Isn’t it funny how we start to get summer fever once spring break passes? And what’s a better way to kick off summer than to host VBS?! How to ensure a successful Vacation Bible School pairs well with what makes a good VBS? The most critical work begins months before the summer season, which means right now!
If you are the new Children’s Pastor, you might wonder just how do you plan a successful VBS? . Take a big breath and then please ask for help by reaching out to the Pastoral team to find out what’s been done in the past and clarify the goals for your church hosting VBS this year. Then, you’ll plan your strategy around that purpose to ensure a successful Vacation Bible School. So let’s get down to business!
Finalize the dates.
Mark the calendar as soon as possible so pastoral and admin staff, volunteers, and families can plan accordingly. On that note- send save-the-date emails, share it socially, and promote it in the church bulletin.
- Schedule your VBS early in the summer. A late May or early June event seems to be the most popular time to catch families before vacations and summer sports activities commence.
- Choose your schedule. Many publishers include formats for the traditional three hours per day/five days a week, plus weekend formats (Friday and Saturday) and all-summer-long formats (one day a week for 10 weeks).
- If you want to be out of the box: consider alternative schedules like Tuesday through Saturday, which provides an opportunity to invite families to your closing service the very next day!
Set enrollment goals.
Identify and develop a vision of the entire VBS experience.
- Are you aiming to collect a specific number of registrations?
- Know your realistic capacity (volunteers, space and budget).
- Consider the age range of children (K-6th, for example) who will attend your VBS.
- You should also include a mini-VBS (childcare) for your leaders/teachers with children younger than the starting age group.
- Be sure your goals are measurable. This is important for future planning and church reports.
Choose a location.
If you aren’t going to host VBS at your church, securing an alternative site is one of the first things you need to do with these points in mind:
- Classrooms per age group, nurseries for volunteers, play space, check-in/welcome center, and worship.
- Always have a “Plan B” in case the weather forecast isn’t favorable.
- The Covid pandemic made us ultra-sensitive to cleanliness. Hand sanitizing stations, tissues, lined trash cans, and wiping high-touch areas, tables, chairs and toys are standard daily practices throughout the property.
Select a theme.
Your theme creates excitement for Vacation Bible School and sets the tone for what kids can expect when they arrive.
- Pick a Biblical theme that centers on the Gospel.
- Capturing the children’s imagination makes it more fun- think big and get creative!
- Make it attractive for children to want to come to your VBS. This may seem obvious, but think about what is relevant, fun, colorful and inviting at their eye levels and points of view.
Invite families to register online. If your church has a website, ask about adding a registration form to the children’s ministry tab.
- No matter how much you emphasize and request families to pre-register, you’re going to have new children show up on the first session (which is a great “problem” to have!) so be prepared.
- Equip your check-in tables with additional paper registration forms, just in case the kiosks are too crowded, and then your welcome table volunteers can digitally enter the registrations once VBS begins. This keeps your lines moving and more importantly, gets the children into their classes.
Promote your VBS.
Now that the dates and theme are locked in and you have a location, it’s time to start spreading the word, hopefully at least 6-8 weeks prior to your starting date.
- Share Vacation Bible School information often with families in your community on social media, and encourage members to invite friends.
- Join a parents group on Facebook and look for a summer camp/activities online listing in your area where you can add this free VBS to their pages.
- Ask congregants to display VBS yard signs to invite the surrounding community.
- Ensure successful VBS attendance with a fun family first look event the night before Vacation Bible School begins with food and games- don’t forget your registration tables to welcome all who come and be prepared to accept more registrations. This is such a comfortable way to introduce people to your church.
Calling all Volunteers.
Start your recruitment early so you can build an ideal team to teach and support the efforts making an eternal difference in childrens’ lives.
- Make it easy for people to say, “Yes, I want to volunteer!”
- Involve your youth group and senior citizens as teachers and/or helpers.
- Volunteers need to align their intentions with your VBS schedule, training meetings, and leader responsibilities, so don’t over-burden them with unnecessary tasks and frequent meetings.
- Schedule at least one training meeting for your leaders a month before VBS. Share a copy of their guide to review prior to the meeting so the training meeting can be spent covering the schedule and other details. The goal is to equip them to lead a great week of Vacation Bible School.
Adopting a strategy to keep your kids safe throughout the week of VBS is extremely important.
- Background checks are a must. It’s never been more important to know who volunteers, serves, works, and cares for your children and youth.
- Every volunteer needs to be issued an ID on a lanyard, and they must be worn from the time they walk in the door until they depart.
- Consider using two-part sticker labels at your check-in station that serve as security “claim tickets” for all of the children participating in VBS. One part is attached to the child’s back and the other is kept by the parent or guardian. The same number is printed on each part, ensuring the child is picked up by the right person.
- What’s your daily VBS departure strategy? Control how children exit your church and instruct parents where to meet their children to go home, all the while being supervised by your leaders. Remember the children will be excited and it will be loud and chaotic, so minimizing distractions will be helpful.
- If you do not have a security guard on the premises at your church or VBS location, inquire about hiring one for the duration of your program. Our children are accustomed to seeing the officers at schools, and this shouldn’t be any different.
- Enlist a couple of volunteers to walk the church premises together for monitoring purposes.
- You can also reach out to the local police department and ask them to patrol the parking lots during your VBS. Be sure to acknowledge and thank them for this community service with a goodie each day.
In addition to providing families with a first-rate VBS experience, you can further build those relationships by sending them a quick thank you for choosing you to invest in their childrens’ lives.
- Contact children and their families who attended within one week after VBS.
- Sending families a link to your website with a highlight reel of the VBS week will be an additional outreach moment to help bring them into consistent fellowship with you.
- Timing is critical to your follow-up. Each leader along with their helpers can be in charge of their own group. This will make it both efficient and personal to each child.
- And, don’t forget to show your volunteers genuine appreciation with personalized thank-you notes immediately after VBS is over. Edify and lift them according to 1 Thessalonians 5:11-13.
Get excited! Vacation Bible School is one of the greatest opportunities your church offers to reach children and their families in your community with the Gospel of Christ- what a ministry! We just want to say thank you for what you are planning and doing to shine your light, provide hope, and point the next generation to our Savior.
As Vice President of Sales and Business Development, Thomas is responsible for the company’s overall sales production through multiple sales channels. Born and raised in Florence, S.C., Thomas has over 20 years of experience in sales and marketing leadership. He holds a business degree and is pursuing an Organizational Leadership degree. He loves seeing people move outside their comfort zone and exceed their goals. In addition to his work at ACS Technologies, he volunteers with several organizations, including a local ministry in Florence.