So, it’s April, which means Easter probably has your entire focus, but it also means that summer is just a few months away. If you are in any ministry related to the Next Generation, then you are keenly aware that looming just around the corner is the possibility of Youth Camp, Kids Camp, Day Camp, and the Oh-So-Popular VBS.
Depending on which planning sector you fall into you either have a committee of 8 VBS professionals micro planning every detail of your event since February 1st or you are starting to stress that you haven’t chosen a theme yet.
Regardless of where you’re at in the process, here are a few things to consider as you continue along your merry way.
1. do your homework
This is a truly loaded statement, so let me break it down for you a little bit. Doing your homework definitely pertains to picking out a curriculum or theme. I’m linking to two of the most popular resources for comparing themes side by side. However, for me, doing your homework means a lot more than just how do the curriculums size up to one another.
- Comparing your data from previous years to see if the engagement at your VBS has increased or decreased.
- Seeing if your children’s ministry has actually grown after a VBS or similar style event is completed.
- Contemplating writing your own curriculum or theme that’s more suited to your ministry. Try to make sure that whatever you choose has clearly defined wins, so you can determine if you were successful
- Thinking outside the list. While both of the above lists are fairly comprehensive, neither one of them includes Orange’s VBS program. I have never personally used Orange’s themes for a VBS, but I used them as our Kid’s Camp Curriculum multiple years in a row and found them to be really awesome, with music, videos and bumpers that engage a modern day 5th-grade boy, which is always key. There’s often the most technological progress and new ideas in new curriculums, so definitely do your homework and consider all your options.
2. pick or create a theme that will connect with your church culture and your community
This is so important. Just last week, I was talking to one of our clients and she was telling me that several churches in her town, were all doing the same VBS theme. This happens, and if it’s the best, it’s the best, but you have to wonder if there is a way to tweak or add something to your current curriculum that can make it a better fit for your ministry.
Several years in a row, I felt like the themes just didn’t reflect the kids in our ministry, like I was hoping it would. So, we created our own. It was a TON of work, but at the time, it was worth it to us, for the result we wanted.
Please, I beg of you, don’t just have VBS to have VBS, do it because you have a goal or a “win”, and then determine if VBS helped you achieve that goal.
3. use music that kids will actually think is cool
Music is one of the ways that kids connect with culture very early on, so make sure your music translates. An unchurched child might not be familiar with a drama or play, or a dramatic story-telling, but they will be familiar with music, and you want your music to make an impact.
If you’re mostly interacting with pre-schoolers you are pretty much at liberty to use any music you want, but by kindergarten kids are already becoming keenly aware of what sounds “baby-ish” and wanting to be “cool” like their older brother or sister.
I know that Group and Cokesbury and a lot of publishers have taken several steps forward in their music, and I hope you’ve stepped with them. Even if you’re at a fairly conservative church, allowing kids to have fun and get out some energy during worship is really important.
If the songs are terrible that go with the curriculum you choose, don’t be scared to sub several songs out for something more high energy, or some that you know are already favorites.
If you’re able to take one step further than that and have real life TEENAGERS to help lead the songs, it makes an even bigger impact. If you can find a few strapping young gentleman to lead the way, then basically you’ve hit the jackpot. I’ve found pizza, food and candy can be great incentives to such a group of teenagers, and they would probably be willing to help you in other areas when they’re not leading worship.
4. balance your budget beforehand
While cost is definitely a factor in picking the right VBS for your church. You first and foremost have to know what your budget is. Once you’ve got that determined. Look at last year’s number and gauge your best guest for attendance. If it’s your first time hosting one, I would plan for about 75% or more of your larger normal weekend attendance. You can always plan to close up at a specific number if you need to for planning purposes.
Once you’ve determined your guest size, think crafts, snacks, giveaways, paper supplies, t-shirts, lanyards, stage backdrops, and anything else you can think of, and start to determine what you can afford, or if you need donations, or if you plan to charge a small fee to help cover costs.
In my experience, most parents would gladly pay to have their kids attend an excellently produced, above average “adventure”, rather than free sub-par activities. At the least you can ask certain people to donate some cool stuff, ** just make sure to be very specific if asking for donations.
5. keep some perspective
I’ve seen A LOT of churches get into the mindset that Vacation Bible School or a similar style event is the end all and be all of their ministry, and while I love the enthusiasm, I just can’t agree.
Vacation Bible School is one week out of fifty-two in the year. I can honestly say, I do not remember one Vacation Bible School from my childhood. I am trying really hard to remember one right now, and I just can’t. But I can remember tons of other life changing experiences I had in Kid’s Ministry. I can remember a lot of the adult mentor relationships that had an impact on me. I still have friends from my childhood church.
Events can be easy traps to want to spend all your time, money and energy on, because you get to see the “fruit of you labor” and you finally get a few minutes for your Kid’s Ministry to shine. But you have to track did kids actually experience life change? Did new families get plugged into your church? Does that child who just got saved, actually have a home church or a small group leader who can speak into their life and actually disciple them? Life change happens over time, not over one week.
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So, do your best to make your VBS awesome, but don’t forget to follow it up with 51 other fantastic weeks.
If you would like help planning your VBS, writing VBS curriculum, or help or coaching of any kind in your ministry, consider getting Church VIP for you Children’s Ministry