It doesn’t matter how large or small your church is—Vacation Bible School is A LOT of work. Even with the time and energy involved, churches continue to put an effort in this area because it’s essential to a child’s spiritual growth.
Research shows 43% of Americans that accept Jesus Christ as their savior do so before reaching age 13. Roughly 2 out of 3 born again Christians committed before their 18th birthday. Many children acknowledge that getting an education at VBS helped them embrace their connection with the Church.
But, with children’s summer programs beginning as early as 1870, it’s a challenge to come up with new activities that motivate kids (and parents) to get involved. As you try to come up with VBS ideas, it can feel like everything’s already been done. If you’re stuck, here are 12 fresh ideas for Vacation Bible School.C
1. Choose a Curriculum
Choosing a curriculum can be one of the hardest parts of VBS. Some children are very familiar with stories from the Bible, and others aren’t. Some kids love arts and crafts but don’t like games. Other kids will enjoy sports more than making crafts. On top of that, kids of all ages want to participate, but that doesn’t mean they want to do the activities in their age group. It’s enough to make your head spin when planning a fun and educational time for all involved.
A flexible curriculum is the best solution for this common problem. Consider having more than one activity going on at a time and letting kids choose where they would like to participate. Give children the option to choose the activities they prefer when enrolling in VBS by selecting from categories like “Arts and Crafts” or “Sports and Games.” By doing this, kids will be more receptive to learning because they’ll be doing something they enjoy.
2. Loop parents into the activities
Remember, kids may love VBS and want to come to church, but they can’t go without someone to bring them! Focus on the parents, so they’re as excited about VBS as the kids. Encourage them to be involved if they show interest. Greet them as they drop off and pick up kids by having a short conversation about how well their child is doing.
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3. Decorate as you go
There’s no shortage of activities at VBS. While a little decoration is a nice way to kick off the week, if you’re on a budget or want to personalize the event beyond a themed kit, decorate as the week progresses. It’s as easy as displaying craft projects, drawings, and pictures to brighten up the church.
Children will get excited watching the environment change and feel great about being part of that. Encourage them to take their parents on a tour of the decorations to show where they contributed.
4. Get teens involved
While teenagers may not participate in VBS like younger children, they can still play a role in your program. Train them to be craft leaders, snack makers, and to oversee games. Get them involved in planning activities like creating a scavenger hunt for the children to complete.
Find out what they’re interested in doing and let them apply their knowledge and skills. For instance, if they’re passionate about music, they can help lead songs. If they’re savvy with technology, ask if they want to help record and post a VBS video on your church’s website.
5. Invite another church or organization to join
If you’re strapped for time or a small church on a budget, reach out and partner with another church or organization for VBS. If you’re a large ministry with multiple campuses, consider inviting smaller churches in the surrounding areas to join you for a few activities. This is a great way to reach like-minded people in your community and for the kids to make new friends.
6. Consider timing VBS to daily schedules
While kids have free time in the summer, most parents don’t have that luxury. They may not be able to bring kids for 3-4 hours every morning or have time in the evening to pick them up. Take parent’s schedules into consideration to learn if it’s better to do 3 longer days a week instead of 5 short ones. That way, parents can drop off and pick up their children without additional stress.
7. Plan for high and low turnout
Turnout is on the back of anyone’s mind that plans VBS. Even if you think you have a count on how many kids will be there—expect the unexpected. It’s summer, and family schedules vary day-by-day.
Prepare for higher attendance by having a plan for overflow and few easy activities you can pull out like coloring books and puzzles. If turnout is lower than expected, simply use that time to give the children extra attention. Use leftover activities and snacks for Sunday School and other upcoming events.
8. Change your space
If you don’t have room for all the kids that attend VBS in an environment dedicated to youth programs, let the activities flow into other parts of the church. Even if crafts and games are moved into hallways or the preacher’s office, allow kids to make it theirs. Hang up decorations and drawings to change the space to be more kid-friendly.
9. Teach Kids about volunteering
Vacation Bible School is a great time to teach kids how they can help others in need. Spend a day volunteering at a senior center or preparing food for a homeless shelter. Give crafts a purpose beyond being fun to make by handing them out to people in the hospital. Incorporate Bible verses, bookmarks, and other inspirational items in them.
10. Create a fun survey
During Vacation Bible School, get feedback about what’s working (and what isn’t). You can prepare a fun survey for kids to learn more about what they enjoy. Instead of picking A, B, C, or D have them rate activities by objects or characters in stories they’ve learned during the week. Also, create a survey for parents to take that addresses issues that might make it difficult for them to participate, as well as what they enjoyed about the week.
11. Finish with a bang!
Whether you put on a play or have a meet and greet, make sure your VBS ends with an event for everyone. This allows parents to meet each other and see for themselves how much fun their kids had and how much they learned!
Include a special incentive on the last day to invite them back to church. A pancake breakfast or a service that their children will be a part of is more likely to entice families to come back versus a simple invite to next week’s service. Have the children sing a song they learned at VBS or act in a play they’ve been practicing during the upcoming event.
12. Consider a Christmas VBS
We know—one Vacation Bible School a year is enough! But, consider doing a children’s program in the winter. The meaning of Christmas often gets lost, and while VBS is traditionally in the summer, a Christmas VBS is ideal for teaching kids the true meaning of the holiday.
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