Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Vacation Bible School is a tradition that thousands of local children partake in each year.

It may be a beloved mainstay, but it’s one that continues to evolve. Whether it is through the addition of more activities or the varying of the food that is served, VBS is changing. And by the looks of things, the kids like what they see.

Tonight, VBS will kick off from 6- 9 p.m. at the First Southern Baptist Church in South Point. It will run through Thursday and will be followed by family night at 6 p.m. Friday.

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The Rev. Ricky Kirk said this is the first year the church has switched to the new Sunday-Thursday format; a move, which he said, is beneficial because children get five full nights of Bible lessons.

He said the importance of VBS couldn’t be overstated.

Many times, he said, children who attend have never been exposed to the Gospel before.

“I think it is one of the greatest evangelistic tools being used today,” Kirk said.

The youngsters aren’t the only ones who can be reached through VBS teachings; parents can also be affected, according to Kirk. He said there have been both attendees and their parents baptized after being touched by the Lord through VBS.

“It’s always a blessing for everyone at the church,” Kirk said.

The pastor said he has made a deal with the children of the church. If 125 kids register for VBS this week, they can turn him into a “human ice cream sundae,” Kirk explained. They can spray him with whipped cream and drizzle him with chocolate sauce and any other toppings they want to. In the past, he has shaved his head as a “reward” for getting more kids to come to VBS.

“I just like to have fun and show the kids that I want to be there with them,” Kirk said.

The Campbell Chapel Freewill Baptist Church on State Route 141 is also trying something new this year. Instead of a traditional theme, they have opted to turn the entire church and surrounding area into “The Region of Galilee,” said Debbie Bradley, VBS teacher and wife of the Rev. Bob Bradley.

There is a marketplace and a synagogue set up and more than 40 volunteers are dressed in costumes.

“This is a way to reach kids that normally don’t get to come to church,” Bradley said. “We want to help them and show the community we are a church that cares.”

This year, the church also decided to change what it was feeding the children who came to VBS. In years past, there were youngsters attending that were obviously hungry, Bradley said, so they decided to nix the traditional cookies and Kool-Aid in favor of meals such as hot dogs and French fries, pizza and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

“We just want to show the kids that we care for them and love them,” Bradley said.