The history of Vacation Bible School (VBS) dates back to 1898, when Walker Aylette Hawes of New York City’s East Side noted a rapid increase in the number of immigrant children in the slums. She rented a saloon and ran “Everyday Bible School” for six weeks in the summer. By the time she retired in 1901, Hawes was presiding over seven schools.
Since then, VBS has been called the most effective evangelism strategy in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). In 2006, VBS enrolled 3 million participants. Some churches today have up to 1,000 children enrolling in VBS. Today, VBS remains a great way to engage youths and bring children in the community together to play, learn, and seek biblical truths.
- The key to a great VBS program is planning. Start planning 4-6 months before the VBS. During this time, you will need to:
- Choose your dates and time, making sure that they do not clash with any church events.
- Vote and choose a VBS Director. While leadership experience in a children’s ministry is a plus, the director should have a passion for children and children’s ministry.
- Choose a theme. Consider your target audiences (preschoolers, children, youth, etc.), goals, ministry objectives, focus of the program, budget, etc.
- Three months before the VBS, you will focus your planning, order supplies, and shape the program through volunteers and materials. Here are some idea of what to do during this time:
- Set a budget.
- Recruit key leaders: Music, Snacks, Games, Bible Story, etc. and volunteers.
- Plan publicity strategies.
- List and order supplies for publicity, decorating, leaders manuals, and teaching.
- Schedule staff training meeting 4-6 weeks before the VBS.
- Two months before the VBS, you will begin to set the wheels in motion:
- Start publicity in church. Ask for donations of supplies your church members may have. Display outdoor banners and hang publicity posters in your church and community. Some VBS kits include a promotional DVD. Show it during a worship service or other church gathering.
- Plan the VBS schedule. Many programs run up to three hours a day with 20-25 minute sections.
- Review the staff members; recruit additional as needed.
- Four to six weeks before the VBS, you will be making your final preparations:
- Begin pre-registration
- Hold the scheduled staff training.
- Review the registration and order extra supplies as needed.
- A week before the VBS, you should:
- Assign pre-registered participants to their classes and departments
- Finalize room assignments
- Decorate the church and set up rooms
- Review and check all details: schedule, signs, supplies
- On the day before VBS:
- During VBS:
- Register participants as they arrive
- Make sure all volunteers are present
- Oversee all VBS activities
- Communicate with key leaders everyday to see how things are going
- Distribute evaluation forms and award certificates on the last day
- Thank and recognize volunteers at the awards/graduation ceremony
- Enjoy yourself!
- After VBS,
- Clean up and return the church building to its original arrangement
- Return/replace all supplies
- Follow up with children and new contacts.
- Throughout the process, communicate frequently with the key leaders. This is a team project; do not attempt to do it yourself.
- This project requires time, energy, and patience. Adjust as needed as unforeseen events will happen.