While VBS is usually “only” a weeklong event, the impact of this program reaches far and wide into the lives of kids and families within your community. The coolest part? This reach may ultimately have eternal impact! The planning that goes into this special event takes time and attention. And it is so worth it! Here are some tips to help prepare you and your team this VBS season.
As with any task you undertake, the most important thing you can do is pray. Start with encouraging your church to begin praying regularly for VBS. While this may seem obvious, leading here sets the groundwork for all that you and your team will accomplish! God is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). Prayer should be a part of every decision you make and every task you perform.
Make it a priority to establish a prayer base for your VBS. Be bold in asking others to pray. Enlist a team of people who otherwise may not be involved in VBS—perhaps seniors in your church or existing prayer groups or chains. Present this team early on as your “vanguard volunteers”—people who will go before you, committing to pray daily (or weekly) for the various facets of VBS, from the moment planning begins until the final follow-up is completed.
From the beginning, develop a team of passionate people who are willing to walk this journey with you. While the impact of VBS prayer is the foundation of your program, your advanced planning will shape all the details.
One way to share the load is to form a VBS committee. Committee members will help choose a program theme, oversee specific areas, contribute ideas and solutions to problems, and assist in recruiting volunteers. Members can be the department leaders who will supervise all departmental activities and help recruit age-level staff. Plus, it is always more fun to collaborate with a group of people who are as excited as you!
Confirm your venue and dates with leadership and put them on the church calendar as soon as possible. Once you’ve got that down, we recommend that you establish your VBS goals and working budget. A starting point would be to evaluate your children’s Sunday school attendance and community outreach opportunities to determine all who will be invited. From there, you can estimate projected attendance and an amount that the church can spend based on this projection.
We also highly recommend that you create a VBS timeline of tasks. A to-do list is one thing but a timeline may just save you! Having a timeline will let you know where you are in your planning and help you stay focused. Everything from evaluating and ordering materials, recruiting and training, promoting, buying supplies, registration, decorating, etc. should be on this timeline. You can do an Internet search and find several well thought out suggestions.
This may go without saying but after you’ve established your VBS goals and determined the audiences you will serve (preschoolers, children, youth, adults, people with special needs, etc.), you can begin the process of reviewing VBS program options. There are many options to choose from so having some idea of what you are looking to accomplish will be helpful.
Themes are always fun to explore, but as you evaluate programs, you will want to consider theology and quality of the lesson plans as a main priority. We recommend lessons with clear learning objectives. A good VBS curriculum will balance between challenging church kids and connecting with the un-churched kids who will attend. Some options will also have suggestions for enlisting the help of older kids. Just remember that the Bible teaching is the heart of your VBS program and here is where you will want to be sure it shines!
As you continue your process, you will want to consider your ministry setting and whether the program works with your venue, the kids in your community, and your volunteer base. While “easy to use” is always helpful in recruiting, we recommend a program that makes preparation on the “easier” side but still expects energy and involvement from the volunteers during the event.
It’s time to choose! You’ve explored, and now it’s time to purchase the program you want to use. This decision isn’t just about what program you buy, but what additional resources you want to purchase and use as well. Will you want more decorations or more giveaways for your kids? Are there take-homes that will help them remember the day’s verse? These are all things to think about when making decisions on your VBS materials.
You’ve purchased your VBS! Now is the time to develop what the days will look like and make specific plans for how things should flow. Take the time to walk through the week on your laptop or with a pen and paper. Make notes on important things to remember, especially instructions you need to tell to your team.
Also decide if there are extra activities or stations that you want to have for the kids at your church. It’s good to arrange for these far in advance so you can better estimate how many volunteers you need to run your VBS. Pinterest is a great resource tool for additional ideas and to see what others in the KidMin are planning!
Get others involved! Here’s one thing we know for sure: you cannot do this alone. Rely on those around you to serve and help during this VBS season. There are numerous volunteers you will need: decorators, music leaders, sound staff, kitchen staff, group leaders, teachers, security, buddy system teammates, custodial workers, and more.
