Christmas tunes may be in this week’s Spotify playlist of choice, but summer planning is a necessary endeavor now to save energy and minimize stress down the road. If the average VBS program in a local church occupies 2-3 hours each day for 3-5 days, that’s anywhere from 6-15 hours with kids. In terms of weekend planning, it’s months of programming concentrated into a very short amount of time.
Overwhelmed yet? Easily so.
Everyone has those Sundays checking your watch wondering if the sermon is ever going to end. Kids can go plum crazy when lunch time arrives and the parents haven’t. The thought of tripling or even quadrupling the ministry output is a lot to consider. But done right, you can also raise the level of ministry impact exponentially.
One of the reasons a VBS programs can kickstart ministry is connections. Even with perfect attendance, there’s a minimum of 6 days between each point of contact on Sundays. You might use VBS as a longer arc ministry program to develop deeper connections between:
- kids and Christ
- kids and church
- kids and SGL’s [small group leaders]
- kids and each other
Check out these 6 tips for designing and facilitating great connections through VBS to make sure EVERY CHILD BELONGS!
- Announce early: Parents might plan weekend camping trips one week prior. Cruises, airfare, and Disney require long-range planning. Make sure your VBS plans include a clever “save the date” for families so they can purpose VBS participation in their summer schedules. This also gives them info necessary to invite friends, neighbors, and even cousins – fostering early connections.
- Cast vision: Vision is important for any ministry endeavor. With VBS, cast vision to parents. Help parents be aware of and excited about the Bible truths kids will encounter as well as the relationships they’ll develop. With VBS, cast vision to leaders. Invite your current SGLs and other ministry volunteers to serve at VBS to build even stronger connections with the group they already lead on weekends. Finally, cast vision with kids. If you create the kind of buzz around VBS that kids don’t want to miss, your marketing will multiply.
- Be intentional: VBS can be a program that shuffles large groups of kids like cattle from one activity to the next. Oh, and don’t forget the kingdom impact from snacks. Stop and dream about how VBS can also serve to develop deeper relationships where kids are truly known. You’ll have to be intentional to keep small groups small and to keep vested leaders with their groups for that to happen. It will take better planning. It will take targeted recruitment. It will take tighter kid/leader ratios than you’ve ever utilized before, but it will be worth it for groups to be smaller and for each child to truly belong.
- Mind the gaps: VBS can be an asset as kids transition between ministry areas. The move from preschool to elementary or elementary to middle school can lead to ministry drop out if you aren’t careful. Strategize how you might use VBS as a tool to smooth out the bumps. What if middle school ministry owned 5th grade VBS? Almost as an initiation or orientation to middle school? What if your kindergarten small group leaders partnered with preschool teachers as co-leaders for rising kindergarten kids to provide a level of security and familiarity for the week?
- Widen the net: Six days between Sundays is just enough time to develop anxiety about going back, diving in, and making lasting connections. To a child with special needs who craves consistency, a weeklong VBS program might provide just enough routine to help them acclimate to church, feel comfortable with leaders, and confident in their environment. Making connections at VBS can yield major ministry dividends in programming all year.
- Be specific: Quick confession. I’m burdened by the kids who attend weekend services but always stick with their parents in the adult gathering. I’m convinced that if they would just try kidmin once, they’d love it. Consider what a drop off VBS might mean for those kids. With their parents’ exit, they have no choice but to participate with their age group. What if VBS week could help them establish a necessary friendship, trust a leader, and enjoy a ministry program so much that Sundays became a natural connection point for them? What if VBS could help those kids belong?
VBS has always been heralded as one of the most evangelistic weeks of a ministry calendar. That may be true. Teaching God’s word for the purpose of discipleship is no slouchy goal either. But what about simply making lasting relational connections? Purposed well, connecting to peers and leaders during a weeklong program for a third grader might give them the foundation for community and support they’ll need when life hits hard and choices get big down the road. Your VBS connections can really matter much in the long term life of every kid, when they’re known, loved, and led–when they truly belong.
Check out the BRAND NEW VBS offering from Orange for 2016 – WALK THIS WAY! Your kids will take a journey with Paul and ask the same questions he asked – making some incredible discoveries along the way!
Nic Allen is the Family Pastor at Rolling Hills Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee, where he leads the NextGen Team. He and his wife Susan are loving life raising three kids, Lillie Cate, Nora Blake and Simon, along with an uncooperative Golden Doodle, Sunny.
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