Starting this week, churches across the area are being transformed into fishing boats, space stations, airplane hangers and tropical islands.
It’s the start of the summer Vacation Bible School season, in which churches host themed week-long outreach and education programs for children in their church and community.
Summer Bible schools date back to the 1800s, according to LifeWay Christian Resources, which has produced VBS materials since 1925.
Baptists credit Walker Aylett Hawes with their first VBS program. The doctor’s wife rented a beer hall for her Everyday Bible School, which included games, crafts and Bible stories, in the summer of 1898.
Methodists trace VBS programs even earlier, to summer school classes offered as early as 1870 near New York’s Lake Chautauqua.
Today, Southern Baptist churches host more than 2.8 million youth in summer VBS programs, according to a 2009 count by LifeWay, the most recent year for which data is available.