9 Tips for Choosing a VBS Program

Choosing a VBSVBS is an important part of children’s ministry. VBS is an opportunity to reach out to the children in your community. It’s a chance to build relationships. Most importantly it’s an opportunity to share the gospel with children. How do you choose a VBS that will help you do that? There are so many options out there. There are options available from major publishing houses; there are new groups putting out VBS material; there are free VBS programs being written and made available.

How do you choose VBS material? How do you evaluate the material available and choose the right one for your kids?

Here are 9 tips:

1. One Stop for VBS Possibilities

In order to evaluate material you have to find the material. There are so many companies that put out VBS programs, it can be overwhelming. It is important to look at a bunch in order to find the right one. Tony Kumner at ministry-to-children.com has for the last few years put out a VBS page on his website where he outlines and sometimes reviews the VBS programs from the major publishing companies. It is super-convenient to have it all in one place.  He provides links to the specific VBS websites so you can check it out for yourself.

2. Always Look First At the Daily Themes and Bible Story

There is a huge temptation when looking for VBS material to get lost in the theme. The theme is important. It’s the hook that draws kids in. It provides the backdrop for decorations and games and crafts, but it’s not the most important part of VBS. The first thing to look at when choosing VBS material is always the daily themes and Bible story. Does this program teach Biblical truth? Does it teach the gospel? Is the gospel clearly, compellingly, accurately, and appropriately presented? Is the Bible significantly used?

3. Look for a Cohesive Program

As a package, how well does the rest of the program support the gospel message? Is the theme continued in the games, crafts, and snack times? Are the crafts made an opportunity for the kids to interact further with the Biblical theme? Will they be a reminder of what was taught? Are the games being played a chance for kids to have fun while interacting further with the Bible story or truth taught? Absolutely everything doesn’t have to be completely connected to the theme. Sometimes, the game is just for fun. But when you are evaluating VBS material, it’s important to look at how well the theme is used, highlighted, and developed in all the areas of the program.

4. Choose a VBS Theme that will Attract the Kids in your Community

A theme should attract the interest of the kids in your church & neighborhood and maintain that interest throughout the program. When looking at themes consider popular trends and fads; TV shows, movies, and video games that are currently capturing kids attention; and don’t neglect perennially popular themes. Look at what themes other churches in your area are using. Get inspiration from what is being offered. If there seems to be a theme that is being used by a number of churches consider doing something different. When looking at VBS programs ask, “Is the theme one that would attract the attention of kids and parents in my community?”

5. Choose a VBS Program That Fits the Size of Your Volunteer Base and Resources

Some VBS programs will look really appealing and exciting, but it just might not be possible to pull it off. Do you have the volunteers necessary to do that particular VBS really well? Do you have access to the resources necessary for this VBS program (game equipment, craft supplies and materials, decorations, and physical space?)

6. Compare the Cost of the VBS Program to Your Budget

Can you afford to purchase the VBS material? Look at the basic material provided and look carefully at the extras. Do you need them? Will you need to come up with your own craft ideas if you choose not to purchase the materials provided. Also look carefully at the games, crafts, and snack suggestions. Even if you purchase materials yourself, will they be expensive? I previewed one VBS program once that was highlighting the fact that all the crafts were made from materials you can get a hold of yourself (you didn’t need to purchase anything from the company). The crafts were all connected to the theme and fun possibilities, but they were all going to be expensive! The materials needed were not cheap! Look carefully at the budget you have for VBS and the cost of the program you want to purchase. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of craft supplies, game equipment, snack supplies, and decorations that you will need to purchase on top of the VBS program material.

7. Music Is Important

If you are going to have music, make sure it’s good. Music can be a way to draw kids in and get them excited. Music is also a great way to develop the theme and teach Biblical truth. We remember what we sing. When VBS is done, it’s the songs that the kids will likely remember most. So make sure the songs sung are full of Biblical truth. Make sure they are fun, kid-friendly, and memorable. As the kids sing the music they learned at VBS, they should be singing Bible and gospel truths.

