Vacation Bible school is one of the best things that churches do all year long. A church reaches out to the neighborhood, brings people closer, and is one of the most important and well-organized events for some churches. Earlier, vacation Bible schools were started to introduce children to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and help them familiarize themselves with Christianity. In today’s time, the purpose is more defined and enhanced: to draw the congregation together, and incorporate a life-changing message into their lives.
What Is a Vacation Bible School?
Vacation Bible School (VBS) is an outreach program by the ministry that churches provide to educate children about God. Each church has its own agenda to run a vacation Bible school program, and also uses a purchased religious curriculum to integrate into its teachings.
It is a nationwide program that churches offer that has themed activities, games, and ideas to entertain kids and help them learn about God. It is conducted for about a week, with lessons for about three to four hours. It is not necessary to possess a church membership.
Purpose of Vacation Bible School
The importance of vacation Bible school cannot be undermined, as it benefits not just kids who are enrolled, but the whole community. It enriches the lives of those participating in it. Along with the primary purpose of raising awareness about God and Christianity, vacation Bible school has grown to enhance the lives of those being a part of it. Read on to know more about the purpose and benefits of VBS:
- Vacation Bible School is for outreach: Bringing children into the ministry in an integral part of growing and strengthening the church. Young people infuse new energy and enthusiasm into the church culture, and help to balance views. Without them, it will be lopsided in its outlook, and will not be able to reach a wider audience. A vibrant and robust church with people from all age groups it ideal for outreach. It is important to run kids’ programs to build relationships.
- Vacation Bible School leads kids to Christ: It introduces kids to the importance of Jesus Christ as Lord. Many kids are not raised in homes where attending church is a priority. People who believe in God do not attend church regularly. A vacation Bible school is a great way to connect with these peripheral families and get them to come back to regular events which their kids tend to enjoy.
- Vacation Bible School is great for teachers: Vacation Bible school is a great way for those who wish to start teaching and connecting with kids. With few church services during the week that do not run for over an hour, it is not possible to teach kids and parents a lot. But with regular vacation Bible schools held every quarter, those interested in teaching could get a platform to connect and develop their skills.
- Vacation Bible achool is ideal for parents to connect and interact: Parents of kids enrolling in vacation Bible school will get a chance to familiarise and acquaint themselves with other parents. This could be a foundation for friendships, and parents may even get involved in activities organised by the vacation Bible school. Creative parents could put forward ideas that could be conducted in the school and help their children learn new skills and concepts.
At What Age Children Can Attend VBS
Children from the age of 3, preschoolers, to children in high school are likely to benefit from vacation Bible school. Age guidelines vary from church to church, and some may focus on elementary school age groups. Some churches also offer free childcare for volunteers who have children that are too young to attend a vacation Bible school.
Vacation Bible School Theme Ideas
Many vacation Bible school programs choose themes. Most will try to integrate themes that are creative adaptations of learnings from the Bible. Creative decorations, fun snacks, and games are all integrated to impart life lessons. A few VBS themes that are commonly practiced across churches are:
Use emojis to talk about Christian character traits, days of Creation, etc.
Incorporate a campfire and camp songs to teach kids to serve others even in tough times.
3. Science Mania
Talk about how we are created by God as the kids experiment using science beakers to create interesting concoctions.
4. Wilderness Escape
Use this theme to teach kids about the Exodus from Egypt using wilderness-themed songs, decorations, etc.
5. Star Wars
Talk about the battle against sin and evil and explain the whole armor of God in Ephesians 6:11.
Talk about the strength God gives us using Philippians 4:13.
7. Mystery Islands
This theme can be used to teach kids about the one true God using songs, an islander assembly, beach games, and tropical treats.
8. Rainforest Explorers
Use this to teach kids about how Jesus guides us through our lives using rainforest-themed decorations, artwork, etc.
Vacation Bible School Activity Ideas
Here are a few activity ideas that could help you run the vacation Bible school smoothly. A typical day at a Bible school includes prayer, Bible stories, arts and crafts, games, plays, songs, skits, puppet shows, sports activities, team building exercises, and snack breaks woven around themes.
Kids love superheroes, and you can get them to believe in Jesus as a superhero with illustrations and descriptions of the miracles he performed. One could have a “Hall of Wonders” and encourage kids to dress up as a Bible Hero, or even people with good traits. This will help them learn that God has given us the power to be good, and that Jesus is the greatest power.
2. Deep Oceans
Use Romans 8:39, Cole to Life: No height or depth can separate us from his love. One could decorate the walls with underwater stimuli. Get kids to believe that they are close to the sea, and that living on earth, they co-exist and the Lord protects them.
We often look at the night sky and tell children that the stars represent God and his angels. Decorate your ceilings with a galaxy theme with stars and planets. You could have snacks coming out of the balls that represent the planet.
Get kids to come with a shield or an armor as if they are ready to go to a battlefield. Mention that courage and trust in God will help them surmount all obstacles and get them to sing songs about dedications, citizenship and patriotism.
5. Invitation to the Backyard
Make their church visit synonymous to their backyard fun, parties, and visits to their friends. Get them to come to church as if visiting a kingdom, and entertain them with stories about friendship and some healthy snacks.
A great way to get children to learn to help, share, and take responsibility is by setting up a campfire. Get kids to sit around and share stories about kindness and how they influenced someone to make good choice, or how they were influenced.
7. Old Testament
You can go back in time and history when kings and characters lived a sacred life and followed the path of God. It helps kids understand how people followed a righteous king and followed the path of God. Get one of the kids to be court jester to add a few laughs.
