Choose your VBS for Summer - A Roadmap

Friday, February 23, 2024

The KidzMatter Blog/VBS/Choose your VBS for Summer - A Roadmap

"Me? Direct Vacation Bible School?" said nearly every first-time VBS Director when asked if they would coordinate a summer outreach ministry for the church. "It's an honor to be asked! But where do I begin?!" 

Coordinating a VBS program is an exciting ministry opportunity. In my opinion, no other church ministry incorporates the fun, excitement, and rewards like serving at Summer VBS. But as a new or newer Director, it can also feel overwhelming. 

Let's explore a roadmap to a well-planned VBS that takes you through some of my best tips for the pre-VBS planning months.

Start early. While there is no official time to start planning, the two most common times to begin planning are in the fall season or immediately after Christmas. Most VBS programs are held during June, July, or August, so an early start in the fall or early winter removes the pressure of feeling behind.

Include prayer. Although this seems like a given, it's easy to forget the fundamentals when we get wrapped up in the excitement and busyness of our plans. Stay rooted in the One who guides and empowers you. Be "like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruits in season,... and whatsoever they do prospers." Psalm 1:3

Know your purpose for hosting a VBS. Ask yourself why VBS matters and what you hope to accomplish. In a recent survey, I asked VBS Directors their top reasons for doing VBS. Most wanted to create more evangelistic and discipleship opportunities for the kids in their church and community. Equally important, VBS started a very successful outreach opportunity to families in town who are irregular attenders or have no church. Others mentioned the value of creating a place for church members to serve and feel a sense of belonging to their faith community.

By identifying your purpose for hosting VBS, you'll have the guard rails established that help you choose your VBS theme and help you make thoughtful decisions during your planning months. 

Set goals. If this is your first year directing VBS, keep it simple, but set a goal. Your goal may be as simple as this. "We will share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with our VBS attendees." Or "We will create a fun and safe atmosphere for kids to hear of Jesus' love for them." Refer back to your purpose for hosting VBS to create practical goals. Then, after completing your VBS program, you can say, "We completed our goals," and say with confidence that VBS was worth it! 

Establish a budget. Establishing clarity about your existing and needed funds is vital to your role as a VBS Director. Start by asking your church leadership what funds are available. Then, fill in the gaps with some of these fundraising tips.

Host a pancake breakfast or a local car wash, with proceeds going to your summer VBS ministry. These favorite fundraising events are fun, and people love to give - often far more than you would have expected. 

Partner with local businesses to sponsor a day’s lunch or snack for your week of VBS. If you plan a community picnic on the last day of VBS, ask a local grocery store to sponsor the hot dogs or ice cream. 

Don't be afraid to ask your church family to participate. Consider offering the opportunity to sponsor a child by donating $25 to the VBS Fund. Professionals and senior citizens may not be able to help during the week of VBS, but they often love to contribute financially. 

Partner with another church. Share the cost and increase the volunteers available by doing VBS together with a sister church in town. If you have a sister church too far away, ask if you can reuse their decorations after their VBS. 

Consider charging a fee to attend VBS. The Directors I speak with are often passionate about this subject - for or against it. Many can only imagine doing VBS because they charge a nominal fee. I recommend doing what works best for your community.

Explore the new VBS programs for Summer 2024. Most publishers create an all-new VBS theme each year. Explore the new VBS programs online, discover the overall theme, get inspired by their decorating ideas, consider the Bible content and key learnings, and listen to song samples to get a feel for its style.

Choose the best VBS theme for your church. While exploring all the exciting VBS programs, ask yourself these essential questions about each program to determine which VBS will best support your church and summer ministry.

Does the VBS support the ages I want to reach? When selecting a theme, it's essential to Does the VBS support the ages I want to reach? When selecting a theme, it's essential to consider the varied age groups within your church community. While VBS themes cater to children of all ages, consider if your church also includes teens and adults. Look for themes that offer age-appropriate activities tailored to each group you aim to reach.

What will the kids learn? At the heart of VBS lies the opportunity to impart valuable teachings from the Bible. Choose a theme that engages the kids' imaginations and deepens their understanding of God's Word. You’ll have kids in varying steps of their faith journey at your VBS. Some children may be hearing of Jesus for the first time. Other children may already have a relationship with Jesus that can be nurtured and strengthened through these lessons. The good news is that most major publishers consider this when writing their VBS. Consider if the Bible content will reach everyone regardless of where they are on their faith journey. 

Is the music easy to sing and memorable? Music is fundamental to creating an exciting and enjoyable VBS experience for kids and adults. Memorable and catchy tunes have the potential to stick with young ones for years to come. Take the time to preview the songs for each theme and ask yourself, "Are the songs fun, easy to sing, and worth remembering for a lifetime?" Choose themes with captivating music that will enhance the overall engagement and impact of the VBS.

Is the theme easy to decorate? Creating a visually appealing environment sets the stage for an immersive VBS experience. Before deciding, consider whether the theme inspires you and whether you can envision transforming your church into a captivating environment that complements the chosen theme. Whether you set up basic decorations or go all-out, a well-decorated space can significantly enhance the overall atmosphere and leave a lasting impression on the participants.

By focusing on these four questions to choose your VBS, Directors can make an informed choice that will result in a memorable and impactful VBS experience for everyone involved.

Order a starter kit. Unless you are one of the brave souls with a calling to write your program, the starter kit is your key to success. It includes everything you need as a Director to coordinate this event. Inside, you'll find your Director's Guide, Leader Guides for the teachers, music and video content, samples of promotional posters, and student resources. 

Most starter kits come with digital access to the content or an option to add it to the kit purchase. I recommend digital assets to nearly everyone now. Most laptops and church audio equipment no longer have CD and DVD plug-ins. It's much easier to download music, videos, activity sheets, clip art, and printable resources from a website or USB. The digital assets also include a copy of your leader guides. It’s the perfect backup in the case of a lost leader guide!

When your VBS Starter Kit arrives, start by reading the Director's Guide. Read it from cover to cover. You’ll find a planning calendar, volunteer training tips, promotion and publicity materials, a registration guide, and more inside the starter kit.

Delegate responsibilities. Seasoned directors know the value of getting people involved. We've heard the saying, "Many hands make light work!" It's true. Don't hesitate to share the need. Add an announcement to your church bulletin. Make a fun, in-person announcement about a new serving opportunity on Sunday morning. Connect with people one-on-one to find out where they would like to serve. 

By mobilizing volunteers, you're giving church members a place of serving and belonging. Afterward, that team of volunteers feels like a family! Plan to take a group picture before your VBS week ends and frame it to hang in your church hallway. Your volunteers will love seeing that reminder of their best summer serving at VBS!

Trust God. You? Direct Vacation Bible School? Yes! The Starter Kit with Director and Leader Guides makes it easier than you imagine. Gather some friends to partner with you in this fun summer ministry, and know that you are planting faith seeds in the hearts of the kids who will attend your VBS. "Not by might nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord," Zechariah 4:6. 

Amy Outler is a VBS and Kidmin Specialist with 15 years of experience working with churches as they plan VBS. A former middle school teacher and now VBS Expert at Concordia Supply, a church and Kidmin resource provider, Amy is passionate about educating and supporting new and seasoned VBS Directors.

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Membership with KidzMatter PRO strengthens your skills and links you with a thriving community committed to empowering kidmin leaders like you.