Friday, May 10, 2013
Planning Vacation Bible School
Vacation Bible School (VBS) is one of the most meaningful ministries of our church. Though the numbers fluctuate, everyone involved with this ministry is blessed by it.
Usually our VBS plans for the next year begin within months of the end of VBS. Our VBS team discusses potential ideas/themes and then brings them before the Church Council. After the idea is settled, it's on to the planning stages.
Here are some things to consider as you move forward.
Who will create the program?
Our church has done it different ways over the years. Sometimes we purchase a VBS package that comes with a five-day program including: lesson plans, craft ideas, music resources, and suggested snacks. We've used programs from Cokesbury and David C. Cook. Most recently, I've been writing the VBS program. It started when we wanted to offer an old time town theme, but couldn't find the program we used in the past. So, we ended up creating "Prosperity Junction: Producing Fruit in God's Country." In addition to learning about the fruits of the spirit, the children got tossed in jail by the sheriff, bobbed for apples at the one room schoolhouse, visited the Tumbleweed barn, mined for gold nuggets, and traded their nuggets in at the general store for prizes.
During the height of High School Musical's popularity, we also ran school themes that tackled the topics of following God's plan, heavenly rewards versus earthly goods, bad choices and God's forgiveness, false friends, bullying, being a good servant, sibling rivalry, and spreading peace. Last year, we decided to explore the Christmas story from the various points of view: the shepherds, Mary, Joseph, and the Wise Men.
In 2011, we blended our original ideas with the Code J.E.S.U.S. program and our faithful spies followed some of Paul's journeys.
Will you hold VBS inside or outside?
I don't know how many churches struggle with this. I've attended programs that were held entirely inside and others where VBS is held partially outside. Until the last couple of years, we set up sites on our extensive church grounds. This allowed us great flexibility with games. But we've found we are able to hold the lessons inside now and then go outside for games or use a large upstairs room to play.
This is another aspect of Vacation Bible School that I'm not sure how many churches deal with. For many years, we had a large staff of creative people who created elaborate displays for our VBS sites. While we still have many of the props, they usually need repainting or cleaning before using them again. In addition, some of them don't fit inside, so we've found large wall murals to be a good substitute. They also cut down on preparation time.
We also look to add little items here and there to make the sites authentic. Last year, one of our artists created a fire pit for the shepherd scene.
Snacks and Music
If you purchase a VBS package, it will most likely provide snack and music ideas. You can often purchase a CD of music for the program or it might be part of the package. During the years when I wrote the program, it was easy for me to find hymns that fit in well with the themes we chose. Rob Evans, the Donut Man, has music that is now available on CDs and there are song books to go with them so your worship team can play along.
For snacks, I've often found neat ideas in magazines like Family Fun or Family Circle if they aren't provided in a program package.
This is the hardest part of VBS for me. I admit, I'm not a games person. Suggested games come with many VBS packaged programs, but in the years I've written the program myself, it took some planning.
Popular games include obstacle courses, tug-of-war, and various relay races. Last year, we used the hardwood floor of the large upstairs room in the church and painter's tape to create a maze for the kids to walk on and a shuffleboard court. We left them on the floor and the kids still play with them. But by far, the most popular game last year came from recycled goods.
I saw this neat Christmas game online where Santa used a reindeer's antlers to sling presents into a chimney. You can find it here, but be forewarned--it's addicting. My girls loved it so much that I wanted to try to recreate it for VBS. I found--in a magazine, I think--a slingshot game that used a couple of chairs and some pantyhose, but we wanted something bigger and better.
We created a fake chimney out of a cardboard box. We cut off one side and taped the three flaps together, then cut out an opening slightly larger than our Christmas presents. For presents, we wrapped small rectangular boxes that were donated by a company that manufactures ribbons, trophies, and badges. Our chimney was set up a few feet from the church's back stairs. On the railings at the top of the stairs, we used multiple bungee cords hooked together for our slingshot. We covered over the hooks with duct tape to keep everyone safe. The kids had a blast and we finally had to bring everything inside so they would go home.
Our other favorite game was a scavenger hunt. We created a Scrabble board, the idea for which we got from Family Fun. We put together four clues each night which led to letters for the Scrabble board. Once the hunt was done, we took all our letters upstairs and placed them in the board. Here's a picture of the board we made before the letters were put in. The letters were made by cutting squares out of corrugated cardboard that we then placed double-sided tape on to stick them to the board.
I would love to hear your thoughts about these ideas or other ideas you've found that worked for Vacation Bible School.