8. Travel Passports
Encourage children to look around the world for countries that do not practice Christianity or does not have it as a main religion. Give them passports and ask them to come up with ideas on how they will incorporate a prayer routine, and also bear the flag of their country.
9. Wild Wild West
Introduce kids to the concept of the Wild West where people go pasture grazing and hunting, and compare them to the shepherds in the Bible. Emphasise on how shepherds treated everyone with compassion and care.
The planet that we dwell on is part of the science created by God. It is great to get kids to bring in their experiments, and also explain the scientific miracles of God like the river merging into the sea, animals hibernating, and birds migrating.
Vacation Bible School Game Ideas
Vacation Bible schools need to have games. It not just attracts children, but also helps to integrate the concepts of the Bible into their learning. Read on to find out vacation bible school ideas that will help to apply the Biblical concept
1. Hurdle Race
This is a different race where the team that comes last wins. Set up hurdles, and separate participants into teams. Participants along the route will need help (more like being a Good Samaritan). For example, someone may need water, food, or help nursing a wound. The team that has been able to help maximum numbers of people in distress will win.
2. Noodles and Hoops
Noodles or hoops can be placed like race tracks or hurdles. Participants have to run along them, roll something, or toss something into them. It will help understand that challenges will plague us all the time, and we need to be patient and persevere in our endeavours.
3. Timer Ticks
This is a great way to get kids to think on their feet and work as a team. Some fun games would be to divide them into groups and write down Bible verses they have learnt, characters from the Bible or a certain number of kind acts from the Bible.
4. Tissue Paper Games
A great way to introduce themselves, kids could write their names on tissue papers, and one good thing about themselves. It serves as a great icebreaker.
5. Water Games
A fun outdoor activity, you can fill a large space with water and ice cubes in it. Get kids to scoop ice cubes and collect them with their hands. They will try their level best, and explain how one will face limitations, but we need to stay strong.
6. Thought Monster
Have a cuddly toy with a pouch. Circulate some little notes around, and get kids to write down questions about God, Bible, and Jesus. Once done, pick the notes one by one, and answer them. Encourage discussions, and get kids to answer before you give the final answer.
7. Think Through
One person has to leave the room, and the rest have to think of a word or phrase from the Bible. Once the volunteer is back, they need to ask questions to find out the answer.
8. Animal Barn
A good one for preschoolers, pass around animal flashcards and get kids to make their sounds. You could even pass the cards and ask them if Noah had these animals with him in the Ark.
9. Good Thoughts
Ask participants to write their name on a piece of paper, and get them to circulate it among the members. Each member has to write something good about the person, and an encouraging thought. It is a good game to end the vacation Bible school.
10. Switch Roles
Have a volunteer leave the room. Get the rest to exchange something, like a piece of clothing or hair clip. When the volunteer comes back, they need to pick the changes. It makes for a good discussion on how in God’s world we are all the same, and it does not matter if we are different.
Safety Concerns Parents Can Have Regarding VBS
Cautious and paranoid parents will have concerns about their parent’s safety. Some of the top safety concerns that parents have are:
1. Caretakers for the Child
The process of recruiting teachers and volunteers must include not just an interview and qualification check, but also a reference and criminal background check. This ensures their past record does not pose any threat.
2. Training and Certification
Volunteers need to be trained on health and safety standards if not working in child care.
3. Navigating from One Activity to Another
Kids must be monitored when moving from one activity to another, to ensure safety and safeguarding.
4. Managing Attendance
Protocols must be in place to check kids and volunteers in and out. Strict procedures must be given to parents to bring children in and take them back.
5. Handling Allergies
Organisers must have complete knowledge of allergies in kids. This information must be collated before school begins.
6. Handling Medical Emergencies and Accidents
Emergency contact details must be in place before school begins, so that parents can be contacted in case of exigencies.
7. Emergency Plans
Volunteers and organisers need to have an emergency plan, and must be trained in case of evacuation, fire or any natural calamity.
8. Bathroom Policy
Kids must be accompanied by two adults when using the bathroom.
9. Handling a Sick Child
The registration pack must include details of when parents must keep their children at home, and can be contacted if they display symptoms of illnesses that could affect the other kids.
10. Discipline Policy
It is important to communicate to parents that physical or corporal punishment is not practiced. Any concerns about the child’s behaviour will be reported to the parents when they come to collect and will be documented too.
Some common FAQs about vacation Bible school are:
1. How Much Does a Vacation Bible School Cost?
Most summer programs are free for kids. Vacation Bible school programs are no different. Some may charge a small fee that needs to cover the costs for craft supplies and snacks. If they offer any additional props like a T-shirt or CD with recorded songs, then that might entail an additional cost.
2. How Can I Find a VBS for My Child?
Most churches have their own cacation Bible programs, and if you are a member of the church, then you could easily enrol in their own program. If it does not have one, then contact the church secretary to provide a list of other churches that are holding vacation Bible school and running VBS curriculums. Newspapers, magazines, message bulletins, and church websites give lots of insight into vacation Bible school dates, registration, and fees.
3. In What Ways Can I Volunteer for a VBS?
Most churches prepare for vacation Bible school once the academic year ends. They welcome volunteers, as they need double the number of staff to manage the kids. As a volunteer, you can help with décor, snacks, crafts, registration, storytelling, coordinating, and a lot more. You could also donate things like toilet paper, canned goods, and craft supplies if you are not able to help physically. It will also help children to feel at ease if they find their parents are volunteering at the same set up.
Vacation Bible school is an amazing experience for children and parents. It is a platform to connect socially, get kids involved in community activities, and learn more about God and His divine abilities. It helps children reform socially, and become better human beings.