Vacation Bible School in India
With about 30 percent of its population of more than 1 billion people under the age of 15, India’s children and youth provide ample opportunities to share the love of Christ. The future of the church in India rests in the hands of children, so WGM is committed to building this future with a strong foundation of love for God through Vacation Bible School programs.
South India Bible Institute (now South India Biblical Seminary) opened its doors on November 16, 1937, with the basic purpose of training Indian young people for Christian ministry. Almost 15 years later, seminary students saw the need to reach out to the younger generation of India and chose VBS as their method of evangelism.
In 1952, under the direction of WGM missionaries working at SIBS, the seminary students conducted their first summer VBS and outreach ministry. That first program was held in one language and served 75 children. Today, VBS materials are published in 13 languages and reach more than 1.5 million children and young people each year.
The program was originally located on the campus of SIBS but is now a separate department located in Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka.
“WGM was a catalyst that helped build recognition for the importance of reaching kids and young people with the gospel message,” explained Frank Dewey, current missionary to Ukraine and former missionary and field director for India. “VBS has contributed to the development of evangelism among children and youth in India. It has also helped develop an interest in missions, especially indigenous missions. Children need to learn to love Jesus and accept Him, but that’s not enough; they have to share that love.”
VBS curriculum in India is written for a 10-day program, but some churches double up and do two lessons per day for five days. Much like in the States, India’s program begins each day with a devotional based on the annual theme and then leaders use workbooks to teach specific Bible lessons.
In addition to preparing and translating materials, the VBS office in Bangalore is responsible for promoting the materials among local churches. The promotional highlight comes at the annual All-India VBS Leaders’ Workshop, which is held in January or February every year for delegates across the country.
The majority of Indian churches hold VBS between April and June, with April and May being the main months. However, a church in Mumbai hosts programs in October and November during the Festival of Lights while churches bordering China have VBS in January during the winter holiday.
Samuel: “I was born and brought up in a Hindu family. I have troubled the people who have preached Jesus to me, and I used to scold them and use bad words. There was a VBS center near my home, and I went there to point out their mistakes. During that time, I heard the story of the rich man and Lazarus. God spoke to me and touched me, and that evening I threw out all my idols and received Jesus as my Savior. I was baptized in 1984 and became a missionary in 1987.”
Shebha: “I learned to share and to love in VBS. The devotion stories really encouraged me spiritually, and the missionary stories motivated me to share the Word of God. I have decided to be honest and a good friend.”
Shalini: “I learned about good habits and practices, but above all I learned more about Jesus and His life. I learned new songs and Bible stories and decided to tell my friends about Jesus. I committed my life to Jesus during VBS. He has forgiven all my sins.”
Gayathri: “I come from a Hindu family and came to know Jesus only after attending VBS. I liked the songs and scriptures, and I have decided to be a child of Jesus.”
Asha: “I learned discipline and obedience, and I learned to respect and love my friends, parents, and elders. I have surrendered my life to Jesus, and I thank God for His love for me.”
PRAY: For the millions of children and youth attending VBS programs in India. Pray that they will hear the gospel message clearly, that they will be open to the influence of the Holy Spirit, and that they will make commitments to follow Christ.
For the VBS leaders and church congregations hosting the sessions. Pray that they will have the Lord’s wisdom and guidance as they prepare and teach and that they will be used by Him to lead the younger generation to Christ.
That the Lord will use the VBS ministry to bring many into His kingdom and to call some into full-time Christian service.