Tips for Summer VBS Programs

It’s VBS season, and as you’re reading this, some church is in the middle of a week of VBS. Maybe you’re an old hand at VBS or maybe you’re a newbie. Whatever your experience level, here are some tips to keep in mind as you head into your week of VBS.

  1. Be careful about pressuring children to pray a prayer or “make a decision.” In some VBS settings, children are asked “Who wants to go to heaven and not to hell?” Their choice of heaven is taken as a sign of their salvation acceptance, and they are subsequently told that they are saved. Obviously, this is an outrageous example, but something that does regularly happen. We should be careful not to make salvation a casual or formulaic event. Many people have doubted their salvation, possibly due to a childhood event where they prayed a prayer or wrote a date in their Bible. You can pressure kids to do just about anything, but you cannot pressure anyone into true salvation.
  2. Use caution in giving prizes. Giving prizes for verse memory is one thing. Giving prizes to kids who “get saved” or “make a decision” is yet another. It is possible that the prize for making a decision will be motivating the “decision” — not the Holy Spirit’s work. A little bag of candy has huge appeal for the average five-year old child.
  3. Place a priority on follow up. I pray that in your VBS ministry kids will truly be saved and make lasting decisions. But what happens after this? For children who are not part of a church, will there be any follow up? Make sure that you maintain contact and see to it that the child is placed within reach of a caring church member or team. Decisions made during a week of VBS can have lifelong results, but followup is a necessary part of this process.
  4. Value your team. Often, the biggest value of VBS is cultivating relationships, discipling, and encouraging growth in your team members. You may not have a huge response from the children in your community, but you still have the opportunity to encourage the volunteers that you’re working with. Lives can be changed, but not only the lives of the children who attend.
  5. Lower your expectations, but increase your faith. Each summer, church volunteers have visions of VBS attended by thousands of kids. Sometimes, they’re disappointed when only a handful of kids — usually children of church members — make it out. Don’t be disappointed. These children are hearing the Word. VBS isn’t about big crowds and lots of action. It’s about discipleship and evangelism, regardless of how many attend. At the same time, dream big. You serve a big God who delights in answering big prayers. Jesus said, “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24).
  6. Plan for something to go wrong. Something will go wrong during your VBS week. Like any big event, there are so many details, variables, people, issues, and errors that affect your well-planned week. Expect it. As always, make safety a priority. Keeping a trained nurse or first responder on the scene is a good idea. Our idea of wrong still fits into God’s big plan. Trust him, even when things don’t go the way you planned.

VBS is a powerful tool for Kingdom purposes. Trust God, plan well, work hard and have fun. For some kids — and maybe even for you — it will be the best week of the whole year.

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