Vacation Bible School brings kids together every summer for a fun-filled week of adventure, crafts, and learning God’s Word. If your church is offering its own program this year, here are a few steps on how to pull off an amazing VBS even if you haven’t started planning yet.
Step #1: Decide on the Basics
Before you do anything, choose the when, where, and how of your VBS week. This checklist will help to keep you focused on the basics:
- Dates — VBS is typically one week during the summer months.
- Location — Do you have capacity at your church or will you need to find a larger meeting place?
- Budget — Details of planning VBS can easily get out of hand. Creating a budget will help you to stay focused on the important items and leave out unnecessary extras.
- Fees — Will you charge a fee? If so, how much?
- Registration — Determine how you want people to register their kids for VBS (online, paper form, etc.)
- Curriculum — Save yourself time and energy by purchasing a curriculum. Here are a couple of popular options:
Step #2: Gather a Planning Team
Now that you’ve created the outline of your plan, assemble a group of staff and volunteers for your VBS planning team. A handful of team members should be enough, but it’s a good idea to gather individuals with an interest and passion for VBS.
Step #3: Create the Plan
There are so many elements that go into planning any event, especially one that lasts an entire week. To help you stay organized, try breaking down your “to-dos” into categories like these:
This includes creating graphics for promotional materials, website updates, online event registration, video announcements, and anything else that requires some form of digital or printed communication. Work with your church’s communications team to develop a plan to invite those in the congregation and community. A comprehensive plan should consider Facebook ads, billboards, announcements on local news outlets, as well as outdoor signage at your church.
Most likely, your VBS program will be held on location at your church. If so, discuss which rooms you will need for the week. Based on the curriculum you’re using, provide details on how each room should be set up with tables, chairs, audio/visual, and craft material. Also, address whether or not you’ll want any additional signage throughout the facility.
What kind of meals and snacks will you be preparing each day? Create a menu and make sure you have enough people with food handler permits to help prepare the food. Include a field in the registration form to ask about any food sensitivities and create a process for how to ensure those are followed during VBS.
Referring again to your curriculum, as many have themes, determine what decorations you’ll need for the main stage, classrooms, and central areas of your church.
Make a list of the volunteer roles needed to prepare for VBS (setting up the week or weekend before) and throughout VBS week. Tips to getting volunteers:
- Create a brief “job description” for each volunteer role.
- Determine how many volunteers you’ll need in each role.
- Start inviting current weekly/monthly volunteers to serve in these roles.
- Email parents to ask for volunteers.
- Decide which volunteer roles must complete a background check before serving at VBS.
Hands-on crafts and activities are a major part of the VBS experience. They also come with a list of materials. Figure out what supplies you’ll need to purchase for these crafts or any other take-home items, such as a Scripture-verse-of-the-day card.
Every event, especially one involving children, needs a safety plan in place. Be sure to have adequate first aid supplies and procedures, security, and emergency evacuation plans.
Though each church’s VBS program is different, here are a few common considerations as you finalize your plan:
- Send out a photo release form for parents to sign. The easiest way to handle this is to include it with the registration process.
- Create a method for following up with families whose children attended VBS but aren’t active in your church.
- Conduct a lessons-learned meeting with your team after the event.
- Celebrate a successful VBS with the church and as a planning team.
- Send handwritten thank-you notes to VBS volunteers.
- Review this list for a few more elements to consider as you start planning.
Step #4: Work the Plan
Your plan is set, now divvy up tasks amongst team members and set deadlines for each. I recommend using a project management tool — such as Asana, Teamwork, or Basecamp — to communicate deadlines, track progress, and provide additional information to your team in one centralized location.
Step #5: Enjoy a Successful Vacation Bible School Week
One of the first rules of event planning is to be flexible. Things happen and not everything is going to go off without a hitch. Because of this, it’s a great idea to set up a Command Center where staff and volunteers can come to ask questions and get help troubleshooting issues throughout VBS week.
Step #6: Celebrate and Recognize
Phew! You just pulled off an amazing VBS week! Celebrate your team’s success by hosting a party for all your VBS staff and volunteers. This can be a simple dinner-out to close out the week or a small gathering with yummy goodies and a huge “thank you” to everyone involved. And be sure to recognize your hard-working team in Sunday’s service!
Step #7: Conduct a Lessons-Learned Meeting
Though your program will mostly be successful, it won’t be perfect. Invite parents, volunteers, and church staff to join you for a meeting to discuss what went well and what to improve upon for next year.
Step #8: Create a Vacation Bible School Planning Notebook
If you used this plan this year, then you’ve already got your plan for next year. Organize all planning documents, vendor contracts, volunteer job descriptions, and other key items in a notebook or binder to make planning next year’s VBS week that much easier.
As you get into these warmer months, which typically come with a host of summer activities, camps, and events, remember that Vacation Bible School is an opportunity to connect with church members and non-church members in a relaxed, exciting environment. If you make it fun, they will certainly come.
If you’d like a step-by-step guide to planning church events of any size, check out The Church Event Planning Toolkit book. At only $14.99, it’s an inexpensive resource that can save your church time and money. Get your copy today.