Good for them.

On another blog that I write, I deal with issues confronting the world of Christian publishing in general and Christian bookstores in particular. Sometimes I link to articles at a Strang Publishing website called Christian Retailing, but usually I don’t need to because bookstore owners and managers already have that information covered and are regular readers there.

So normally, I wouldn’t reblog anything from Christian Retailing there, let alone here, but this is something every Kid Min director, every Children’s pastor, every Christian Education department head needs to be aware of. As always, reading at source is encouraged, click here.

Concordia Takes Stand Against VBS Entertainment Machine

Concordia Publishing House is calling on Vacation Bible School (VBS) publishers to make the gospel—not entertainment—central to their VBS programs.

“Our stand is against Vacation Bible School programs that confuse children with images and characters that are unrealistic and too similar to cartoons on TV and in the movies—where is the Christian focus?” said Emily Barlean, senior public relations specialist.

Acknowledging that VBS themes may use cartoonish figures or themes to “hook” children and get them interested in participating in a church VBS program, a company statement observed that “the steady transformation of VBS programs into full-on entertainment machines has created a rather distressing situation.

“Instead of being used to share the Word of the Lord, VBS is being used to babysit and cure boredom—and many children are leaving VBS more confused than ever as to who and what is real and who and what are just characters and stories.”

Laying the blame at the feet of publishers, parents and churches alike, Concordia, publisher for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), has spent three years refocusing its VBS brand and creating programming that remains faithful to the gospel message and the Scriptures as a whole. The publisher calls this renewed focus “VBS with Purpose.”

“After many years of trying to mold our VBS programs after what was considered fun and popular, we decided that we’d had enough,” said Pam Nummela, Concordia’s VBS editor, who is also a director of Christian education and a 30-year veteran leader of VBS programs.

Concordia’s VBS curricula will be changing significantly as a result. Stores and churches will see the publisher’s VBS programs will no longer be set in locations that cannot be found in the Bible, stories will no longer feature characters outside of the Bible, all artwork will be realistic, and “wise-cracking animals” will not be the spokesmen for Concordia VBS themes.

“Kids love all kinds of art, but that does not mean all art is best for presenting Bible stories,” said Gail Pawlitz, a childhood education expert. “During the early childhood years when children sort out for themselves what is real from what is not real, realistic images for Bible stories trump others because they communicate the idea that if ‘it looks real, it is real.’ “

…[T]o learn more about Concordia’s 2013 program, click Tell It on the Mountain.


  1. A hearty amen to a return to sanity by Concordia. Not only has VBS become a competative source of unpaid free babysitting for the summer, but the emphasis has been entertainment rather than gospel truth. The hard fact is that non-christian families are just not staying in the church once the cotton candy and rock climbing is over. That being said, this is a whopper of a “sacred cow” so there will be quite a defensive response should many other companies take this stand.

    Comment by Cynthia Clarke — December 4, 2012 @ 7:42 am

  2. Entertainment, not truth, seems to dominate a lot about American Christianity, for adults too, not just for kids.

    Comment by J. Randall Stewart — December 5, 2012 @ 9:11 am

  3. Oh, could you link me to your blog about Christian publishing.

    Comment by J. Randall Stewart — December 5, 2012 @ 9:12 am

  4. […] was Paul Wilkinson, on his blog (a good one, by the way, to which I’m subscribed), who informed the sale of VBS materials is […]

    Pingback by a very bieber vbs | aliens and strangers — December 6, 2012 @ 9:45 am

    • Readers:
      I know most of you ignore these pingbacks and trackbacks, but take some time to read this one.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — December 6, 2012 @ 6:14 pm

  5. I haven’t been active in children’s ministry for 3 years now, but in the 7 years prior to that, we were disgusted with the range of VBS materials. (we called ours Holiday Clubs)
    One English program even said we should never talk about sin to a child, and the closest most came to the Gospel was an appeal to “make Jesus your Friend”.
    Our Holiday Clubs included an enormous amount of fun, but the purpose and the main content was presenting the Gospel and our goal was to see children come to know Christ as Saviour and to follow Him as Lord.
    I’ve never heard of VBS programs from Concordia here, but I hope they fill a need for sound Bible teaching in future programs.

    Comment by meetingintheclouds — December 7, 2012 @ 4:16 am

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