Vacation Bible School is exhausting. Whether you are a large church or a very small church, VBS requires an enormous investment of time, energy, and money. Every church I know still makes an attempt to have one, but it is rare for any church to really evaluate the effectiveness. I remember when the church where I serve as an elder had about given up on VBS. The same small number of volunteers did most of the work, it was mostly a great chance for parents – both in church and outside of our faith family – to get some free babysitting, and even most of our leadership did not participate. But now it is one of our most vibrant and effective ministries. Record crowds, large number of visitors, major congregational involvement, and even conversions.
So let me share with you three ideas that really made a difference for us. Perhaps they will be worth trying in your congregation.
Expect every member to be involved. Every one. They can teach, work in registration, clean-up, provide meals for the volunteers, write a check, sing, act in skits or musicals, work in set-up, or contact those who visit. We promote VBS in our Sunday assembly. Snippets of the skits, or VBS songs, or pictures or videos from the year before. We celebrate it afterward. Public thanks from elders, welcome to visitors, more pictures, singing, and videos.
Make it a family VBS. No more dropping off kids for a couple of hours. If your kids come, you stay. Invite entire families to come. And if you bring neighborhood kids, you stay. So what do the adults do who are not teaching VBS? Go to class just like everyone else. We have an adult class on the same topics that the kids study. Use your local preacher or members, or use this as an opportunity to use visiting preachers. You may even want your class to be geared toward visitors. Evangelistic VBS! You can have a teenage class or invite them into the adult class. Or encourage your teens to participate as teachers or class leaders. For some, it becomes their first exposure to teaching others about God.
It is important to us that visitors know we are a safe place. So we have background checks for teachers, security teams, bathroom monitors, and door watchers. In fact, if you are an adult at VBS, you’d better have on the official T-shirt, a costume, or the wristband adults get when they register. And yes, every child and adult must register.
Expect, encourage, and exhort all of your members to attend. Crowds build excitement. Generational fellowship is modeled. Everyone sees what is happening. More members can greet and welcome visitors.
Raise expectations for member involvement. Shift the emphasis to a family VBS. Encourage everyone to attend.
Is Vacation Bible School worth it? You may find out that VBS is not only worth it, but that it one of the most important ministries in the life of your congregation. It offers growth for your members and witnessing opportunities in your community.
All to the glory of God.
Steve loves to tell the story of Jesus. He is the Director of Ministry for Hope for Life, a Herald of Truth Ministry, and serves as an elder at the Southern Hills church of Christ in Abilene, TX. He is a popular speaker for Lectureships, seminars, and retreats, and his latest book is “Can I Tell You a Story?” He and his wife Marsha have two children and five grandchildren.