VBS Tips: 25 Great Ideas for A Successful Week
Has your church decided to host Vacation Bible School? Whether you have done this before or it’s your first time, the to-do list can be long and overwhelming, but remember, the rewards outweigh the work! The planning phase is a fun opportunity to get to know other people in your church and come together to fulfill God’s will and mission in your community. There will be challenges, but praying together will provide the direction you need. Here are 25 great ideas to ensure a successful VBS week.
“The Truth” Matthew 19:14 “But Jesus said, "Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children."
It can be easy to get caught up in planning and organizing, but lead your volunteers in praying continuously for God’s guidance in reaching people. There are many reasons for holding a Vacation Bible School, but keeping God’s plans first and giving Him the credit are the most important.
2. Getting Started
Review previous VBS themes and see what decorations and craft supplies are readily available. Reusing materials can save money, but choose a different theme from the past few years so kids are not bored.
3. Set Dates Early
Decide on the dates for VBS months in advance and announce the dates as soon as they are confirmed. Add an announcement to the weekly bulletin, church calendar, website and other means of communication.
4. Choose the Time
There is not a “right” or “wrong” time of the day for VBS, but consider what your goals are, when more children can come and when volunteers are available. There are many activities that happen during the summer, including vacations, sports, camps and family time. Some churches have found that they can reach more children and families by holding it from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Other churches opt for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. because more volunteers are available. Discuss all options with the leaders and volunteers to gain a broad perspective.
5. Don’t Limit Your Focus
It can be easy to want to focus on one aspect of VBS, but it’s important to pay attention to all areas you are committed to. If you are the leader, then assign tasks to other people. Select leaders for crafts, snacks, puppets, skits and an emcee. This will reduce your stress and keep you focused on fulfilling God’s mission for the week.
6. Last Minute Plans Show
VBS is a great opportunity to open the church to the community and a fun way for children to invite their friends, but don’t try to throw lessons, decorations and activities together in two weeks. The lack of planning and effort will show and will set a bad tone for future community events hosted by the church.
Decide what the budget is for the entire Vacation Bible School and divide it into separate areas, including decorations, teaching materials, snacks and awards.
8. Organize Volunteers
Plan the number of volunteers needed for each activity and post a sign-up sheet. Assigning volunteers to specific tasks for preparations and during the week will ensure that all tasks are managed.
9. Part-Time Helpers
Welcome VBS helpers who can only volunteer for a night or two because you will need the help! Groups with younger kids often need more helpers because they will most likely need more guidance and frequent bathroom breaks. Encourage teenagers to volunteer since they can often connect well with children.
Don’t forget to find volunteers to help clean up every night. This may not seem as visible, but keeping the building neat and tidy will create a welcoming environment for visitors. Consider designating a cleanup leader that is aware of all areas that need to be tidied up and can organize help accordingly.
11. Age Groups
Divide kids into age groups instead of wrangling a larger group and feeling out numbered. This also makes it easier for kids to connect with others their age and will keep each night moving smoothly.
12. Infant Class
Many families have older children that want to attend VBS, but parents are unsure of what to do with their infants and toddlers. If you have enough volunteers, then hold a toddler class or set up a play area. This will require quite a few helpers and it is best for the babies to see the same adults in the class each night. Activities will vary quite a bit from what older kids will do, but it’s a great way to help families feel comfortable.
Choose a theme for VBS week and look at the new VBS themes available by Concordia Supply, Cokesbury and other companies who supply Vacation Bible School materials. This will provide a great start and then you may decide to purchase one of the themed-kits, or create your own curriculum and decorations.
Talk to the leaders of the church and people who will be volunteering to narrow down the audience you anticipate coming. If parents are expected to stay each night, have a class that discusses each night’s story in an adult manner. If there will be children with disabilities then be prepared to accommodate accordingly.
15. Plan Stations
Choose different activities to divide the time for the kids. This will keep their attention and reinforce the story. Ideas for stations include a play or skit, crafts, puppets, singing and snack time.
16. Planning Crafts
It takes a lot of time and organization to come up with good crafts that children will enjoy and tie into each lesson. Crafts that include a combination of steps will take longer to complete, but helpers won’t be scrambling to keep them entertained. Consider crafts that incorporate painting, coloring, adding stickers, drawing and beading.
17. Decorate Early
Unless there is a wedding, funeral or other large event, plan on starting to decorate the building at least a week before it is set to start. This will provide enough time to create more decorations if needed and handle unexpected items that come up at the last second.
Everyone may assume that a church is a safe place and the leaders and teachers strive for this, but as the attendance increases, safety needs to be a concern. Have a few individuals walk around the building as activities proceed each night and report anything unusual such as strangers wondering around.
Holding VBS costs money and it may or may not be part of the annual budget of the church. Consider hosting a church event to raise money and take a special collection for people to dedicate giving to cover the costs of VBS decorations, curriculum, snacks and other predetermined expenses.
20. VBS Kickoff
Hold an event that is open to the community the day before VBS is set to kickoff. Have a picnic on the church property, a giant water balloon fight or a scavenger hunt. This will help the community get excited and it’s a great way to advertise.
21. Train Teachers
Teaching kids a Bible lesson can be more challenging than expected, so hold a meeting a few weeks in advance to walk through the basics. Include tips on keeping the children’s attention, what to do if a child misbehaves and pass out materials about the story for each night.
Vacation Bible School is not just for children in the church who come to Sunday School, so put a sign in front of your building to let the community know it’s open to everyone. Hand out fliers, submit an announcement to radio stations and consider paying for advertisement if you can afford it.
Start and end each night with singing. This will motivate and focus the kids and give them a chance to burn extra energy. After each night’s activities are complete, fun songs are a great way of bringing everyone back together and recapping what they learned.
24. Role Play
Encourage people to dress up as the main characters of the night’s story, regardless of whether volunteers are helping with a play, puppets, crafts or snacks. Kids love this and it will help them become comfortable.
25. Memorizing Bible Verses
Choose one or two key Bible verses that will be highlighted throughout the week and offer a special reward for the children who successfully memorize it. Have the leaders of each activity mention the verse and encourage kids to read it out loud and find it in the Bible.
“The Truth” 1 Corinthians 15:58 “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
I hope your Vacation Bible School is a huge success and pray that God’s will is carried out through His servants. VBS is a lot of work, but becomes easier each year you are involved and more rewarding as you see how it affects the children and families who attend.
What other ideas have you found helpful for a successful week?
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