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10 VBS tips for smaller churches

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A small church on a tight budget can host a tremendous Vacation Bible School. All it takes is good planning and creativity.

Rhonda VanCleave, an editor in LifeWay’s childhood ministry publishing area, led a session on “Using Boomerang Express for Smaller Membership Churches” during the VBS Preview event Jan. 29-31 at LifeWay in Nashville, Tenn. VanCleave shared VBS tips she learned as a pastor’s wife in smaller churches. Conference participants also shared tips from their churches’ successes.

Here are some of their ideas:

1. Co-op with other small churches in your area. Share decorations and supplies. Remember to coordinate your Vacation Bible School dates so there’s no overlap.

2. Take advantage of free teacher/leader training from your local Baptist association. Training is one thing that sets LifeWay’s Vacation Bible School apart. Last year LifeWay trained 700 state workers, who trained 8,000 associational workers, who went on to train 80,000 church workers.

3. Ask church members to buy or donate a specific item. One church did an “Angel Tree”-type request. They put notes on a tree, asking for items like a VBS banner, name tags, etc. The key to this success is to offer a variety of prices so everyone has the opportunity to donate. Let them know your needs. You never know what someone may have stored away in the attic that could be shared for free.

4. Ask local businesses to sponsor some part of your Vacation Bible School in exchange for publicity. One church had a local dairy donate ice cream for all the children. Another church got coupons for a free kid’s meal.

5. Use co-directors so you can spread out the responsibility. Have a pre-planning director, a VBS week director and a follow-up director. Spread it around so no one has to be overwhelmed.

6. Look at what you can realistically do. If you have a small church and most of the people have day jobs, plan an evening Vacation Bible School when people can help. If you don’t have someone who can do the themed snacks every night, just do them one night as a special treat.

7. Involve all age groups from the church. Enlist the senior adult men to be parking lot and hall monitors. Enlist senior adult ladies as prayer partners by providing them with the names of each of the teachers and students. Ask them to pray by name for everyone. You just may find them to be your most ardent supporters.

8. If you are in an area with year-round school, you may need to make adjustments for when you offer Vacation Bible School. Have it at night or during spring or fall break. You could even spread it out over five Saturdays.

9. Lengthen the VBS day. If most of the parents in your church have jobs and can’t manage transportation for their children for a three-hour morning Vacation Bible School, extend the day. Offer a light lunch, followed by sports, crafts, rest time, field trips or even a scavenger hunt. This can be a great time to work on the VBS musical, too.

10. Do the missions portion of Vacation Bible School. Sometimes churches cut out the missions part if they have less than three hours. But you can use it during snack time, during a Wednesday night service or at another time. Don’t just leave it out. VanCleave said she knows of many churches that don’t do GAs, RAs or other missions groups anymore, so VBS might be the best opportunity to share missions information with the children.
Polly House is corporate communications specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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