Nine-year-old Jake LeVan said he wants to be a pastor when he grows up.
He attributes his aspirations to the past five years attending vacation Bible School — or VBS — at Mount Nittany United Methodist Church in Lemont that both taught him about the Bible and how to have fun at the same time.
“We learn about God and how he saved us, and do a lot of fun things,” Jake said as he described the music portion of each day’s class as his favorite.
Summer is the time of year when churches hold their annual VBS — a specialized form of faith-based education that focuses on children.
At Mount Nittany UMC, Christian education director Donna Preston said church membership does not necessarily spike after VBS is done, but the children’s ministries do.
“Every day we tell a new Bible story and perform it through silly skits and other learning experiments that incorporate the story into that specific teaching,” Preston said. “I think they really absorb the information when they’re able to have fun and be interactive with it.”
This year, Preston said Mount Nittany UMC had 69 children enrolled ages 2 to 12 with about 90 percent of them from outside of the church congregation.
“It’s open to the public. We don’t deny anyone. I think it’s a really healthy way to spend a week when the kids have off of school,” Preston said. “We aim to show them to trust God and make it as fun as possible.”
The church’s program began on Sunday and ended Thursday night with a “Kingdom Rock” theme that had the message “Through God, we stand strong,” Preston said.
And the younger students can find mentors and role models in the more than a dozen teen volunteers.
“Yeah, they’re cool, and we have a lot of fun learning about God together,” said Nick Beebe, 10, who is a longtime student of VBS.
Nick said his favorite part of the learning session is the Chadder’s Royal Theatre — a short movie session about a chipmunk who tells Bible stories, and the music part of the class where he sometimes plays the drums.
“I definitely tell friends about coming to VBS,” he said. “I think they’d have a really great time. Sometimes they listen to me, and sometimes they don’t because they have something else going on, but it’s a really fun week.”
But more than anything, Preston said VBS aims to instill morals and stress Christian belief in local youth who attend.
“If we’re setting a healthy example for the kids and doing it in a way where they learn the Christian way, then we’ve done our job,” Preston said.