“How Do You Know”? Ask!

Congratulations! You made it!  Vacation Bible School is history.

It was a great week, huh?  Lots of excitement, tons of fun.  Creative crafts, lip-smackin’ snacks, catchy tunes, memorable Bible lessons, great games, and one-of-a-kind decorations!  Smiling kids.  New friends.  Changed lives.  Parents and kids are already looking forward to next year, right?

How do you know?

A one-word answer: Ask!

Some VBS Directors pour countless hours and tons of energy into a happenin’ VBS and never stop to ask:

  • How did we do?
  • Did we meet our goals?
  • How many kids were introduced to Jesus?
  • How many indicated interest in a deeper walk with Christ?
  • What was the daily attendance average?
  • How many unchurched kids were reached?
  • How many new families were welcomed into our church as a result of VBS?
  • How did God work in, through, and with the lives of staff, parents, relatives, and kids before, during and after VBS?
  • What was the “God story” of VBS?

How would people involved in your VBS respond to the above?  Do you know what they’d say – and why?  What tools or means do you make available to evaluate your VBS?  What were its strengths?  Areas for improvement?

Ask… and you shall receive…

A simple way of getting feedback is to distribute evaluations to all VBS staff on the last day of the program.  Include space for filling in name, contact info. and area (snacks, music, pre-school, leader/helper, Bible lesson, games, etc.), but make this info. optional.  People who were frustrated with VBS – for whatever reason – may be more likely to “vent” and express candid opinions if they have a chance to do so anonymously.  (The converse is that any flame-throwers can be easily dismissed if they refuse to identify themselves, so use your best judgment.)

Rate it

Ask VBS staff to rate each area of VBS from one (1) to five (5).  One = Poor and five = Outstanding.  Areas to include/evaluate might include:

  1. Overall
  • Were the materials activity-specific and easy to use?
  • Did they support and promote your philosophy of ministry?
  • Was the curriculum trustworthy, informative, engaging, relevant?
  • Were eye-catching, easily reproducible clip art and other graphics and promo items available?
  • Did it give you “bang for your buck”?
  • What about follow-up resources?
  • Was church leadership involved?  How?
  • Would you recommend this program to a friend or colleague?  Why or why not?
  1. 2. Opening and Closing:
  • Was the music catchy and kid-friendly?  Are songs designed to get the kids involved, singing along?
  • Did the motions make sense and communicate the overall message well?
  • Were the lyrics easy to learn?
  • Did the music reinforce each day’s Bible point/memory verse/theme?
  • 1. 3. Crafts
  • Could kids of all ages put the crafts together without getting frustrated or bored?  Were crafts cool and kid-friendly?
  • How much adult/teen supervision was needed?
  • Were materials easily obtained?  What about costs?
  • Did leader material  include clear, step-by-step, easy-to-follow instructions?
  1. 4. Bible lesson
  • Was the material age-appropriate?
  • Was it biblically sound?
  • Did it adequately convey the day’s theme?
  • How did the lessons reflect the “Big God Story” of His redemptive activity in humanity?  Was the curriculum personal and applicable?
  • Was the material engaging, did it appeal to several learning styles?
  • Were teaching sessions too long, too short, or just right?
  1. 5. Snacks
  • Were the snacks creative, tasty, fun to make?
  • Did they engage the kids and reinforce the day’s Bible lesson or theme?
  • What about cost?  Be careful here.  One kitchen crew complained about snacks being “too expensive.”  The overall price tag seemed high at first glace, but the actual cost was less than $1.00 per day, per kid.  Also consider that while the old standby of cookies and juice is quick, easy, and relatively cheap – it’s nothing special, creative,  or memorable, either.  (If cost is a significant concern, ask for donations of food items rather than paring down quality or creativity.)
  1. 6. Games/Recreation
  • Were games varied, interesting, energetic, and engaging?  (“Duck, duck, goose” is none of the above.)
  • Was every child who wanted to participate able to do so?
  • What about child safety?
  • Did games reinforce the daily Bible point/theme?
  • Was teamwork encouraged and fostered?
  1. 7. Decorations
  • Was material easy to get?  How about expense?
  • Were there enough volunteers to decorate?
  • How did the décor reflect the overall “theme and flavor” of the program?
  • Were decorations interesting, colorful, creative and appealing?  Did they generate interest, draw you inside and want to know more?
  • How could decorations be better next year?
  1. 8. Publicity
  • Was publicity adequate?  Did friends, neighbors, and the community hear about VBS?  How?  Who?
  • Were posters, hand-bills, flyers, press releases effective?
  • How many out-of-church kids registered as a result of publicity efforts, either in print or word of mouth?
  • How can we better publicize VBS next year?
  • Did publicity include pertinent details such as date, time, place, cost, ages, where and how to register, and a “for more info., contact”?  (Depending on the size of your church and the available manpower, it may be best to avoid using one individual as the sole contact.  We recommend listing the church office as the contact point for all VBS info.)
  • 2.0  Registration
  • Was Day 1 the usual zoo?  If so, how did you handle “walk-ins”?  How can you do better next year?
  • Was the registration area adequate, easily accessible and clearly identified?
  • Were greeters or crew leaders available to meet parents and kids each day, or guide newbies to the appropriate area or crew?
  • Were different teams or age groups clearly identified?
  • Was staff wearing T-shirts, badges, bandanas, hats or some other gear that easily identified them as “staff”?
  • Was on-line registration available and pre-registration encouraged?
  • Were “mixed age groups” encouraged – and did all workers understand the concept?
  • Did registration include a medical release, emergency contact, allergies as well as basic contact info.?  Was parental permission secured in writing for any photography or videotaping of children during VBS?  Make sure all registration forms are signed and dated by a parent or legal guardian.
  • Tip: unless otherwise specified, avoid placing siblings on the same team or group.  This was done in one VBS because flustered registration workers found it easier to lump all the kids (five) from one family onto the same team.  The result?  Bickering, back-biting, squabbling and sibling rivalry to beat the band.  This “quick fix” may have helped thin out a swamped registration table, but it wreaked havoc for everyone else – the crew leader, other kids in the group, and the siblings!  Take a few extra minutes and get it right.

3.0  Child Safety & Security

  • Were parents or legal guardians required to sign children in and out each day, or were kids just dropped off and picked up by “whoever”- !?
  • Were nationwide criminal background checks run on all VBS volunteers, age 13 and older?
  • If your VBS was at night, was the lighting adequate?  Parking lot patrolled, or kids escorted to parents’ cars?
  • If it was hot, was the air-conditioning or other cooling means adequate?  Was water available and accessible?
  • Was a two-adult rule in place at all times, in every area?
  • Was a nurse or first aid kits available?  How were accidents, illness or injuries addressed?

The “Acid Test”:

  • How many kids can’t wait for next year’s VBS – and plan to invite their friends?

These are just a few of the areas you might include in your own evaluation or debrief.  Whatever your approach, make sure you solicit frank feedback.  Be sure to summarize the results and distribute to church leadership and in other appropriate venues.

VBS staff put in time, talent, energy and effort by the truckload. Give them a chance to pipe up and have their say.  Also, don’t duplicate the same mistakes or mis-steps.  See goofs or snafus as opportunities to learn, grow, improve and be even better next year!

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