8. Make Sure there is Enough Material for a Considered Evaluation

There must be enough theme and bible content to evaluate. Are you able to see the Bible point, Bible verse, and Bible story for each day? Do they offer samples of the Bible story? Are you given enough material to make a considered evaluation? If it’s not there to preview, don’t choose that program.

9. Crafts/Games/Snack – Don’t Get Too Caught Up In This Section of the VBS Material

Games, crafts, and snack are an important part of VBS and if you are purchasing a program, then you want most of the work to be done for you already. Look at what is on offer for crafts, games, and snack. Make sure that you have the physical space and resources to use the ideas provided. But remember, it is easy to supplement crafts, games, and snack. Don’t let the fact that a VBS program doesn’t have games and snack provided to stop you from using it (especially if it has a particularly good Bible story section and gospel presentation.) Crafts, games, and snack shouldn’t be the deal breakers when choosing a VBS. However, you need to look at the program as a whole. If you will have to change or supplement too much (games, craft, snack, music, missions, story, gospel presentation)  then it is might not be worth purchasing the material, even if you love the theme.

Is it time for a check-up? Here’s a Program Evaluation Tool

SurveyNo matter what ministry you are involved with, periodic evaluation is necessary. Programs in children’s ministry can run for years with parents and volunteers assuming that everything is fine. But it’s important to take a step back every once and a while and really consider how a specific program is doing. Is it fulfilling its purpose? Is it meeting a current need?

Evaluation is important for every program in children’s ministry. If the program is doing well, then be encouraged. If it isn’t, then let me encourage you to use this as an opportunity for positive change!

The prospect of conducting an evaluation on a current ministry program can be daunting. Here is a tool that you can use to make the process simple yet effective.
This program evaluation tool uses 5 steps to conduct an evaluation and develop an action plan.

Step 1—Pray

This is the first step in an evaluation process, but it should also be sprinkled throughout the process. When doing an honest evaluation we need the Holy Spirit to guide us and convict us.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

In every situation, including embarking on an evaluation process, present your requests to God. And the promise is peace that will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.

So, pray before you begin and pray throughout the process.

Step 2—Define the Program

This particular evaluation tool was designed for one specific program at a time. During this step you will articulate the purpose, position on the children’s ministry spectrum, and vision of this particular program.

If you don’t have the answer to one or more of these questions, don’t worry. You can find the answer. It’s important to have these foundational things before you move on in the evaluation process.

Take the time you need to step out of the evaluation process and define the purpose of your program. Take a few minutes to plot where it is on the children’s ministry spectrum. Is it helping to fulfill the children’s ministry vision? If you need help with the children’s ministry spectrum or writing a vision statement, links are provided to articles that will help you.

Once you have defined the program, it’s time to move on to step 3.

Step3—Evaluate the Program

The program evaluation tool is divided into 4 categories: Purpose/Vision; Program/Curriculum; Volunteers; and Administration.  Within each category are a series of questions. To complete the evaluation, mark the column that best matches your answer to that question (“Absolutely”, “Somewhat”, “Not really”, or “Not at all”). Answer these questions as accurately as possible, taking into account the program’s current situation. Be careful not to answer based on what you want the answer to be but rather how it is right now. The more accurately you answer these questions now, the easier the next steps will become!

So be honest and take your time.

Step 4—Reflect on the Program

This section of the evaluation contains 3 questions for you to answer. These questions give you the opportunity to get down on paper your thoughts about this program. Use as much space and take as much time as you need. The answers you give here can help to reveal deeper thoughts and feelings about your program that you might not have answered in the evaluation chart in the previous step and these answers will help you as you go through the rest of this tool.

Step 5—Identify Next Steps

This sections contains a flowchart will help you identify potential next steps to take as a result of how you answered the evaluation questions. By the time you are finished you should have a list of things to do to improve your program.

Use the program evaluation tool to help you honestly evaluate your program and come up with a plan for what to do in the future.

