Join us July 6 - August 7

Last summer we created VBS for Grown-ups. When we decided to do it again this summer we knew that it had to become VBS for Backyards, that it had to have the option to include children, and it had to be Christmas-themed. Because we all need a little bit of Christmas this year.

Stories. Crafts. Music. Service projects. It all comes to you via email once a week for you to complete in your own backyard alone or with your family. You can even make new friends by participating in the private "VBS for Grownups" Facebook group.

This can be done as a completely outdoor adventure on your phone or with a printable pdf. No Zoom required. Facebook optional.

Click here to register for Christmas in July!

So what do we talk about?

This year we're doing 5 lessons on the birth of Jesus:

  • Angels
  • Mary & Elizabeth
  • Jesus
  • Shepherds
  • Following the Star

Each module includes these five sections:

  • Story Time
  • Reflection Section
  • Imagination Station
  • Outdoor Adventure
  • Mission Moment


Here's a sample Reflection Section

Everything about VBS for Backyards is infused with the joy of childlike faith, but we mix in a few Grown-up sized Reflection Questions, making this the perfect 5-week personal devotion, or a great outdoor activity to share with a family.

These are the actual questions from Week One: Angels.

Directions: Choose a set of questions for deeper reflection on the Angel visiting Mary.

Questions for Grown-Ups:

  • The first thing that the angel says to Mary is that she is highly favored. She is troubled by this. How do you react when people say good things about you? What types of things do people compliment you on or thank you for? Could those be a clue to God's calling for your life?
  • Mary is headed into a time of great disruption, so the angel says "do not be afraid." We're all in a time of great disruption. Where are you hearing messages of "do not be afraid?" Who needs to hear that from you?
  • When God calls you to do big things, how might you step into it despite your fear?

Questions for Young Disciples:

Did you know that you are favored by God? Actually you are even more than favored; you are beloved and made in God's image. Wow. That's a lot to take in. How do you know that this is true? How does God show his favor for you through other people? The angel Gabriel also says to Mary "do not be afraid" because God wants us to trust in God and know that God is always with us. Sometimes it's hard to not be afraid especially if what you are going through is new or scary. How can you put your trust in God? Who can help you? 

Questions for Younger Disciples:

God sent the angel Gabriel to ask Mary to do a big job! When have you been asked to do something big?  What kind of big things have you been asked to do? Maybe you have to go to school by yourself or learn how to care for a pet. Often we find things scary just because we haven't tried to do them before. We can put our trust in God and know that God is with us.

Who is leading VBS?

Hi! I'm Dawn Trautman and I'll be your leader. I first attended VBS at Faith Lutheran Church in Massillon, Ohio and continued through being a small group helper and finally leader at churches in Minnesota and North Dakota. 

I continued to hone my VBS skills at Sky Ranch Lutheran Camp, Youth Encounter, Luther Seminary (where I got a Masters in Youth and Family Ministry), and at rural, suburban, and urban churches over the years. I have now lead more than 50 weeks of VBS and can hardly wait for more.

In between all that, I also earned a second Masters in Organizational Psychology from New York University, built a career as a professional actor, and became nationally board certified as a life coach. I am now the Creative Director of the MainStage team at the ELCA Extravaganza and run my own business as a Lutheran Life Coach, which I have done for a fifteen years. 

This life path has allowed me to train or lead the children, youth, and ministry leaders at these and other institutions.  

Here's who's behind the scenes

Kelly Benz (Curriculum Writer for Young Disciples) is the Director of Children, Youth and Family Ministry at Messiah Lutheran Church in Burlington, Iowa. As the mother of four children 10 and under, she has the ultimate test market and quality control managers right there in her own backyard.

Mallory Topel (Tech Wizard and Organizational Guru) attended the VBS at her local Lutheran church as a child, and insisted that her family join the church. She will be a senior at Viterbo University in LaCrosse Wisconsin this fall, earning a degree in Stage Management. She is still involved in VBS at her church, where her mother is now in charge of it.

And we all know half the fun of VBS is the sing-alongs.

We asked our friends at Lutheran Retreats, Camps and Conferences to create our very own mini-worships to go with our weekly "Christmas in July" themes. Each mini worship includes invocation, prayer, a small reflection, a combination of camp songs and Christmas songs with the lyrics on the screen, and a benediction.

Sounds fun! How Do I Participate?  

As soon as you register, you'll receive an email with access to the Facebook group, your supply list, and a sticker chart to track your progress through VBS, because what's more fun than a sticker chart?!?

(Quick side note: if downloading lists, uploading photos, and watching a Facebook Live is overwhelming, this probably isn't the program for you. We'd love to help, but we're not really set up to offer any tech support. Like, none at all. Please be sure that you or someone near you can handle the technology. Thanks!) 

You'll receive a new lesson every Monday after the first one. VBS for grown-ups lasts five WEEKS instead of five DAYS.

You are welcome to do your lessons whenever it works best in your schedule. You may want to sign up with a friend so that you can do your lessons together. Just like VBS! 

(Another quick side note: This version of VBS for Backyards is designed for one household. If you'd like to use it with your congregation, set up a conversation and we'll design a VBS for Backyards around the needs of your congregation. Really. We're quite flexible and ready to make this easy as you figure out how to do VBS while also social distancing.)

Still have questions? Please email

Let's stay in touch on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

© 2020 | Legal Information