Well brothers and sisters it’s that time of year again! Summer is just around the corner and that means Vacation Bible School (VBS) is upon us. We’re adding some new planning tips and strategies to consider this year, as we have done with the past VBS planning posts, which will help make your VBS go smoothly!
Here are a few tips to help you prepare:
Prayerfully Consider Your Teams, Theme, & Timelines (6-12 months out)
As any church event should begin, start with prayer. Prayerfully consider your VBS program director and leaders, then select the best candidate that God has inspired for your church. Work with the new director to pull together a team of dedicated leaders and pray for them.
Once your team is ready you can choose a VBS curriculum and order a starter kit. Most publishers run sales on their kits starting early in the first quarter, and Christian bookstores like Lifeway often have the kits on hand so you can look through to help make a choice.
When your VBS kit arrives, you can get down to the real planning, such as recruitment, training, and requesting donations of money and supplies.
Recruiting & Registration (3-6 months out)
Finding dynamic, kid-friendly personalities can be a challenge. It’s also one of the reasons that the kids get used to seeing a lot of the same faces each year. Keep in mind that it’s always important to try and bring new volunteers into the fold, not only to avoid burnout, but often to reveal undiscovered spiritual gifts.
At this point, you should have a curriculum mapped out including supplies needed for each day & event, as well as how many volunteers you’ll need for each station. Communicating with the leadership of the church regarding any budgetary needs is also very important during this time.
Fundraising through events like trivia nights, silent auctions, and church meals is a great way to raise money for the program to cover costs that might exceed your church’s budgetary limitations. At our church we hold a trivia night and silent auction at the same time, where the questions relate to the theme of the VBS program. We register teams from the church members who then compete that night for an actual trophy that is displayed throughout the year in a common area of the church. This year we’re using Group Publishing’s Cave Quest theme, so all of the questions will relate to caves in some way based on Trivial Pursuit style categories.
Promoting the VBS program and keeping the community and the congregation in the loop is incredibly important. Churches vary on whether or not to charge for Vacation Bible School programs, so be sure to make your position clear from the beginning as it can help with fundraising.
Don’t forget to start allowing families to register their children around 3 months out. Today’s busy families start mapping out their summer plans in the spring, so be sure to allow registration – and make it easy! Consider using a system like Elexio Deluxe Suite or Essentials Giving that enable online event registration for programs like VBS. These systems can even process payments, if needed.
Training, Promotions, & Production (0-3 months out)
Don’t wait until the last minute on any of these. With the latest changes to law, at least where I’m at in Pennsylvania, requirements on volunteers for background checks and training are time-intensive and involved for whomever is coordinating VBS.
Elexio’s integrated background check system can help reduce some of that workload, but you definitely don’t want to take this to the last minute. Finding volunteers can be a challenge for many churches.
Training is important, too. Not only can you begin to identify a volunteer’s strengths and weaknesses, training will help both of you identify the best station or place for that volunteer to help. Many programs offer training materials, but churches can and should also include their own guidelines that are required by both state and federal laws, as well as any additional requirements from within your own denominations.
Pre-registration should be well underway at this point, and you should be able to start building group rosters and assigning volunteers.
Depending on how involved your decorations will be, 3 months before launch can be a good time to start assessing your needs for decorations and any sets. Last year, we ran Group’s “Everest” program and we started planning and buying materials around 3 months out. Within 2 months of our program we began building our set pieces, like small mountains, holding routine set building days for a few hours each Saturday.
Finals & Follow-Up (Last few weeks & Program)
During the last few weeks you should be pretty much ready, just putting the finishing touches on training, set building and decorations, or any last minute volunteer recruitment.
The last week before is always a rush. Many decorations and set pieces cannot move into place until the day you launch the program, and many times our volunteers are turning in clearances and paperwork at the last second. That doesn’t even take into consideration the mass of registrations that will all happen the “day of”.
For these reasons, we recommend scheduling a time of group prayer before you enter into the fray and welcome all of those young souls into your fold.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
Ensuring that you have the right tools will make VBS planning easier. Elexio offers the tools needed to track incredibly useful information, like:
- Who have been our key donors?
- Who has the spiritual gifts appropriate for this kind of ministry?
- Who has volunteered in the past?
- Who has registered in the past?
- How much have we spent before, and on what?
Even better, when you can pre-register families through a web form and even take payment, you’ve effectively reduced the workload of your registration volunteers.
Take a closer look at Elexio church software solutions today and you’ll find out how you can focus on your ministry, not the management.