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Is It Ever Too Early to Start Planning VBS?

God works through His Word in VBS to bring children and families to both believe and grow in faith in the Lord and Savior Jesus. God works as we share His love with children and families.VBS is a dynamic, energetic, Jesus-in-the-center program that kids and leaders love! But it can be an exhausting marathon of planning! Why do VBS? God works through His Word in VBS to bring children and families to both believe and grow in faith in the Lord and Savior Jesus. God works as we share His love with children and families. VBS is worth the effort. Even so, it is also worth it to ask the question: Is it ever too early to start planning VBS?

YES!

Before switching focus to the next year’s VBS, maximize this year’s VBS experience with these helpful wrap-up activities.

Celebrate first. Identify, reflect, and celebrate the VBS that has happened. Don’t let the thoughts of next year distract from the blessings of God’s work in the most recent VBS. Recognize and thank volunteers; share the story of a great VBS; enjoy a job well done!

Solidify relationships. Follow up with “new to you” students and families. Follow up with VBS leaders who have gained skills. Check in with them about participation next year. Point out the skills gained. Identify areas of concern or barriers to volunteering that have solutions.

store decorations and propsMine new opportunities and archive assets. Plan ways to use VBS songs, skills, and innovative practices in Sunday school, elementary school, and other programs. Carefully store physical resources like decorations, props, song CDs and music sheets, and the like. Save your student and staff contact lists for use next year.

Take a break. Spend some time being and not doing. Listen, watch, and appreciate. Reflect on the “why” of VBS and rejoice at God’s work. But if VBS has taken over your life, resume a normal schedule. Assess your level of healthy exercise, eating, and sleep post-VBS. You’ll be able to start the next VBS with fresh eyes and renewed energy.

NO!

Successful VBS programs can be a 12-month endeavor! Keep your “why” in mind and invest in these three areas.


KIDS

Get to know kids. VBS is an opportunity to connect with kids in unique ways. Get to know “your” kids better and begin relationships with “new to you” children. Kids are kids, but the VBS environment is radically different from Sunday morning. Talking with kids and the friends they’ve brought can provide insights. The benefits last long after VBS ends.

It’s never too early to encourage kids to see VBS as a place to bring friends and together hear God’s Word, learn about Jesus, receive His grace and forgiveness.Support kids on a mission. VBS is a great place for kids to bring their friends to learn more about Jesus. It’s never too early to encourage kids to see VBS as a place to bring friends and together hear God’s Word, learn about Jesus, receive His grace and forgiveness. Spending time with kids and friends will keep you connected to their attitudes and dispositions and give you insight into how to support them and provide more opportunities for them to share the gospel with others and grow in faith too.

PARENTS

parent volunteerGet to know the parents at VBS. Have your pastor or another hospitable person at the primary entrance to welcome and bid farewell to everyone each day of VBS. Affirm your joy in serving their children and them. Including the theme of the day in your conversation is one more reinforcement of God’s good news in VBS. Communicate the gifts God is giving their family through VBS. God works in VBS to grow faith in Jesus our Savior, dig into the Bible, learn songs of praise, and grow friendships with Christians. The experience of VBS makes a difference now and forever!

Keep in touch. Make plans to keep in touch with VBS parents from last summer. Invite “new to you” families (and every other family!) to winter and spring events and VBS next summer. Personal invitations with specific information can make a difference! Keep your eyes open for opportunities to connect and encourage connections with other parents in your church.

What about parents who see VBS as free child care? See them as an opportunity. VBS is a lot more than fun and free childcare. If parents are willing to send their children to learn about Jesus for 15 hours, that's fine with me! However, in the back of my mind for those “Woo-hoo! No kids!” moms is to turn them into a VBS volunteer some day! When you practice good self-care physically and spiritually, you can be generous and happy for parents who see VBS as self-care for themselves and a great place for their kids. It’s a compliment!

parachute fun at vbsVOLUNTEERS

Support, encourage, and recruit volunteers for next year. Sign up willing participants for next year! Encourage volunteers and share the examples of Christ-like attitudes and behaviors during their service in VBS. In addition to interactions with children, look for how they encourage and interact with parents and other volunteers. Let them know the value of their service in Jesus’ name.

Keep a positive VBS culture. Frame the VBS experience in a way that recognizes the effort and sacrifice but also celebrates the blessings. Take VBS to the Lord in prayer, asking His guidance and wisdom. If you have a family, thank them for the sacrifices they may have made and at the same time rejoice at the fun VBS brings into your lives.

Do VBS “friend-raising” all year long. VBS ministry has many friends. Make more friends! Tell VBS stories of insights from children, share thankful comments received from parents, and listen to stories about VBS service from volunteers. Volunteers engage in volunteer recruitment when they encourage their friends to volunteer too.

Start early. Publicize your next VBS dates as soon as possible so people can save the date! Set a meeting in January for committed leaders who want to plan early. Volunteers that love decorating often want to know about next year’s theme to begin collecting ideas and resources. They may construct sets and scout garage sales all year long! Support them!

VBS is a great entry level for volunteers to experience ministry and develop skills to serve. Prepare first-time volunteers for a larger role. Build skills and extend service. VBS builds skills. VBS is a great entry level for volunteers to experience ministry and develop skills to serve. Prepare first-time volunteers for a larger role. Encourage them to watch and learn. Watching other leaders tell Bible stories, lead songs or crafts, serve snacks, and register kids allows people to identify their skills and interests for service. Connect them with similar ministries where their skills are needed.

Reflect with your pastor. Get your pastor’s view of VBS—identify the new opportunities and challenges. Figure out next steps for various ministry teams and/or individuals including lists of families to invite to events, people with common interests to encourage.

Think beyond the VBS box. Take care of valuable and reusable materials. Ask volunteers to carefully store decorations, costumes, and VBS basics like signs, donation tubs, and craft supplies. Identify VBS resources that might be useful for other programs. Those decorations and costumes you just stored can show up in other ways. Songs, structure, and procedures from VBS may help other ministries function better. And the joy of VBS is beneficial in every ministry!

Whether you plan VBS all year or not, keep your focus on the way this program can share the good news of Jesus with kids, their families, and your congregation. May Jesus bless you with an overflowing measure of His joy as you serve!

Pam Nummela recently retired as senior editor of VBS for Concordia Publishing House. A teacher and Director of Christian Education, she’s thankful for how God has worked in her as a VBS student, volunteer, director of large and small VBS programs, and as editor. Jesus + VBS = JOY!

Photos © Kathryn Brewer, iStock/Ondine32, iStock/solstock