Its summertime and chances are a church near you is hosting a vacation Bible school. Churches across America utilize VBS as a catalyst in reaching families by first ministering to their children. And though these ministries offer a fun-filled opportunity, these week-long summer events don’t run themselves. With any effective ministry comes much planning and preparation. The following tips will help plan and implement a week the kids won’t soon forget.
Set the date
Coordinate with school calendars to ensure your church’s VBS doesn’t conflict with summer school. After choosing the dates for VBS, pencil it on the church calendar, and announce the dates to the church family so they, too, can mark the week set aside for vacation Bible school.
Choose the material
Spend substantial time researching the VBS literature offered by varying publishers. Ensure the lessons are doctrinally sound and relevant to the lives of kids. Thumb through the game ideas, craft suggestions and listen to the music. Put yourselves in the shoes of the kids walking through the church doors. Are they going to be bored by the theme, or are they going to think it’s “cool”?
Sadly, our churches compete with Hollywood and the entertainment industry. If we choose a “lame” VBS theme, kids won’t come back, nor will they invite friends. It’s okay to be “cool” if the message of Christ isn’t compromised, so pick an exciting theme.
One of the great things about VBS publishers is that themes are usually out one year in advance. For instance, a local church was using “Incrediworld Amazement Park” by Answers in Genesis one year. This church plans to utilize Lifeway material next summer. Since Lifeway has already announced next year’s theme, this church can already promote next year’s VBS on family night.
Recruit a solid team of volunteers
Churches vary in size, and so does the number of teachers and leaders necessary to lead a VBS. Directors need to ensure that each class has a teacher and at least one assistant. Activity stations may need more than two helpers depending upon the complexity of the game and the number of kids playing. For instance, some vacation Bible schools combine first and second grades at recreation time. These two grades might have 40 kids when lumped together. Two workers won’t cut it. In fact, there should be at least one leader for every 10 kids. With 40 kids, four leaders ought to be ready to be wild and wacky with the children.
When calling for volunteers, don’t badger people to serve. If people accept a position in VBS reluctantly, it might turn out to be a bad week for everyone involved. In prayer, ask God to provide who He wants to minister to the children. He’ll do a much better job of nudging those He wants to serve than you ever will.
Many churches start or end each day in a worship rally, rounding all the kids up for a brief time of worship. The stage ought to be “dressed up” to point people to the theme of the week. If nothing else hangs a large colorful banner announcing the week’s theme and welcoming the kids to VBS. In the classrooms, take the time to decorate at least one wall, creating a focal point for the kids to examine when entering the room. Sometimes it’s best to empty the rooms of tables and chairs and encourage the kids to sit “criss-cross applesauce.” Removing furniture creates a larger space and the room doesn’t feel as cluttered. Use the focal wall as the backdrop for the teaching period. Even if the kids zone out during the lesson, they’ll at least be able to stare at the wall and be reminded of the week’s truths.
Planning a VBS requires diligence and determination, and also a propensity for the organization. Keep “to do” lists and scratch off each task that is accomplished. It’s a lot of work, but with planning and preparation, the director and staff will feel the joy that comes from their efforts.