At the Immanuel Lutheran Church vacation Bible school in Crystal Lake, about 300 kindergarten through sixth-graders spent the past week listening to Bible stories, playing games and taking part in theater activities.
This year’s theme was “Kingdom Rock: Where kids stand strong for God.” About 115 volunteers led activities for the youngsters in rooms that had decorations such as coats of arms and knights in armor. There was a crown room, and a kitchen similar to what would have been set up in medieval times.
For parents who send their children to weeklong vacation Bible schools, the organized summer activities provide a way for their children to learn about God and have fun, while also providing affordable child care.
During one activity at Immanuel Lutheran, kids walked blindfolded carrying a pool noodle with the task of using it to knock a large marshmallow off a bucket. As they walked, their team members shouted instructions to guide them toward the marshmallow.
During one 25-minute rotation, volunteer Tim Schutt talked about having the children balance a small plastic falcon on their fingers and nose, to symbolize the need for balance in life.
“God helps us ...” Schutt said to kids in the gym.
“Stand strong!” the youngsters shouted back.
Amy Shulfer of Woodstock brought two of her children, Aiden, 7, and Kiersten, 5, to Immanuel Lutheran’s VBS for the second consecutive year.
“They totally loved it,” Shulfer said. “They had such a good time. This year they begged me to come back. Their friends all go here. It’s so exciting. ... It’s organized really well, it feels really safe, and they learn a lot.”
Shulfer, who carried her 6-month-old daughter Jocelyn when she picked up Aiden and Kiersten, said one reason she sent her two older kids to VBS was the inexpensive child care. Last year Shulfer worked, and she was able to take advantage of the extended care. Now she’s a stay-at-home mom.
Kiersten loves the music and comes home talking about God, Shulfer said.
Aiden said he likes to sing songs and do dance moves with the songs.
“It was so awesome they could come here and still do things,” Shulfer said. “This year, it’s nice for them to be able to do something cheap, out of the house, so I don’t have to entertain them constantly.”
Geoff Thiesse of Algonquin sent his two sons, Lucas, 7, and Ryan 6, to the Immanuel Lutheran vacation Bible school.
“It’s a great way to get them rooted in a base knowledge of their faith, and at the same time, a great way to connect with kids their age,” Thiesse said.
At Trinity Lutheran Church in Huntley, the vacation Bible school was from June 10 to June 14. Participants had a worship time, sang songs and learned about people in the Bible, said Joe Janda, the lay minister at the church.
The vacation Bible school – this year’s had a theme of “We’re going to Athens” – also had craft activities and a chance for children to play games.
During this year’s program, Trinity Lutheran planned to have the fifth- and sixth-graders help collect food for the Grafton Township Food Pantry, as the church tries to incorporate a community service project for the older participants.
Janda noted the school attracts children from other churches, as they rotate from one VBS to another.
“We definitely know we have people who are members of other churches,” Janda said.
Rose Schutt is the director of children and student ministry at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Crystal Lake.
“I think you can see the growth in students from day one to day five,” she said.
The VBS is just one of the weeklong camps the church holds during the summer. There also is a sports camp, an art camp, a cooking camp and a science and nature camp, Schutt said.
“It’s a safe environment, where they’re getting the love and attention we can give them,” Schutt said.