Be sure to recruit people who want to be there. They will bring the best attitude and spirit as they work throughout the week (and before/after). Look to include the youth group in your church for this event. Their high energy will be great for the kids in your program.
Don’t forget the importance of proper background checks for those who are working with children at your church. Be sure to allow plenty of time for these procedures.
Fun Tips! Throughout the week be sure to encourage your volunteers by making sure they know how much you appreciate them. Small tokens of appreciation such as t-shirts, snacks, gift cards, and even just a genuine thank you will keep things fun and lively as the week goes on.
7. Empower: Training, Vision
One of the most important parts of leading your VBS will be empowering your team to do what they came to do: Serve kids! Enable your volunteers to take ownership of the areas you’ve given them. Have your VBS committee join you for the training so you have a team training a team. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
- Train your team on what’s expected. Let them know the in’s and out’s of the week, what you need them to do, and where they need to be.
- Let them know the role they will play. Train your team to understand the role they are playing in kids’ lives during the week. Convey the vision or big picture of the week to generate excitement. Show materials from the program you’ve decided to use. This will help familiarize your volunteers with the VBS and will create excitement. Be sure to show crafts, have them learn songs, and more!
- Give them guidelines. Explain to your team what to do and what not to do with and around children. Some may be first-time volunteers, so it is important to go over the basics. Have examples ready for them so your church policies are clear and understood.
Cast a vision for your team and get them on board. Having a united vision will keep the team on-track and it encourages each member to support that idea. With a unified team, you will make a bigger impact. A few key things to remember when vision-casting:
- Align your vision with your church’s vision. Consistency is good to have within your church. And, you want to make sure what you are doing is aligning with the overall goal of your leadership.
- Share the vision with your team. Clearly communicating the vision with your team is important. You need “buy-in” from them to have full support for where you are going, especially on more challenging days.
- Reevaluate and along the way. Your vision will change and develop over time, and that’s okay! Don’t get stuck with something that’s not working for you or your children.
Go tell it! Let your church and community know what, when, and where. Get people excited! One fun and fairly easy way to get the word out is to create a social media graphic and encourage your volunteers and church families to share it. Social media is a quick and inexpensive way to reach a lot of people. When you have your whole team and families sharing, word will spread quickly.
Put a sign in front of your church that lets people who pass-by know that you are there and are having a summer program! Yes, we will take your kids for a few days! Parents love that.
Create flyers and pass them out in the community. Use this VBS time as an outreach for those kids in your community who don’t know Jesus!
As you prepare for VBS, you need to get ready for the unknown that can happen. Some simple things to do:
- Intake forms. When parents drop off their kids, make sure the intake form asks for any known allergies. Also request permission to take their child’s photo or video, so you can document the activities of the week.
- Have security measures in place if your church doesn’t already. One crucial tip: once the program starts, lock all exterior doors and have a small group of adults monitoring while you are in session.
- Be prepared in case of accidents! In the midst of having fun, someone occasionally gets hurt. Have first aid kits available for bumps and scratches. Also be sure that someone serving on staff knows CPR.
- Special-Needs Friendly. It’s important that all kids feel welcome at your VBS. Don’t hesitate to ask how you can best help a family with special needs when you are meeting them. Feel free to use the intake forms and resources available with the “All About Me” Book and the Individualized Christian Education Plan downloads at heartshaper.com/special-needs/special-needs-resources/.
- After VBS. Plan to share with your church all of the amazing things that happened the week of your VBS.
10. Pray More
We weren’t joking earlier when we said that prayer should be a part of every decision you make and every task you perform. This isn’t cliché either. It is so important that with everything we make sure we are serving God in His will!
Go! It’s time. You have prepared. You have trained. You have prayed. You are ready to love on and introduce kids to Jesus, and He is definitely ready to accept them. “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these’” (Matthew 19:14).
Journey into an action-packed VBS with The Action Bible VBS. Kids will discover how to Love, Believe, Trust, and Witness as they engage in God’s big story of redemption!