Thursday, February 29, 2024

Plan for Your 2024 VBS to Be Truly Effective

For many years, since 1894, churches across the country and around the world have made Vacation Bible School a regular part of their Children's Ministry. But, as we enter 2024, is VBS still a tried and true part of the ministry year for most churches? Is it too "old fashioned"? Should we continue to put the time, work, and resources into VBS? 

I believe VBS continues to be an effective way for us to engage children, encourage strong friendships, and equip and encourage parents and grandparents to hand down the faith - especially if you use Group Publishing's VBS resources. It is worth the time, work and resources, so today I want to offer ideas of ways to make your VBS a truly effective part of your Children's Ministry. 

But, as with anything you do in your Children's Ministry, I do believe it is important for you to know the "why" when it comes to VBS. As you prepare for this year’s VBS stop and ask a very important question. "Why are we planning VBS for Summer 2024?" If your answer is, “Because we always have VBS”, then you should seriously consider breaking the mold and not invest dollars, time, and energy in VBS 2024. 

Not the question/answer you anticipated? Well, if this was your answer, instead of canceling VBS you could also consider giving prayerful thought and consideration to the “Why” of VBS. What is your reason, purpose, and goal for having VBS? When you identify a specific purpose for VBS, then you’re ready to determine the best design and curriculum “fit”, but your first question must be, “Why are we planning a VBS?” Typically your answer will involve one or two goals/purposes or a combination of several.
  • Purpose/Goal #1 – Evangelism
    • VBS is the year’s primary evangelism outreach for many churches. There’s good reason for this as VBS provides the opportunity, environment, and resources to reach children in your church and community with the message of Jesus’ love, grace, and forgiveness! Many adults say VBS is when they responded to Jesus’ message! This is one reason adults will volunteer for VBS when they may hesitate to do so at other times throughout the year.
  • Purpose/Goal #2 – Equipping children to understand and live God’s Word
    • If children in your VBS have already made the decision to accept Jesus’ message, you may want to focus on engaging and equipping them to understand and live God’s Word. Yes, we want VBS to be fun and want children to enjoy the songs, games, and crafts, but there’s a purpose to this fun – children need to understand, remember, and live God’s Word so they’ll take it outside the doors of the church to really live it in their everyday lives!
  • Purpose/Goal #3 – Evangelism and Equipping children to live God’s Word
    • If you have a mix of children in your VBS – children who don’t know Jesus and children who do; you may want a combined goal/purpose. Or, if you primarily have children who know Jesus, but are also planning to re-use the VBS on a youth mission project or other service opportunity, you may want to focus on both goals/purposes.
  • Purpose/Goal #4 – Help children build strong friendships
    • This is one of the essential purposes for our Children's Ministry. As children grow older, we want them to have friends who believe, friends who will encourage them to make wise choices. Friends who are learning to know and walk with God. VBS is an excellent opportunity to encourage these important friendships.
  • Purpose/Goal #5 – Equip and Encourage parents & grandparents as they hand down the faith
    • One of the wonderful things about VBS resources is most publishers include tools to equip parents and grandparents by helping them know what the children are learning and by providing ways to continue the learning at home. When we make a "big deal" about these resources, and encourage parents and grandparents to use them, we are equipping them to hand down the faith.
Once you determine your primary purpose/goal for VBS 2024 take time to consider the following steps to help you do all you are able to do to accomplish your goal.

1. Put your goal in words and get it out before the eyes and heart of your congregation in advance of VBS.
a. Make posters for your walls
b. Make bookmarks and put them in bulletins, at your visitor/information booth, and provide for all CE classes.
c. Ask everyone to pray for VBS with this primary purpose/goal in mind.
2. Evaluate and select your VBS curriculum based on if it provides the tools to accomplish your goal/purpose.
a. Evangelism focus - are there opportunities each day for children to understand what it means to accept Jesus’ love, grace and forgiveness and does it provide opportunity to do so?
b. Living God’s Word focus - does your curriculum provide opportunity each day for children to understand God’s Word? Are there specific daily activities so children experience living what they learn? Is time provided daily for small groups to talk about what they did to live the previous day’s lesson?
c. Both goals focus - does your curriculum provide opportunity each day for you to share Jesus with children as well as strong features to equip children to understand and live God’s Word?
d. How does the curriculum encourage strong friendships? Does it provide specific time for children to connect in small groups? How will your church continue these connections beyond your VBS?
e. What resources are provided for you to use to equip and encourage parents and grandparents in handing down the faith?
3. Along with training your volunteers on safety and schedule, focus your training so volunteers are on-board with your goal/purpose and are ready to assist children accordingly –
a. Evangelism goal - focus on training your volunteers so they know how to simply and effectively share the message of Jesus with children. Caution against pressuring a child to make a decision they do not understand, but encourage volunteers the salvation decision is one a child can make!
b. Living God’s Word – focus training on providing opportunity for volunteers to practice talking about how to live daily Bible points and encourage them to track what they do between training and the start of your VBS to live those points! If volunteers are able to share how they lived God’s Word, children will be able to better see God’s Word is something they can live in their real lives, too!
c. Combined goal/purpose - include both focuses when training volunteers.
d. Be sure your volunteers are watching for opportunities to encourage friendships and know how to use small group time to do this.
e. Prepare your volunteers to be ready to encourage parents and grandparents to use the resources provided for them.
4. Share VBS results with your church family and plan effective follow-up so you are able to build on the Biblical foundation laid during VBS. Keep in mind –
a. Some decisions for Jesus may be made in the weeks and months following your VBS!
b. We certainly want to be able to continue encouraging children all year long to take God’s Word out the doors of your church and live it in their everyday lives!
c. Continue to encourage friendships and equip and encourage parents and grandparents to hand down the faith.

Just because it is 2024, do not assume VBS is too Old Fashioned to be of any use in your ministry. It continues to be an effective ministry opportunity - consider how it is able to help you accomplish these five important goals for your Children's Ministry - and one of the reasons I reviewed Group's VBS this year is because it is prayerfully designed to equip you to accomplish all of these goals. Check my reviews of SCUBA VBS, Hometown Nazareth, and Outback Rock and then look for ways to use one, two, or all three of these resources in your ministry.

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