From Beer Halls to Church Buildings: Unveiling the Fascinating Origins of Vacation Bible School

Kids having fun. Church. VBS. Origins of VBS.

Kids having fun.  Church.  VBS.  Origins of VBS.Vacation Bible School (VBS) features fun activities, a chance to meet new friends, and most importantly—fosters spiritual growth.  

VBS, a cherished church tradition, combines fun and engagement for kids while teaching them Biblical concepts and focusing on the amazing love of Jesus Christ.

But have you ever wondered how this church tradition got started?

Barna Research attributes it to a Ms. Walker Aylette Hawkes of New York City’s Epiphany Baptist Church.  The year was 1898, and Walker devised an idea to get kids “off the streets during the summer.”

She rented a beer hall, of all things, to host the event. (Hey, you gotta go where you can find space, right?) There she welcomed the children in to learn about God.  

Hawkes called the program Everyday Bible School.

VBS was born.

I’m pretty sure Hawke’s VBS wasn’t the fun, colorful, captivating wonderland we host nowadays.  But Barna doesn’t go into those details.  

What’s most notable is the enduring popularity of VBS programs today.  

Vice President of Research at Barna (a non-denomenational church research group) said, “VBS remains a key way for churches to minister to their community—and not just to the kids, but to the parents as well.”  He noted that it’s also a way to involve young adults and college-aged students in church volunteer work.

Volunteers are typically exhausted at the end of VBS, but they return year after year driven by the joy of witnessing children having so much fun learning about God’s love.

Perhaps this is why VBS continues to be an enduring tradition, ensuring its continued presence in future generations.