How Do I Choose a VBS Program?

It’s only February, but summer’s comin’ and with it, a staple in many Children’s Ministry programs: Vacation Bible School. It’s not too early to start thinking about VBS.  But which one?  There are truck loads of options out there.  Making a selection can make your head spin.  How do you choose a VBS theme or program that will engage your kids, draw them to Jesus, and meet your goals and budget?  Here are some selection criteria from Tony Kummer:

Pray! This may seem obvious, but how often do we dive into a decision and ask  God about  it later?   Or come up with a plan and ask him to “bless” it, after-the-fact?  Go to God first. Pray. Listen.  Heed His direction.  You may hear something unexpected or unusual!   Next, ask:

- Does this VBS program share your theology?

- What about the quality of the lesson plans?  Is the material relevant, biblically sound, applicable to every-day life?  Is it fresh and engaging and kid-friendly?  Put yourself in kids shoes.  Ask  If I was a second or third or _____ grader, would I want to go to this?

- Determine your target audience.  Ages or grades?  How many?  Churched or unchurched?  Will preschoolers be included?  How will this program or theme reach your target audience?  What tools, resources and support are available?

- Determine your objectives for this year’s VBS.  Some churches give more time and thought to the next banquet menu than they do VBS.  Don’t be one of them.  Sit down with your team and ask:

~ What do we want to accomplish? What would like to see God do?  Do we want to see ten or 100 kids make decisions for Christ?  Bring new families into our church?  Grow our Sunday school?  Reach out to our neighborhood and community?  Get Christian kids rooted and grounded in their faith?

~ What’s your focus/emphasis/driving impetus?  Is it discipleship, evangelism, or apologetics?  Different programs have different emphases.  Choose one that coincides with and supports yours.

~ How will this VBS meet your ministry objectivesThe best way to miss a target is to aim at nothing. Be specific about why, how, who, where, when and what you want to accomplish with VBS.

- How does the publisher support the material? Does it offer training events, director’s and leader’s manuals, on-line support, DVDs?  What about follow-up?

- Music. Is the music appropriate, catchy, engaging and kid-friendly?  Do the songs convey the main theme and messages well?  Does a DVD accompany the curriculum so song leaders can learn and teach the music and motions?

- Is the program easy to use? Some VBS packages offer tons of “wows” and “oos and ahs” – but they may be so complex or intricate that the average volunteer may feel overwhelmed or inadequate. Don’t aim low, but don’t choose something that requires nine Ph.Ds to figure out and implement the basics, either.

- Price? How much does this VBS cost?  Is it within your budget?  Look out for hidden costs such as expensive craft or publicity kits, elaborate, pricey snack ideas, workbooks, etc.  A seemingly inexpensive program that requires lots of *extras* can quickly add up to big bucks if you need to make lots of additional purchases.

- Shelf-life. Can this curriculum be used elsewhere or again during the rest of the year?  How will you tie it in with your non-VBS ministry priorities, emphases and objectives?

By the way, you should select this summer’s VBS well before Easter, and preferably by New Year’s.  (A six month planning cycle is recommended.  You may adjust depending on the size of your church and community.  Click here for a sample VBS Planning Calendar.)  This gives you adequate time to pray,  plan, prepare, fund raise if necessary, publicize and recruit.  Your steering committee or planning team should already be in place.   Be sure to schedule at least one – and preferably two – staff training events for all volunteers so everyone’s “all on the same page.”   You can combine this event with a work party, potluck lunch or brunch, door belling or other publicity campaign, etc.  Use training events to develop and cultivate a “team” approach, brainstorm, prayer support, build cameraderie and relationships and some positive word-of-mouth P.R.  Speaking of P.R., don’t forget to send out press releases to your local paper and PSAs to your local radio station(s) – the sooner, the better!  As always, double-check everything!

A quick overview worth the listen from Tony Kummer:

Join us next time for How Do I Find a Primo VBS Director?

Also see: From VBS to Sunday school.

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