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Night school
Smaller churches offer a summer tradition, vacation Bible school, in the evening
Leah Clark, assistant director of vacation Bible school at Gainesville Church of God, helps her nephew Jacob Young, 4, twist paper bags into vines that will be used to decorate the annual event at the church. The school runs from 6-8:30 p.m. June 9-13. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Local churches are calling all kids - it's time for vacation Bible school to kick off the summer.

But while many older residents may remember VBS as part of the daily routine during their summer vacation, many smaller churches will be welcoming children for VBS in the evening.

"For one reason, all of your volunteers work days; it's easier to do it at night," said Rachel Young, director of vacation Bible school at Gainesville Church of God. "It requires so many people to get it done ... so you have to do it at night."

Young, in her second year as director, said evening VBS isn't that new at the church.

"Before we got here, this church hadn't had it in years and when they did it was just three days and it was in the evening," she said.

The Gainesville Church of God is using a rainforest theme for this summer's VBS, a follow-up to last year's space theme. The church is expecting around 60 children.

"I have between 20 and 30 volunteers to pull this off," Young said of preparing for this year's event.

Volunteers are really what drive the smaller churches' vacation Bible school.

The Rev. James Hatcher at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Clermont said they have Bible school in the evening because of the volunteers' busy daytime schedule.

"We've always had ours in the evening," said Hatcher, who began the church 21 years ago. "One reason is most people work, and that is the best time to get workers ... I guess it really depends on the church and their ability to get workers and the time of the month they have it."

Many of the churches also will provide the children with a light dinner. Gainesville Church of God plans to feed all the children, and at Chestatee Baptist Church a bag dinner likely will be available.

"We have snacks but it really depends on who we have to donate," said Tina Howard, a member of Chestatee Baptist Church in Gainesville. "Last year, McDonald's donated bags of food for the kids, and I think this year will be the same."

Unlike the smaller churches, many larger churches in the community have the staff and enough volunteers - who don't have day jobs - to have VBS in the morning hours.

First Baptist Church in Gainesville will kick off its "Beach Party: Surfin' through the Scripture"-themed Bible school on Monday, and Blackshear Place will start its "Power Lab"-themed Bible school then as well.

First United Methodist in Gainesville has its set for June 16 through 20; Lakewood Baptist and Grace Episcopal Church will hold theirs June 23 through 27.

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