Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Vacation Bible School, past & present August 11, 2017

Maker Fun Factory: “Created by God, Built for a Purpose” was the theme of this week’s Vacation Bible School at Trinity Lutheran Church in Faribault.


MY, HOW VACATION Bible School has changed.


Volunteers, led by my friend Steve, created this amazing factory-themed set for VBS.


Back in the day, I joined other children in a one-room school singing familiar hymns to the accompaniment of a foot-pumped organ.

Today’s kids gather in an expansive sanctuary, belting out catchy tunes written specifically for VBS. They mimic the hand, arm and other motions in a video airing on multiple screens.


Volunteers created several robots for the set.


Back in the day, I sat on the steep steps of a Lutheran church devouring my peanut butter and jelly sandwich wrapped in waxed paper.

Today’s kids delight in heart-shaped Jello served with fruit and whipped cream in individual servings delivered by volunteers in an air conditioned fellowship hall.


Who knew painted cardboard boxes could be so much fun? Kids stacked and restacked these boxes, following the theme of “built for a purpose.”


Back in the day I laid and glued toothpicks side by side on a cardboard cross cut-out.

Today’s kids adhere self-adhesive foam stickers to foam crosses.


Steve crafted this musical instrument from PVC pipes with paper covered fly swatters used to hit the tops of the pipes, thus creating sound. Numerous interactive “toys” lined a hallway.


Back in the day I dreaded the call of “Red Rover, Red Rover, please send Audrey right over!” as I ran and tried to bust through the brawny arms of strong farm boys, failing every time.

Today’s kids stand in a line passing a ball backward into paper cups in a game of teamwork.



Back in the day I listened as the pastor read a bible story.

Today’s kids listen to a retired Christian day school educator share a bible story in an interactive and memorable way.



Back in the day, I learned that Jesus loves me, that he is always with me.

Today’s kids learn that Jesus loves them, that he is always with them.

While times change, certain truths remain. Unchanged.


TELL ME: If you have stories about Vacation Bible School, past or present, I’d like to hear.


FYI: I volunteered this week as a crew leader at my church’s VBS. In past years, I’ve done the photography. But because of my shoulder injury, I didn’t have the stamina yet to shoot photos for two hours. And that’s OK. I loved working directly with the kids. Sometimes change is good.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


22 Responses to “Vacation Bible School, past & present”

  1. Go Grandma Says:

    Yes – my mom sent me to VBS every summer to a church we didn’t even belong to. It was in the dark cold basement because there was no AC back in the day. We colored pictures and drank warm juice. I don’t recall not liking it – except I didn’t know anyone. I think it was my moms way of getting sone peace and quiet for a few summer hours … that concept hasn’t changed I’m certain.

    • I laughed at your final sentence because I do think some parents send their kids for that reason of a few hours of peace and quiet. Send the kids. We’ll take them for a few hours. I had so much fun with my crew of four children this week. They were sweet, attentive, good listeners, happy, etc.

  2. 5kittenz2 Says:

    At VBS 60+ years ago, I learned the song “Jesus loves me this I know.” I sang it to my children and now I get to sing it to my grandchildren. It’s a universal truth which still brings joy to my heart in spite of circumstances.

  3. Beth Ann Says:

    My mom still has a trivet I made in Bible School as well as a couple of other things. The crafts were my favorite part. Looks like your VBS was a huge success this year.

  4. Almost Iowa Says:

    “Red Rover, Red Rover, please send Greg right over!”

    “Uh…..let’s amend that. Send Audrey over instead, Greg bites.”

  5. Jean Fisher Says:

    I went to bible school at a little Lutheran Church in Wanda, MN. What I remember most is the crafts and getting to take my lunch in a paper bag, which consisted of a sandwich, banana and a candy bar. The highlight being the candy bar of course.
    Then when my kids were old enough to go I always helped and still enjoyed the crafts.
    When my second son was about 5, he and another little boy were at a table with one on each side of the young teacher with long hair. They were cutting with scissors and one of the boys reached over and cut her hair. She would never tell which one did it and to this day I don’t know. I’m sure it must have been the other little angel though, right?

    • Oh, Jean, this is the best VBS story. You made me laugh out loud.

      Our VBS experiences sound similar. But then why wouldn’t they be given the short distance between Wanda and my hometown of Vesta? Good to hear from another Redwood County native. 🙂

  6. Littlesundog Says:

    I am very sure my mother sent us kids to VBS to have a break – some peace and quiet for a few hours! Our classes were in the morning and let out just before lunch. Doing crafts was my favorite part. From year to year we had the same teacher and she was a real “rules” person. I remember the boys playing pranks all of the time, and it sure got her dander up, which of course made us all laugh! But one year our regular teacher had surgery so a student from the nearby Lutheran teacher’s college came to help out. That was the best year ever! We went through bible stories and after each one she asked us all sorts of questions that really made us think about Jesus in a more modern way. It was a lot about understanding how our world had changed, yet how the messages of the Bible still applied. It was my first realization that the Bible wasn’t just a book of old stories, but a book of stories that could help me no matter how old I was.

    • Your story sounds semi familiar.

      You will be happy to hear that today’s VBS is every bit like that of the year the student taught your VBS. Throughout Bible School this week, we crew leaders talked with our students about the biblical topics just covered. How could we be kinder, help someone, feel God’s presence, etc.? Everything could be related to the students’ lives, on a level they could understand. I think I learned just as much as the kids. You are right: The Bible can help us no matter our age.

  7. Don Says:

    Red Rover, Simon Says, Musical Chairs etc. do kids still play this? I sure remember those games while attending VBS. I also recall VBS starting in early June but I see yours is just ending now. Summers go by way too fast, crumm school starts next week here and it’s still summer! Back in the 1900’s school always started after Labor Day and usually after the fall harvest was well underway and yet many kids were absent those first days of school as they were needed to work the harvest back on the farm! How things change.

    • Good question: Do kids still play those games? I don’t know. We also played Pump Pump Pull-Away, running across the gravel street.

      School starts next week? Ah…summer is NOT over yet. More and more Minnesota schools are waiting now to start after Labor Day.

  8. Don Says:

    Good for the Minnesota schools starting later in the year. How can kids get into the school mindset when it is still so nice out not to mention teenagers still working……………..

  9. Jackie Says:

    Our church is doing the same VBS theme this year. I’m looking forward to helping in some capacity. It’s actually in the fall this year due to the fact that our Childrens minister just had a baby and she really wanted to head it up. Same program, just a different time. Do you have a big turn out of kids?

  10. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    It’s funny how things change and stay the same at the same time. What a great place for kids.

  11. Bryn Says:

    Back when my mother served as VBS director at our local church, VBS ran for two weeks. I remember lining up outside to march in, the pledges to the flags and Bible, the songs, contests between the various classes and all the ways we could earn points to further our team’s mascot moving around the racetrack posted on the big board up front, matchstick crosses, a rooster made from various seeds glued to a board, container for curlers made from the bottom of a bleach bottle, Dixie cups of Kool-Ade, the closing program. My, my, my….

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