Summer Schools & Camps Guide
VBS redesigned to meet
the needs of families
Our Lady of Grace Church in Castro Valley has adapted its Vacation Bible School to meet the changing needs of families.
While there is the traditional 9 a.m. to noon program five days a week for one week in the summer, the parish has added a second session to meet the needs of families who can't fit that schedule into their own.
They meet four evenings a week, for two hours a session, ending early enough to get the little ones to bed. "We try to make it not too late for families," said Robyn Lang, director of religious education at Our Lady of Grace.
Oh, yes. There's another wrinkle: Parents attend with their children. "We get a lot of grandparents," said Lang. The ages are more relaxed, with younger children participating. Lang's granddaughter made her Vacation Bible School debut at 2, she said.
This summer's theme will be "Hero Headquarters." "It's all about how we are all heroes," said Lang. Four years ago, the Vacation Bible School presented this theme. The counselors-in-training and counselors were enthusiastic about presenting it for their younger friends.
In the traditional morning session, the campers range from kindergartners to fifth-graders. Students in sixth grade and older are counselors-in-training and counselors. Many are experienced with Vacation Bible School.
"On Friday night, everybody comes together," Lang said. In past years, Vacation Bible School sold tickets for a Friday night dinner and presentation, but Lang noticed attendance dropping off.
She noticed particularly that the counselors were dropped off by their families, who did not attend the dinners.
"They worked so hard all week long," she said. She would like for their families to see the results of that hard work.
So she changed the plan.
Now the Friday evening event brings campers, counselors and families together in the main hall, with the singing and dancing presentations. Then the potluck dinner is served. They say grace, everyone sits down with a plate, and a slide show begins, giving campers and their families a look back at their busy week.
Lang said she expects to see about 50 children — there have been as many as 80 to 100 in some years. Sometimes the counselor to camper ratio reaches one-to-one.
Fees to attend Vacation Bible School haven't changed in years: for the morning program, the fee is $50 per child, with no one turned away for lack of funds. The evening program fee is $40 per student, because one less camp session is included.
"The parish has always been very supportive," Lang said. "People are generous."
Lang started at the parish in 2005; the Vacation Bible School was already in existence.
The Vacation Bible School is open to everyone, Lang said. "There are lots of kids from the neighborhood," she said. "We only see them in the summer."
What attracts families to Vacation Bible School? "It's a fun place to come," Lang said. "Parents hopefully see it as a safe place to have a good time."
And it gives the parish the opportunity to "show God's love in welcoming" the children, she said.
Before the campers arrive, Lang said, there's a full week of set-up to transform the hall in Stack Center, as well as two classrooms. The young counselors provide much of the labor as well as the imagination. "We use their ideas and elbow grease," Lang said.
Vacation Bible School will run July 28 through Aug. 1 at Our Lady of Grace.
There's a tendency among the enthusiastic counselors that if they put this much work into setting the theme — "Treasure Cove" was another popular one — why just have one week of Vacation Bible School?
"By the time Friday rolls around, they know why," Lang said.
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