Skip to content

More than Vacation Bible School at Bradford Community Church (6 photos)

Vacation Bible School expanded to fill a need in the community.

A number of local churches offer Vacation Bible Schools (VBS) during the summer – a week-long day camp, generally held in the morning, for kids between the ages of six and 12. Each VBS provides themed crafts, games and activities, and bible stories, in a safe and supervised setting.

Bradford Community Church decided to do more.

As Pastor Becky Fitch explained, “Our goal is to provide affordable child care for the Town of Bradford – safe, fun, and cheap.”

To meet that goal, the church understood that its vacation bible school would have to be offered for a full day, from at least 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. – “because people work,” said Pastor Becky.

It would need to embrace a wider age range. “We get them from just going into junior kindergarten, to Grade six,” Fitch said – and this year, the camp offered a junior leadership program for kids in Grades seven and eight, that lets them attend as helpers and participants, at a reduced rate.

The church also decided that just one week wasn’t enough, to bridge the gap between the end of school and the start of the new school year.

So this year, Bradford Community Church organized five weeks of day camp, held at the church located at Yonge St. and Line 9 in BWG.

It’s the fourth year for the summer day camp initiative. Last year, the camp was offered for four consecutive weeks; the year before, six.

The length of the camp isn’t determined by enrolment, which continues to grow, but by the availability of government grants. The grants allow the church to hire  student interns who help run the programs. 

The church got a grant this year enabling it to hire students for an eight week period; last year, it did not receive the grant.

The summer program is a unique combination of traditional VBS, and a curriculum that draws on the expertise of staff and volunteers.

Mornings are “traditional,” with all of the games, bible stories and crafts of any VBS. But after lunch, the leaders running the camp offer programs based on their own interests and skill sets.

Each week, campers are asked to choose three afternoon classes. This year, the list of classes included music, group games, garden art, egg carton art, and clay-mation stop-action animation.

“We’ve done other classes” in other years, said Fitch – including science, and juggling.

Kids attend the classes every afternoon except Friday. “Friday is a giant birthday party,” she said – a celebration and a picnic to mark the end of the camp week.

Because so many kids attend two or more weeks of camp, “each week is a different curriculum,” said Fitch. It keeps things interesting for the campers, but also increases the challenge for the organizers and leaders.

Kids come from Bradford, Innisfil, Beeton, Newmarket, and surrounding areas. “Anyone’s welcome. You don’t have to be a Christian to come,” said Fitch. There may be bible stories and prayers in the faith-based VBS program, but the focus is on sharing, kindness, and fun.

That the model is successful is shown by the registration numbers. While there were only 60 kids enrolled in the first week of camp this year, the average was 80 to 85 – and during the final week, 90 kids.

In addition to the 10 student interns, the camp relies on 20 to 30 volunteers and staff to keep things running smoothly. It is a huge effort, Pastor Fitch acknowledged.

“It is exhausting for the leadership, but I feel it really does fulfil a need in our community. We can provide an excellent program, within the confines of our budget,” she said.

The church and its community provide additional support and supplies, and the volunteers and Jr. Leaders “are fantastic,” Fitch said, which is one reason why camp families come back, year after year.

The annual Vacation Bible Camp is advertised on Facebook every spring, but families who have sent kids to the day camp are already on an email list, and receive advance notice.

Check here for more information. 


Miriam King

About the Author: Miriam King

Miriam King is a journalist and photographer with Bradford Today, covering news and events in Bradford West Gwillimbury and Innisfil.
Read more

Reader Feedback