Recent experience at non Catholic VBS


Hi all,

I’m posting this as both a quick experience, as well as question I guess. My wife, daughter, currently unborn child and I, are all good practicing Catholics. :slight_smile: Recently, a very good friend of the family invited our daughter to attend a week of Vacation Bible School at their church, Calvarly Bible Fellowship Church, in a neighboring community. (Daughter is currently 5 years old, and getting ready to attend CCD this fall).

Long story short, she had an absolutely fantastic time, made a lot of friends, really cute crafts, and even put a little play on, along with all the other kids from the week, on the last Saturday of the camp. It was VERY cute, and very family oriented.

My wife and I, of course, attended the play\sing along and picnic afterward. We also had a great time, met a lot of nice people, and over the course of the week had a really good time. Now, don’t get me wrong, we have no intention of “switching” faith, churches, or anything else, but I can’t help but feel that the folks from this church have a real sense of community. They all knew each other, well at least it seemed that way, had a lot of weekly activities at the church, a lot of family oriented gatherings, and well, really seemed to enjoy each others company.

This is all of course a GOOD thing, but I can’t help but feel, after spending a week there, that my parish, and perhaps others I have been a member of, are “lacking” in this department. Don’t get me wrong, we have the yearly carnivals, occasional Sunday breakfasts, fund raisers etc., but no one ever really seems “into it”. We also all just seem to come and go, without paying much attention to each other. Example, when attending a recent baptism course, for our child due in October, the class was rather cold. The people there seemed to be there only because they HAD to be there; not that they WANTED to be there. I get this feeling a lot when attending even local events at other parishes. Is it just my area, or are Catholics sometimes a little too “serious” or “going through the motions” in what they are doing?

Again, hardly bashing anyone or anything, but after seeing the community at the recent Bible School our daughter attended, it really got me thinking that maybe there is something I can do to help bring this sense of community to our parish. The problem is, I’m not even sure where to start! :slight_smile:

Anyway, thanks for listening, and thanks for any input or insight.


I have only been in one parish that did fellowship well, and that was a very small language-based community (50 families), mostly young families that had children in the school and saw each other at school events, cultural events, etc.

Military parishes did it too, but not quite as well because of the constant turnover of personnel and consciousness of rank.

I help prepare parents for baptism and find that most of the time the people we have in the classes are strangers to each other and, more often than not, to the parish. A high percentage of those we see in baptism preparation are couples we didn’t even know lived in the parish, young people who never come to Mass but who want Baptism for their child “because I was baptized and that’s what Catholics do.” They don’t tend to talk much, there only because they MUST be to have the baptism celebrated.


if you feel that way about your parish, you are the perfect people to start changing things, in any case, it often happens that as your own child get into CCD or the parish school, you also become more involved. why not volunteer to coordinate VBS next year? an easy painless way to sample what it might be like as a catechist. H/W teams are unbeatable as catechists btw.

since you say your parish does have regular events, consider volunteering for them, a great way to get more into parish life, meet people, esp. those with children, w/similar interests etc. that is a one time short term commitment, not so intimidating as a year-long commitment. make an effort to make eye contact and speak to at least two people each week after Mass. that is what I do since I have such a hard time making friends, and it has really helped me personally.


Thanks for the responses, and understanding here. I have actually been making a move to become more involved myself. We DO like our parish, and things in general, but what I don’t feel is that whole community thing. Perhaps this is of course just my current perception.

I am currently looking to volunteer more of my time to things, including attending a number of lay ministry courses over the coming year. I’m also looking forward to our daughter attending CCD this coming fall, as a way, I hope at least, to meet up with more like minded people.

Again, I’m not really trying to sound critical of our area or diocese at this time, I guess I’m just trying to compare things at this point to the feeling of “community” we had during this particular week of VBS. Perhaps, as Phemie had mentioned, the size of the parish matters as well. The fellowship community where this class was held was very small, and maybe that made a difference in itself.

I guess it’s time for me to start thinking harder about this new journey to possibly bring our local folks a little closer together. :slight_smile:


The more you get involved in your parish community (CCD, School, Parish committees, VBS, etc), the more community you will find :slight_smile:


That’s what I’m hoping! :thumbsup:


A tight-knit community isn’t just tight knit at parish functions. Invite a family with kids about your kids age over for BBQ this summer.


You can see why it’s so very hard for evangelicals to convert to Catholicism.

