Vacation Bible School: Telling Kids about Jesus

By Diana Pendley

Vacation Bible School (VBS) … Adventure Week … Summer Blast … Sports Camp … Creative Arts Camp … Backyard Bible Club … Whatever you want to call it, VBS is still one of the most effective outreaches in the church. VBS is not only a great opportunity to share the Gospel with the children who attend, but also to build a relationship with many parents who would not normally walk into your church on a Sunday morning. You are given an opportunity to build a relationship with them as they drop off their children for four or five days or evenings.

Lifeway Research found that 80 percent of Protestant churchgoers say they have a personal responsibility to share their faith. However, 61 percent say they haven’t shared how to become a Christian with anyone in the past six months. And 48 percent  say they haven’t invited anyone to church in the past six months. VBS is one of the best methods of spreading the Gospel, because the driving message is the same—it’s the message of Jesus. So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ (Romans 10:17).

VBS is also a great way to energize your church, for you not only attract new people from the community, but you allow an army of church members to be a part of leading preparation, classroom time, game time and small groups in every age group. VBS reminds the Church (with a capital C) that we need to reach our community; for this to really happen, the Church must realize that VBS is a churchwide endeavor and not a Children’s Ministry event. A good example of this is when the church asks everyone on staff to be a part of VBS, which is very simple if VBS is during the day—as they are already in the church—or when everyone catches the excitement of what God is doing through VBS, through pastoral support, adult Bible study classes and so on.

A few questions to ask yourself before you start VBS:

  • What do we need to do to reach the most families and make an impact?
  • Should we have VBS in the morning or evening, and how many days should we have it? (Remember, every community is different.)
  • Should we have a parent night or a celebration at the end?
  • What should the name/theme be? Does any name hinder any family in our community from attending?
  • Is what you’re doing accomplishing its intended purpose?
  • How are you going to structure your VBS?
  • Large room experience vs. small groups?
  • When will you have your Decision Service? (For Prestonwood, it is Tuesday since this is our highest-attended day of VBS.)
  • How are you going to enlist volunteer leaders?
  • How many leaders do you need—think about ratios, teams, etc.?
  • What training and resources will you provide to leaders so that they will be successful?
  • How can you show care for your volunteer leaders?
  • What is your strategy to reach the parents?
  • Can you offer before-care or after-care for working parents?

Sample Planning Schedule:

December(year prior): Determine curriculum, (e.g., Lifeway, Group Publishing, Orange, etc.). Hand out save-the-date cards at your Christmas services or outreach events.

January: Pray; create the theme for your church; plan strategy, mission project and schedule for VBS week.

February: Recruit all directors and core leadership. Decide the marketing plan for this year’s VBS. Order supplies early (if you have a place to store them). Most big companies run out as VBS gets closer and costs increase.

March: Recruit all small-group leaders. Prepare social media blitz. Mail cards to local ZIP codes. Make sure to be a part of all local free calendars on the web, radio station’s community pages, etc.

April: Director’s kickoff, enrichment, training. Have volunteer prep days (make them fun), painting, supplies cutout – offer childcare if at all possible. Make positive all background checks and interviews/references are being updated on a regular basis. This can stress out everyone if not done regularly.

May: VBS leadership kickoff, training. Distribute calendars to local restaurants, coffee shops, etc. Make sure all supply bags are ready for leaders. The buzz should be strong in your church – “Whom are you going to invite?” Ask local businesses for thank-you gifts for leaders (e.g., Chick-fil-A might give a free adult-meal card or a pizza place might give a free pizza, etc.). Try to make sure you give something to the leaders with their thank-you note following VBS.

June: In the week prior to VBS, allow leaders to set up their rooms; offer childcare if at all possible; encourage, encourage, encourage. Offer a last-minute training session for anyone who wasn’t able to attend earlier ones. Make sure all background checks and interviews/references are completed in this week.

The Sunday before VBS: make sure the church is decorated (as much as possible) so everyone can see the excitement of all God is going to do starting the following day at VBS. (We decorate everything except the Worship Center stage, but many churches decorate everything).

Our VBS meets 9:00 a.m. to noon each day, and our church staff (from all ministries) comes to greet families before and after each day. We want to make sure we connect with as many families as possible while they are in the building for that short time.

The last day of VBS: Allow other churches to come and take your decorations/leftover supplies for their VBS.

Since 1894, God has used VBS to reach millions with the Gospel. Today, many churches are not participating with a summer plan to lead VBS … but then how are you going to reach those families with the Gospel?

Diana Pendley serves as Minister to Children at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas.