Young at Heart

Located within a senior adult community, Green Valley Baptist Church in Green Valley, Arizona, doesn’t have any children who regularly attend. 

“A large number of our folks are snowbirds,” explains Senior Pastor John Guillott. 

But six years ago, the church committed to offer vacation Bible school because they had the finances and the space that other smaller churches in town lacked. 

“We came to recognize that we were a senior adult church, but we would still invest in families, children and youth, and one way we would do that is to provide VBS for our community,” Guillott says. “We challenged our folks that this would be their mission trip for the summer.” 

So, the church appointed Barb Tingle, a local kindergarten teacher, as VBS director. Each year, she advertises the program using email and social media, while church volunteers pass out door hangers at apartments in nearby underserved neighborhoods. Tingle also reaches out to the school district for permission to distribute flyers to students. 

“We choose just two schools because we want a lot of kids [to come], but we can only handle so many,” she says. 

Today, this “grandparent church,” as the congregants like to call it, holds its VBS the first full week in June with half-day programming for about 160 children through sixth grade. Kids get the chance to give to a special mission project. The church also hosts a dinner where the kids perform the songs they learned that week. And though the VBS closed during the height of the pandemic, today it continues to grow. 

Tingle says 25% of the children attending come from low-income communities, so they provide breakfast not only to the kids but also for their families before the Bible lesson and activities start. 

According to Tingle, several Mormon children now attend. She says the Mormon parents appreciate that their program teaches the Bible without trying to convert their children. 

“As for me, that’s fine,” she says. “You’re learning about the Bible, about the plan of salvation and that people at this church care about you.”

Gail Allyn Short
Gail Allyn Short

Gail Allyn Short is freelance writer in Birmingham, Alabama. She leads a nursing home ministry and teaches a Bible study class for new believers at Integrity Bible Church.