Books of the Bible Song

I am always looking for ways to teach about the books of the Bible and for kids to interact with the books of the Bible. Ultimately, I want kids reading their Bibles because that is how they can build a relationship with Jesus and learn more about Him.

Knowing and being comfortable with the names of the Bible books and where to find them in the Bible helps kids. Reading the Bible is not such a daunting task if kids understand how the Bible is put together and are familiar with the books in it.

Phil Joel on his album, Deliberate Kids has written a song called “Old Testament (AKA The Ice Cream Song).” I think it is a fun way for kids to learn the books of the New Testament.

Great Idea for Mid-Week Clubs!

childrens ministry girls clubAre you thinking of starting a mid-week club program? Do you need to revamp your current club program?

Here’s an idea for a club program for girls in grades 5&6:

A few years ago we decided that we needed to refresh our club program. We decided to make our club programs outreach oriented. They were primarily for meeting and building relationships with the kids in our community. On the Children’s Ministry Spectrum, they would be considered outreach. Church kids were encouraged to come, but to invite their friends. We created 3 clubs – one for boys & girls in grades 1-3, one for girls in grades 4-6, and one for boys in grades 4-6. We decided to specialize.

The girls program was called GEMS. (Note: this had nothing to do with the GEMS girls club that has been around for a while. The names just ended up being the same.) We decided to do once a month events. We planned events that would interest girls of this age and then sent out invitations. Invitations were sent via email and snail mail. In the invitations, we encouraged the girls to invite their friends.

We planned a pajama party, a mani-pedi night, a games night, a cooking night, a movie night. We wanted it to be fun and interactive. We planned talks with the girls focusing on issues that they are dealing with – friends, relationships with parents, boys, health & diet. During these talks we brought up what God has to say about the issue. We didn’t plan Bible studies because it was an outreach event, but we did pray and talk about God. We introduced the girls to God and the fact that we can turn to God with our problems and trust Him to love us, care for us, and help us.

This new club format turned out to be very popular. We had 20-30 girls coming to each event (which for our church at the time was a lot!)
We then took the opportunity to invite these girls to VBS, to Sunday School, and to any other event going on at the church that would interest them.

If you are thinking about clubs, look at your children’s ministry spectrum and decide on the main purpose for your club program. If you want to start an outreach club program, use this idea as it is (if you like it!) or as a starting place for you to brainstorm with your volunteers.

Highly Recommended Christmas Pageant

It’s that time of year to start planning for the annual Christmas pageant. If you are looking for something that is easy and doesn’t require a huge cast but is focused in the true meaning of Christmas, then I highly recommend “The Christmas County Spelling Bee.”

Here’s the description offered on the package:

Wonderful Counselor. Prince of Peace. Everlasting Father. Even a brief reflection on the names of Jesus brings power and strength to our faith. Dove award-winning writer Celeste Clydesdale has centered her newest Christmas musical, The Christmas County Spelling Bee, entirely around this theme. Set within the narrative of a lively spelling bee, this warm musical consists of nine delightful new songs, as well as the Michael W. Smith classic, “Emmanuel.” As the musical unfolds, the contestants learn more about the character and nature of our Savior.
Worshipful, bright and enjoyable, The Christmas County Spelling Bee will engage the hearts of your kids and congregation this Christmas as it reminds us that “Jesus is the only name that saves.”

Our church performed this musical last year and I was so impressed with the focus on Jesus given in all the songs and the spoken parts. This musical is set during a spelling bee and every word the children are asked to spell is one of the names of Jesus. The kids had a lot of fun performing this musical.

One gentleman approached me after the musical and told me that he had attended many Christmas pageants and musicals in his life and he has never seen a better one than this. It was gospel-focused and centered on Jesus and led those attending to worship.

Check out “The Christmas County Spelling Bee” and encourage your kids to find out more about Jesus – the only name that saves!

More information about this musical can be found at www.wordmusic.com
This musical can be purchased through your local Christian Bookstore or at amazon.ca

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