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Yes, January is time to start thinking about VBS!
Growing up, I loved VBS. I used to help with the VBS at my church and attend it at other churches.
Getting older and moving into a position where I have taught VBS, I realized how much work it was.
I also started thinking about what VBS is and how it should be effective.
What is VBS?
VBS stands for vacation Bible school. It is a series of classes through the summer to help teach kids about Jesus. It generally runs a week, but I have seen it last a lot longer or shorter.
Also read: The Beginner’s Guide to Children’s Church
What is the point of VBS?
The point is to help kids learn more about Jesus. There’s basically two different focuses that VBS can have: your church or the community.
You can have VBS centered on your students, and encourage them to bring friends. This can help your students learn more about the Bible and build church community. This is really great, especially if you have a lot of newer students or a population that moves in and out of the church a lot.
Although that can be great, usually the purpose of VBS is community outreach.
Community outreach was always the purpose for my church’s VBS. The problem is that we had a huge lack of community involvement. Despite posters, flyers, talking to people, advertising, it didn’t seem to help.
Also read: My Kids’ Favorite Church Games
So…. How do I use VBS as outreach?
Now, I am not going to lie—I am not the VBS expert. But I have been around to different churches and different places and I have seen a lot of VBS’s. So here are a few tips that may help:
- Have your kids bring their friends: Really hype it up and encourage students to bring friends. Make it an incentive—if you bring a friend, then you both get candy. Is that bribery? A little bit. But kids need incentives. Make sure you have lots of flyers to give them—before they get out of school.
- Team up with other churches: Especially if your church is small, team up with more churches! This will give you more students and more resources.
- Don’t have it at your church: A lot of times, kids who don’t normally go to church are intimidated by it. They may not want to go to the church. Their parents may not want to take them to the church. So… have it at the park. Or on the front lawn. Or at the beach. If you have it outside, in the open (even if it is just for part of the time), then it is less intimidating. Plus, everyone can see it! If there is a huge crowd at the park, other kids who are at the park will be curious. They will come and look. They may come and stay. And they make come back tomorrow.
- Make it focus on something they would love: Last year, my church shifted from the traditional VBS to a sports camp. It still focused on God and talked about God, but there was a lot of sports. There were classes on basketball and football. And if you were a kid who had never gone to church, a sports camp would be way more appealing than VBS. Music camp, art camp, or dance camp could also be a lot of fun. Think about what would appeal to the kids who are coming.
What else is there to think about?
- Volunteers: You need a lot. We have had success when having a lot of teenagers to help with the small things. For the big things, we pick someone to be in charge of each aspect (games, snacks, lessons, etc) and those people pick a few to help with their part. I also suggest one or two people who are in charge of everything and not tied down to one spot. Emergencies always come up, and you need someone to deal with them.
- Time: You have to decide how long to do it and at what time. There are a lot of things to consider: what time the volunteers are available, when the kids’ parents can drop them off, if there are funds available to provide food, etc. For sports camp, it was middle of the day because most of the volunteers were teenagers, and the people who came were older and could walk themselves over. In traditional VBS, we do it in the evening because the volunteers were working. there is no magic time of day to have VBS—it totally depends on your church and your kids.
- Curriculum: Of course, you can definitely come up with your own (my mom wrote ours when I was little. The circus theme was particularly fun.), but if you have the funds, it is way easier to just buy one. Here are some at various price points available from Amazon (just click on the picture to check it out!).
We have done these before and I LOVED is! They pick a different country each year. We did Thailand and Norway. They do a great job of walking you through each step on the planning process and make it super stress free! This one is a reeally good price
And this just looks like fun
There are a lot of intricacies of VBS; that is why I am starting the conversation in January! Even if you are reading this in March or April, it is not too late. And the eternal question of “Should my church do VBS?” is one that only your church can answer.
What does your church do? Any tips for VBS? Let us know in the comments!