Grow Your VBS In 5 Easy Steps
By Chuck Warnock
Now’s a good time to launch your program. Here’s how one small church did it.
Believe it or not, Vacation Bible School (VBS) planning time is just around the corner, and with that in mind I want to share a turning point experience in my own VBS planning. Three and a half years ago, in June 2004, 1 was the new pastor of a small church in a small town. Every year, four churches from the area would participate in a community wide VBS together. About 60 kids and several church leaders were involved. The community, wide VBS is a long-standing tradition in our town and it’s a good one. But, as the new pastor in town, I thought we could reach more kids and families with some simple changes. In 2005, we enrolled more than 200 kids with an average daily attendance of 181. It has grown even more since.
Here’s How We Did It
1 We changed the time from morning to evening. Even though we’re in a small town, our folks have the same time pressures as those in a big city. We wanted the entire family ro attend, and working moms and dads usually can’t make it to morning VBS. So, we changed our schedule and ran VBS from 6 to 8 p.m. each evening. In 2006, we added a snack supper at 5:30 p.m. and that helped busy moms, too.
2 We promoted VBS as an intergenerational event. We wanted the whole family to attend—moms, dads, kids, grandparents, cousins. Everybody was welcome. Having intergenerational VBS also eliminated the need for a nursery, as children under three years old had to have a parent present.
3 We moved VBS outside. I can hear the groans now: “But it’s hot here in June!” True, but we did n’t have an inside space large enough for 200 people. And it was hot, but we had plenty of water available. An unintended consequence was that we had no discipline problems at all. Kids and adults all had a blast!
4 We dressed in Bible costumes. ‘I hat’s right, in the heat of the Virginia summer everybody was wearing a Bible costume—tunic, head scarf, sandals, the whole deal. We provided extra-large T-shirts for kids who needed a costume, and we scrounged scrap material for headbands, belts and sashes.
5 We ditched the “performance” at the end of the week. Many VBS programs have a performance for the parents at the end of the week. We believed the entire week was a drama in itself, with parents and kids participating. “I he last night we concluded in a “celebration circle”—standing in a circular formation in one large room—singing songs we had grown to love during the week. More importantly, we didn’t consume valuable VBS time each day rehearsing for a program. We lived the story every day.
Of course, VBS involves a lot more than these five steps, but for us, they made all the difference. Each year that we’ve repeated this approach, we’ve seen even higher attendance. At the same time, I encourage you not to be afraid to reevaluate your ministry in light of new ideas or resources. Small churches can put together programs that have big impact. But to make the most of the opportunity, start making plans now.
This article “Grow Your VBS In 5 Easy Steps” written by Chuck Warnock is excerpted from Outreach Magazine the January/February 2008 edition.