In August 2023, Gladstone Park Adventist Church was transformed into a tropical paradise as they hosted North American Division’s Vacation Bible School test event. For those who may not be aware, Gladstone Park Church is currently the one and only testing location for the program before it is finalized and sent all over the world.
Cassie Martsching, AdventSource communication and resource development director, attended for the first time this year. “This was my first time coming out to the test event and I just really appreciate the community at Gladstone Park Church." she said. "I came in as a stranger, not knowing anyone, but by the end of the week I knew everyone’s name. It was just so warm and welcoming. I like to imagine that’s the experience visitors find when they come to this church as well.”
Before VBS packages arrive at local churches, teams of writers, editors and organizers draft the material and imagine how it will work in person. As with any event, the way things really work can be very different. This is where Gladstone Park Church is able to help craft the experience. For Martsching, this means translating between both worlds — that of writers and editors, and that of local leaders, children and families.
“I am basically the project manager for VBS once it's past the writing phase,” Martsching said. “I work with editors, translators and designers to put all the elements of the program together into something we can print and sell as a part of a VBS kit.”
The testing process comes next. “We go through all the documents before we send them to Gladstone Park Church, but they are not getting the finalized, revised, polished version that everyone else sees. We really want to find out first if these activities really work. Does this make sense? Are the kids getting the same message at each station they visit? Is this a cohesive program?”
The results discovered at Gladstone Park Church are recorded, discussed and implemented into the final VBS program that is then used everywhere else. “We’ve been collaborating with Gladstone Park Church for about five years now, and the volunteers seem to love helping us with it, which I so appreciate,” said Martsching.
“They’re not getting a program with instructions for decorations and pictures of what everything should look like, they’re the people coming up with the decor that we use in the descriptions to show everyone else what theirs could look like. So really, they are interpreting what they get from the authors and from us when they put this test program together every year,” said Martsching.
Once tested, revised and finalized, these VBS programs are used in more than 1,000 NAD churches each summer, and even go across the world. Churches as far as South Africa, Kuwait, Kenya and New Zealand have utilized the VBS programs that were first tested at Gladstone Park Church.
The program is also translated into Spanish and, for the first time this year thanks to Quebec Conference, into French. “What Gladstone Park Church does for us by helping us test these programs really ripple out and touch the world church for years to come,” said Martsching.
“I appreciate them so much because putting on a VBS program is one thing, but putting on a VBS program that no one else has done, with no template to follow and knowing that it’s going to be filmed and photographed for other churches around the world to use — that’s a really big job that they take on for us every year. I just can’t say enough how much I appreciate the team at that church,” Martsching said.
As children grow and discover a faith of their own, VBS can play a major part in connecting each child with Jesus. “VBS is a really big and important part of what we do at AdventSource,” said Martsching. “We hear pastors all the time say that VBS is really the most important evangelistic event that their church can host, because it’s the one event that can get the whole family to come in and see what their church is all about. It’s a chance to meet and interact with people."