Vacation Bible School often evokes memories of silly songs and popsicle stick crosses, but behind all the fun was a group of faithful adults doing lots of planning. If you’re in the thick of planning VBS, remember these key tips to keep you on track.
1. Gather ideas. Often the theme of the week is decided on soon after the New Year so the curriculum can be purchased far in advance. If you are creating your own curriculum, getting your creative team together early is vital. By engaging the talents of those who are gifted as teachers and adept at making lesson plans, you can keep your VBS engaging and focused on a great Biblical theme.
2. Decide what to do early. A purchased curriculum will come with directions or a timeline for the people planning the VBS. Dont skip over this, as even the most seasoned VBS organizers can learn something from the information. Ask for tips from those who have helped plan in the past. Then, get some workdays on the calendar and start to spread the word!
3. Decide what can wait. Putting together class rosters and assigning teachers may be best left until closer to the VBS week due to schedule changes, last minute registrations, and cancellations. Also, sending out an email to confirm with registered families a week before VBS can serve as a great reminder to those who may have forgotten all about it and planned a visit to grandma's for the same week.
Recruit Volunteers with a Sign Up! SAMPLE
4. Gather people. Start with a team of trusted individuals to help you brainstorm a list of new names to reach out to for volunteer roles. Use the registration form to your advantage by also using it to collect names of parents who are interested in helping. Be careful not to burn out your most faithful volunteers if they need a break, and be sure to put the right people in the right places. You may need to ask around if you have never met a volunteer to make sure you don't mistakenly put Suzy prayer warrior in charge of messy games.
5. Tap into tech-savvy resources. Find a volunteer who is especially computer savvy and can be your tech wiz. Have them send out documents that can be edited by a group of grade-level teachers, create a slide presentation for a visiting missionary, or help create a link for sign ups on your church's webpage. SignUpGenius is a great way to handle VBS registration, payments and send reminder emails. The more information you can get in one spot, the better!
6. Line up subs and floaters. No, these aren't ocean-going vessels, but they will help keep your VBS afloat in case of an emergency! Have a list of substitutes that may not be able to commit for every day of VBS, but will jump in if a teacher is sick. Floaters are those flexible-types that can take over a classroom while a teacher takes break, or agree to come for part of the time to pray or help in a classroom where there may be some discipline issues.
Collect VBS Registration Fees on your sign up! SAMPLE
7. Train for PSS. What is PSS? It's a Potential Stressful Situation that can come up any time you combine a roomful of kids with lots of new experiences! How do you want volunteers to handle discipline issues? Where is the First Aid kit? Training your volunteers helps everyone get on the same page. Preparing your volunteers for the PSS of VBS will help them feel more confident when it's go-time.
8. Gather supplies. Materials typically fall into three categories: easy-to-find (like cotton balls and pipe cleaners), hard-to-find (things that might need to ordered like neon bandanas or Bible-themed pencils) and returnables (like a suitcase for a skit or a tent for a large group teaching time). Some easy-to-find things can be easily donated. Create a supply wish list on SignUpGenius early, so you know in advance what you still need as your VBS draws closer. Be sure to include drop-off time and location on your sign up, and send a reminder several days ahead!
9. Get ready. During the summer, families who would otherwise be willing to help may be at a family reunion or other non-negotiable commitment the same week as your VBS. A great way to utilize these volunteers is to offer workdays prior to the VBS, two months out, one month out, or more, depending on your need. Have families help assemble bags of craft items or make snack bags; it’s a great way to serve as a family even if attending VBS isn't an option. Schedule workdays or Q & A days for teachers in the weeks before VBS so everyone can hit the ground running.
10. And Go! Remember you can never communicate too much with your volunteers or with the parents of the children attending. Such things as sharing the snack menu to avoid allergy mix-ups and giving clear directions for drop-off and pick-up times will keep the stress level as low as possible for everyone.
Covering all the details in prayer is the best way to start (and end, and everywhere in between) your VBS journey. While the planning does require a lot of thought and organization, the true reward is knowing children are growing in their faith, seeing adults enjoy their faith, and of course, having fun too.
Julie David is married to a worship pastor and after 20 years in ministry together with three daughters, she is still developing the tender balance of thick skin and gracious heart. She currently leads a small group of high school junior girls.