My husband and I were born and raised with this kind of deep, close, loving community. I try not to think about it now because it makes me cry. As much as I love Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and all the Truth of the Catholic Church, as a human being, I miss terribly the fellowship and friendships that we enjoyed in the evangelical churches.

I know I will take a beating for saying this, but it has a lot to do with various abstemious practices of the evangelicals, especially abstinence from alcohol. This abstinence forces them to have fun in other ways that don’t depend on clubbing. It’s really hard to explain this to Catholics who are so very defensive about the fact that drinking is not a sin. No, it’s not a sin, but it makes it “too easy” to have fun. When someone like me who doesn’t drink comes along, my ways are strange, and Catholics don’t see these ways as fun. And to me, the clubbing is very strange and not very much fun at all.

It’s not just alcohol. Protestants abstain from a lot of things. Again, this doesn’t make their lives miserable. It forces them to find all kinds of other ways to have fun in community.



I’m a Catholic who doesn’t drink (ever, my dad is an recovering alcoholic and I have some scary memories of him and my drunk step-dad as well, I hate how is smells and tastes and it makes me dizzy) and I used to be a Baptist :eek: However, I guess I don’t see the same issue at ALL in our Parish or any Parish we’ve belonged to. It’s not like families are going “clubbing” :eek: or going to the bar :eek: . Sure, some families might serve beer at a bbq or beer at the Parish festival, but “clubbing”?? Totally different situation. My dislike of alcohol is totally MY issue–I have no right to dictate that someone else not drink because I don’t like it. Nor would I limit my friendship either because someone drank a beer or if they didn’t–it’s a nonfactor, unless they are a constant drunk or something.

Anyway, fellowship is created by members of the parish, sometimes it takes someone to step up to start it rolling. It’s not like Catholics hate each other or don’t LIKE to be friendly. Our form of worship and the choice of Mass schedules don’t lend themselves to “fellowshipping”, we actually have to work at it, both as a parish and as individuals in the Parish. Of course it can take time for new families to find their “place” in a parish and it can take work. We moved to central MN–you know–Minnesota ‘Nice’ (don’t believe it!) from Central IN and then Central MI. The people here take a LONG time to warm up and be friendly–I guess the long cold winters really set in sometimes, lol–a lot longer than we found in IN or MI. If you live in an area like this, it may take a really long time to feel you fit in, but you keep working at it, lol.


You know where I was from 7:30 AM til 1 this afternoon? At our Catholic VBS. We had over 100 kids :eek: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

Get involved, make friends at the Parish. Catholics rock.


Catholic parishes seem “cold” because they’re huge.


What you do to create a sense of small community is this: get rid of all except about 200 of your parish members, reduce to only one Mass on Sunday so that all 200 are attending the same Mass each and every week, and have a social time all Sunday afternoon, instead of Masses, baptisms, CCD classes, prayer groups, etc. :wink:

(Of course, I think your Bishop is mandated to close your parish if it dips under 1,000 active members, unless it’s the only parish available to the local community. So, creating that small community may be a dream out of reach, for the time being. :wink: )



Please allow me to caution the OP about something.

As much as I loved the fellowship in the various evangelical churces that I was active in over my lifetime, I have to admit that none of those people are still in my life as close friends. Part of that is definitely my fault–I am notoriously bad at keeping up with people. But part of it is because I am Catholic now, and these people have no interest in close fellowship with a Catholic.

But don’t get the wrong idea. Many of these people are still “friendly” with me when we meet in public. I met an old friend yesterday at a play. We had a nice time catching up.

I honestly think that if I made more of an effort, I could probably earn the friendship of some of these old evangelical friends.

But back to my warning: as wonderful as the fellowship and “community” looks on the surface, it isn’t necessarily deep and lasting.

So don’t look too longingly at the Protestant “communities.” They aren’t always what they appear to be.

Other evangelicals will agree with me that there is an unspoken and unwritten “Code of Conduct” that evangelicals must adhere to in order to be accepted.

In many evangelical fellowships, this can be quite detailed, e.g., homeschooling, no television set in the home, no Halloween celebrations, no involvement with theater or any of the performing arts other than church choir, etc. And as I already mentioned, NO drinking alcohol!

Someone who violates the code can be “shunned.” It’s quite awful.

I agree with everyone here that friendship is something that you personally have to work on in your parish. And I agree that as you get involved with various groups and activities and ministries in your parish, you will find friends if you are willing to go an extra mile and call them, invite them out or over to your house, send them cards, etc.

