Genius Expert: Plan a Top-Notch Vacation Bible School

orange vbs vacation bible school planning church staff volunteers organization ministry summer

Amy Fenton is executive director of Orange VBS and Orange’s Live to Serve Conference. Amy served as a kids’ pastor for more than 18 years and has led staff and more than 400 volunteers at two churches. She has a passion for helping and empowering those who are leading children’s ministries around the country and a love for the volunteers who serve in churches.

orange vbs vacation bible school planning church staff volunteers organization ministry summer
Amy Fenton
SignUpGenius: What qualities do successful Vacation Bible School programs have in common?
Fenton: These are the top five qualities I’ve seen in successful VBS programs.

  1. Fun! Kids are attracted to fun — a fun environment, fun people, activities that help them interact with others and have FUN!
  2. A great curriculum. A great curriculum should provide you with the tools you need to create a fun experience while offering creative materials to help kids learn about the Bible and how it matters in their life. VBS week is a key time to lay such an important foundation.
  3. It must be well organized. Those who are successful ask well in advance: How will we recruit volunteers? How will we train volunteers? How will we register kids? How will we assign them to groups? How will we keep them safe?
  4. Safety. Safety must be a top priority! Kids need to be dropped off and picked up in the same space with the same person. Make sure there are security measures in place to ensure the person picking up is allowed to take that child home.
  5. Parent participation. VBS can be a great on-ramp to invite kids and families to become a part of your church on a weekly basis.
SUG: How can VBS leaders build strong connections with parents so that lessons being taught during the week are reinforced at home?orange vbs vacation bible school planning church staff volunteers organization ministry summer
Fenton: Our goal for Orange VBS is to partner with parents. For kids who are already in your church, we want their small group leader (or Sunday School teacher) to be a part of VBS. Giving them an outlet for fun with their weekly leader also allows their leader to connect with parents outside of Sunday morning. We believe that the influence of church and home are the two most powerful forces on the planet. We want to leverage those to see great things happen in kids’ lives! So, we provide tools to help leaders and parents connect. We have an app, a daily take home piece, a daily email, social media plans and more. The more you can engage the parent, the better!

SUG: What are some practical ways that churches can recruit and grow their volunteer base for VBS?
Fenton: Look to your current Sunday morning volunteers first. We want them to have an outlet for fun with their kids. We also want to use VBS as an opportunity for those who may be on the fence about serving with kids to have a chance to check out your children’s ministry. Make sure you start training at least two months in advance. Provide lots of information on how they can best lead their groups of kids. Make them feel like the VIPs that they are. You can’t pull off a great VBS without your volunteers. Show them lots of love and equip them well!
Genius Tip: Recruit craft assistants, music leaders, room teachers and more with a VBS volunteer sign up.

SUG: Can you share an example or two of ways that church staff have effectively worked with volunteers to plan VBS?
Fenton: Most of our churches that use Orange VBS have volunteer leadership teams that take each piece or part of VBS and own it. For example, the kids' pastor or director may lead the team meetings but have a volunteer lead that owns the daily crafts, missions, small groups or heads up the recreation team. Many churches even have a lead volunteer who will work hand in hand with staff to be the VBS director. Volunteers want to be asked to do something significant. Don’t hesitate to ask them to step up and own a part of your VBS.

SUG: Any tips on making VBS a fun and rewarding experience for the volunteers?
Fenton: Treat them like royalty! They are your secret sauce! Have a leader VIP room. Ask your church to host different days to provide food for them daily. Budget money for a gift for them. Ask parents to write a “thank you” note to their child’s leader at the end of the week. And when VBS is all said and done, host a party for them! You made it through a fun, exciting and challenging week loving on kids and families in your community. That deserves a celebration!

Thank you Amy for sharing your VBS wisdom! Using an Orange VBS curriculum this summer for VBS? Go to our branded sign up themes to view custom layouts. You’ll be able to assign an Orange VBS theme to your sign up in Step 2 of the creation wizard. And get more advice for organizing VBS with these 30 themes, games and ideas.

Create a Sign Up