SPRINGVILLE — Chip Thornton calls Vacation Bible School "kind of a sacred cow" in his church, and in most churches. Doing something different with it, he says, is a risk.

"This church is 197 years old," Thornton said. "It can be risky to try to change too much."

Despite that, Thornton and associate pastor Andy Waits say their congregation and the children there have embraced the upcoming change for Vacation Bible School – the church has planned both a new curriculum and a new format for this year’s edition. Waits said he and his church staff wrote their own curriculum for this year’s "Summer Blast" VBS, and the church has rented a pavilion at Big Springs Park for June 2-6, from 6-8 p.m. each night.

Waits said the church’s mission statement – "Know, Grow, Go" – is the impetus for the new format.

"We’ve been asking people for years to come to the church, instead of saying, ‘We’re going to go to you,’" he said.

It is something Thornton said is virtually unprecedented in the area.

"We checked with the state (Baptist convention) to see if they could give us some pointers and ideas on how to make it work," he said. "They had no idea. Nobody else is doing anything like this."

Thornton said one of the students who attended last year’s VBS inspired them to do something different with the curriculum as well.

"We had the traditional 8-12, Monday-Friday format," he said. "It was mainly our own people coming, which is good, but we wanted to reach out to the community as a whole.

"One (student) had gone to VBS in three different places, including ours, and all three were doing the same songs, same videos and same lessons. We decided we needed to set ourselves apart."

Waits said the curriculum is centered on the Book of Jonah, the Old Testament prophet whose story includes being swallowed by a fish, and convincing the Assyrian city of Nineveh to repent.

"We’re basically going to let the book speak for itself," Waits said. "The premise is about surrendering to God, and what man could write a story better than that one?"

Over 100 attended VBS at First Baptist in 2013, and the church is expecting a much larger turnout this time.

"We want this to be our gift to the city of Springville," Thornton said. "If some of the families who attend decide to come to our church, great. But our intent is sowing the Gospel seed, for their benefit.

"We partner with the city in a lot of other areas. We want to be a partner in the word of God as well."

The scheduling format for the nightly sessions will be flexible, according to Waits. For more information contact the church office at 205-467-7979.