Vacation Bible School for most churches is the highlight of the summer. A lot of effort goes into making an environment where kids can have fun, invite friends, and hear God’s Word in a new way. Vacation Bible School can also be overwhelming to know where to begin and how to organize such an event. Even though the concept of Vacation Bible School dates back to the late 1800s, there is always room to improve, get creative, and lead this event in a new way. Work through the plan below to ensure you can have an effective Vacation Bible School (VBS) from scratch.
First, begin with a vision in mind. What is the goal of your vacation bible school? Is there anything you want the volunteers to accomplish during the week? What do you want the kids to walk away knowing and experiencing? A vision will help guide all the other plans for the VBS week. If you have a team together, discussing the vision with them is best before making any significant plans.
Time, Place, and Age
After a vision is in place, plan the place, time, and ages. Decide what place would be best: at your church, in a local park, or at an apartment complex. Next, decide what time would be best: day, night, over the weekend, or during the week. You will need to plan for 3 to 3.5 hours. VBS must reach your community, so consider how easy it will be for the community to attend.
Next, think about the ages you will offer at VBS. For your volunteers, it is ideal to offer some type of preschool version of VBS so they can attend without childcare barriers. Consider beginning at 5 years old or completed kindergarten and ending at completed 5th or 6th grade (the most popular options). It may look more narrow or wide for your setting, which is perfectly ok. Remember, what will best serve your church and community has to be the highest priority.
After you have those logistics in place, think through a theme. Many themes go with certain curriculums, but you can also make your own! If you or someone in your church loves writing curriculum, this is a chance to get creative and explore themes that may not be published. Some cost-effective themes are beach/summer, cooking/kitchen, construction, and art/travel. These themes have consistent items at dollar stores and Amazon that can aid in decorations and giveaways for your event. Another great tip is to look at church attenders for items to donate or loan (think of a real bulldozer for a construction theme, for example). If you purchase a curriculum, always look for cost-effective ways to decorate and theme your space. There are great curriculum providers among your denomination, but for an overview, check out the other blog posts on Children’s Ministry Deals.
Now you can work out the curriculum details. This is where the fun of working out the details can begin. Now you can decide what will stay and go within the curriculum. Ask yourself, “How will I present the Gospel to the kids that attend?” By grade might be the best option so you have a captive audience and can follow up more directly. Decide if you want the main Bible teaching shared from the worship stage (i.e., Orange Curriculum) or in BIble Study rotations (i.e., Lifeway). Decide what rotations will stay and what they might need for time purposes. Begin developing a schedule based on the pieces of curriculum you are choosing to use.
Worship and Rotations
Worship and rotations are the next pieces to building a VBS from scratch. Most curriculum providers will offer music to go with the theme. You can choose to keep that music or opt for a live worship band and worship music that goes with each day's main point. Rotations, like crafts, can be pre-bought from the provider to save time or a similar item made through donations and gathering materials. Remember, if the goal is to share the Gospel with kids, it is ok to think outside of the box. Craft time could also be mission projects and the missions rotation sharing about what the projects will support. Snack rotation can be intricate and theme-driven if you have the resources or simple like a popsicle stand. Depending on the location of your VBS, you may have to adjust recreation. Recreation can be outside in a field or parking lot, at a park, or even indoors. Make sure there is an alternate plan for weather if you are planning to use an outside option. As you look at your curriculum and schedule, plan for travel time, bathroom breaks, and plenty of time for Bible teaching.
Train and Recruit Volunteers
With plenty of time, recruit and train your volunteers. Starting a VBS from scratch can be exciting for any church, so share that with the church body and leadership. You want to begin recruiting about 6 months out from the start date. Recruit through all avenues available: stage announcements, a table in your church lobby, mailouts, emails, and social media. Offer job descriptions so everyone knows what it may take to lead in specific rotations and roles. Promote the event to those in your youth group so they, too, can impact those that attend. Working with your church staff and leadership will be vital to successfully recruiting and training. As you continue to recruit, plan a training event (or two) that you will use to go over the curriculum and procedures. Add child protection and time to review your kids' ministry policies in your training. Pass out the curriculum, decorations, name tags, schedule, or other elements your volunteers will need to study before the event. Organizing a prayer calendar or event will help ensure God is the focus.
There will always be last-minute details that need attention when starting a VBS from scratch. Think about how you will promote your event to the community (yard signs, flyers, t-shirts), and what you will giveaway each day. Will you have a family night for parents to attend and see what their child is learning? Will you end with an exciting water day or special snack? How will the tear-down process work? Making a list of questions to answer will help you think of all issues that may arise.
Finally, make plans to follow up. Follow-up is essential to making VBS more than just a one-week event. Plan to follow up with everyone in a mass mail out, but also those who decided to follow Jesus. Follow up with volunteers thanking them for all they did to make it a great event.
Making a VBS from scratch does not have to be hard or overwhelming. It is a great opportunity to share the Gospel with your community. Don’t forget the main vision, and it will be a great, God-glorifying event.