Also, look at Jesus as a Role Model. He had three intimate friends (Peter, James, and John). He had twelve close friends (the disciples). He had 120 buddies! And he had the crowds who were his acquaintances.

That’s what life is like for most of us. We have just a few truly intimate friends, a small number of close friends, a lot of buddies, and a whole lot of acquaintances that we know by sight and we might even know their names, but we aren’t close.


Community = food.
This is true for the human community. It’s also true for God’s community - where do we find the fullest expression of our faith? At the Eucharistic Table :wink: .
I go to a small parish affiliated with a university. Every social get together revolves around food! We throw Lenten suppers, pancake breakfasts, impromptu I’m-making-pasta-who-wants-some lunches. After every Mass, people go out to dinner or brunch. Our priest has to be careful to hit the gym regularly :).
Start cooking, throwing potlucks, whatever - at your house, at the parish hall, at the rectory. We use every and all excuses possible, including someone’s going away party. Lent’s an easy excuse to get together and cook - as are parish fundraisers - but so’s the random potluck.
And as for the alcohol thing … we have plenty of fun drinking together :).


Have to agree with this, as an Evangelical for about 22 years and a Catholic for 14 now.
I’m not great at making friends, and used to love the potlucks at the Evangelical church. But Catholics, I think, are more focussed on their relationship with the Lord – we come for the Eucharist, and feel fulfilled by Him. I can remember hanging around after protestant church to connect with friends, (as a lonely single parent with young kids). I don’t need to do that now, I’ve been with Jesus.
But you’re right, we should make more of an effort as Catholics to support and fellowship with each other. I belong to a Catholic Bible study which meets once a week, and it’s great. You might consider opening your home for something like that.



True, even if it’s a joke.

True again!

I’ve only been attending Mass for the last six weeks or so, and I have found a great community. I think these three posts sum up the reasons why.
*]We are a minority-language group. People come from miles around (many of us travel up to two hours to attend) to go to the English-language Mass. We’re not going to run home immediately after Mass - we have language and faith in common, so we hang out after Mass.
*]There is only one Mass available (although we’re at a cathedral, so there’s a LOT of people attending). You always know that the group will be there, because there’s only one time they can go. When somebody says, “See you next Sunday” I know exactly what time they’ll be going to church.
*]Most of us skip breakfast, even if we’re coming from far away and are at no risk of breaking the fast. After Mass, we all go to a coffee shop or a bakery and eat brunch together. (Well, not the whole parish, but around 20 of us each week.) Eating together really works as a bonding experience.


One side note, I would advise against sending a Catholic child to a non-Catholic VBS. You can be guaranteed that at some point during the week, your Catholic child will be subjected to an “altar call” or some attempt to get your child to pray the sinners prayer, etc.

Stick with Catholic VBS. If your parish does not have it, now is the time to get it planned for next year.


I hear ya! I also think that Protestants had Catholics beat in the hospitality department…but I think that’s changing! As we get more Protestant converts, they’re bringing that zeal, hospitality and enthusiasm into Catholic parishes everywhere (our DRE modeled our children’s religious ed programs on Baptist ones (in terms of style, not content, LOL)…and they’re great!). But I do think (and hope?) that parish size will always be an issue for Catholics. Praise the Lord, there are a lot of us! :smiley:


There is a faith community in the downriver area of Detroit where the VBS usually draws just under 1,000 over a two week period.

Believe me it is all about fellowship with the hoped-for fruits centered on being saved.

On the other side of the coin, our local parish draws about 50 tops (small parish) but it is a CATHOLIC and Christ centered VBS… the fellowship is the fruit of the efforts.

That is a major difference in the faiths. Catholics should enjoy the fellowship that follows the sacraments and liturgy etc. But we know that is not a great attraction, hence our numbers are often weak.

Baptists and others can draw crowds… who doesn’t like to be entertained and have fun?

Oh well… I just think the Catholic way has better rewards.


I am putting on a VBS at my parish this summer. I’ll be in deep trouble if more than 20 kids show up - the room I’m using would be over-crowded. I have no idea how they deal with a thousand kids - where would they put them all? Small is good - as long as it’s not too small. I’d like to see about 14-15 kids come to ours.


The school is used … all classrooms… and over 400 attend each week.

Most are the 9-12 time… some of the older kids meet 1-4:30

From what I have heard, it moves along quite well…

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