MOUNT VERNON — Some area churches in Knox County will be holding their Vacation Bible School programs virtually this year.

Fredericktown Presbyterian Church is a relatively big church, so the idea of doing a socially distanced, in-person VBS could be realistic. The church decided to have VBS virtually this year, however, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lingering fear that people have of gathering in groups, including at church. The difficult part about having VBS virtually is viewing the situation from the child’s perspective.

“VBS means fellowship,” said Christine Burns, the pastor for Fredericktown Presbyterian Church. “The virtual aspect of the VBS axes the fellowship part of it. It’s hard to tell a child that they can’t be with or hug other children.”

The virtual VBS will include three sessions total for three weeks during this summer. The sessions will be two hours each and will be held virtually on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of each of the three weeks.

The impact that the COVID-19 crisis has had on children will be an important aspect of the virtual gathering VBS at Fredericktown Presbyterian Church VBS will be as well.

“It’s important for the children to understand what the pandemic is and what it means to them,” said Burns.

At Covenant Church in Mount Vernon, VBS was canceled this year due to the COVID-19 crisis. The church in the past has had some very successful VBS programs that have featured such themes as extreme sports and military. The church even had a helicopter land in their backfield one time for VBS.

Even if VBS has to be moved to virtual sessions or even be canceled as is the case with the Covenant Church, the purpose of VBS remains the same.

“The main purpose for us having a VBS would be to rally as many kids as possible to teach them how much Christ loves them and wants a relationship with them,” said Tim Overly, the pastor for Covenant Church.

The purpose of VBS also includes learning the principles of Christ through the study of the Bible and speaking about what the children have learned to others.

A church could certainly adopt a VBS during the COVID-19 crisis with a little work, especially if one puts their whole heart into it.

“For instance, you could create an outdoor VBS with safeguards in place,” said Overly. “You could have small group rotations for the activity, teaching and craft.”

One could also implement a virtual aspect to the VBS in conjunction with the in-person VBS to maximize the number of children who could participate.

There is optimism with a combination of virtual and in-person VBS format.

“With these two elements in play and lots of advertising, the numbers of a church could be significantly larger as many churches have experienced in their Sunday morning live streams,” said Overly.

The First Church of the Nazarene in Mount Vernon is having a virtual VBS. Their theme is focus and taking a closer look at one’s relationship with God. The VBS will last for four days and will be every Wednesday in August. Children from 3 years old to 5th grade can register.

The children will receive pre-made packets for crafts and the VBS sessions will also include praise and worship, Bible time, and games. The First Church of the Nazarene usually has 100 to 120 kids attend its VBS, but this year the total is expected to be less because of the COVID-19 crisis.

“We’ve had to think outside the box,” said Christine Risser, the children’s pastor at the church. “We’ve had to purchase new camera and film equipment for the virtual VBS. It’s been challenging, but in a good way.”

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Cody Strawser: 740-397-5333 or cody@mountvernonnews.com and on Twitter, @mountvernonnews