Friday, January 29, 2010

Tips for VBS Crafts

When selecting craft activities for your students, ask yourself these five questions:
1.   Does the craft help the children feel valuable and worthwhile?
2.   Can the children experience success with this craft or activity?
3.   Do the children do the work?
4.   Does the craft allow the children to express themselves?
5.   Does the craft encourage creativity?

When you turn your art projects and activities into learning experiences, you give the children worthwhile lessons that will be with them long after the project is gone. Here’s how: focus on what the children can learn rather than what they can make. As the children work, talk about the Bible lesson or theme of the day. Keep the focus on the Bible story or the memory verse. Tie the craft back into the day’s point.

Help the children have a fun time. Don’t let them get frustrated. If a craft becomes too difficult, switch gears and adapt the craft to the child. For example, if threading yarn becomes tedious, stop the threading and let the child add stickers to the craft or decorate it with markers or jewels. Turn your time with the child back into a fun experience. If a child finishes early (or just gives up), let him move to a free play area or begin a coloring project.

Allow each child to be the creative being God has made him or her! 

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

How to Have a Preschool-Friendly VBS

Setting up VBS for Preschoolers

If your VBS begins with elementary children and preschoolers together for a time of opening music, be prepared to have one or two helpers take younger children to your preschool classroom for free play if the large group setting becomes overwhelming.

Use similar VBS-themed decorations for your preschool rooms as you use for your elementary VBS. Just make sure to use decorations without small parts that your little ones can swallow. A good test is to use only those items that are too large to fit inside a cardboard paper towel tube.
Place an attendance chart in your preschool area(s). Give each child a sticker as he enters and help him place it in the appropriate square on the chart. (Some children may prefer not to do this, which is fine. A helper can add stickers for them instead.) You can purchase themed VBS stickers as well as Bible stickers, cross stickers, glitter stickers, and colorful attendance and memory verse charts from

Free Play for Preschoolers
Provide the following toys and supplies for your preschool free play area(s). Ask church members and preschool leaders for donations. Make sure they label their items if they want them to be returned after VBS. Conclude your free-play time with a bathroom break.

• Blocks: Wooden, plastic, or cardboard blocks in different sizes, shapes, and colors; toy people and animals; toy vehicles; manipulative building toys; but nothing with sharp edges or small parts.

• Art: Crayons, washable markers, and chalk; white paper and construction paper; poster paper taped along a wall and over tables for murals; paper shapes for coloring and decorating; stickers; tape for hanging artwork from walls and ceiling.

• Disguises: Costumes, shoes, masks, scarves, capes, plastic sunglasses, purses and bags, and dress-up clothes for boys and girls.

• Dramatic Play: Dolls, doll clothes, plastic cell phones, toy cameras, stuffed animals, small chairs or large
pillows, doll beds, dishes, toy food, doll strollers, plastic shopping carts.

• Books: Various picture books showing items familiar to young children such as nature, farm animals, pets,
friends, family, church, preschool, etc. Include several VBS theme-related picture books, if available.

• Puzzles: Colorful cardboard and wooden framed puzzles with 25 pieces or less, some with knobs.

Use the new Joseph in Egypt Preschool VBS from Christian Ed. Publishers this summer to supplement your elementary VBS program from Group, Egypt: Joseph's Journey. Written especially for 2- to 5-year-olds, this five-day preschool VBS program includes Bible stories, snacks, crafts, and games with reproducible student sheets and colorful visuals on CD-ROM. You can view samples and take a look at the contents and course overview for the Joseph in Egypt Preschool VBS. Order the spiral-bound book with CD or, if you need it tomorrow, order the download version.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

2010 VBS Timeline: 6-9 Months Before Your VBS

Click on the timeline above to see the larger and expanded view. Use coupon code SAVEBIG to save $10 on your 2011 VBS Starter Kit when you order by December 10, 2010. Visit Shop VBS to listen to music and video clips, see the daily Bible lessons and download a VBS Comparison Chart we've put together to help you decide which program(s) you'd like to review.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Egypt: Joseph's Journey from Prison to Palace

Imagine living in a dusty, bustling, noisy city along the Nile in ancient'd gossip about Pharaoh's with people who followed countless gods...and perhaps hear about a "dreamer" that Pharaoh put in charge...

VBS Starter Kit: $94.99
View VBS Starter Kit Details

(Click above to view Egypt's Bible points)

Use the new Joseph in Egypt Preschool VBS from Christian Ed Warehouse this summer to supplement your elementary VBS program from Group, Egypt: Joseph's Journey. Written especially for 2- to 5-year-olds, this five-day preschool VBS program includes Bible stories, snacks, crafts, and games with reproducible student sheets and colorful visuals on CD-ROM...all for just $24.95. You can view samples and take a look at the contents and course overview for the Joseph in Egypt Preschool VBS. Order the spiral-bound book with CD or, if you need it tomorrow, order the download version.

Now you’re ready to travel back to ancient Egypt for the VBS journey of a lifetime!

High Seas Expedition

Set sail for VBS fun! Feel sea spray on your face as sails snap overhead—and you and your crew experience the deep, rolling waters of God’s love! Easy to decorate,easy-to-steer, and easily the best time you’ll have all summer—this ship’s for you!

VBS Starter Kit: $149.99
View VBS Starter Kit Details

(Click above to view High Seas Bible Points)

Hero Headquarters

At Hero HeadQuarters, kids will meet five unlikely Bible heroes who are often overlooked. In fact, we don’t know a single one of their names! They were not famous leaders or called by God to perform amazing miracles—yet their small acts were used by God to do wonderful things!

Help kids discover that if they’re willing to be used by God in any situation, no matter how big or small, they can make a difference. With God’s power at work, they can be heroes right where they are!
VBS Starter Kit: $69.99
Power Pak:$199.99View Power Pak Details

(Click above to view the Hero Headquarters themes)

SonQuest Rainforest

This summer, bring your kids to SonQuest Rainforest VBS. Based on 5 key Bible verses that will change a child’s life— including John 3:16—SonQuest Rainforest VBS transports young minds into a vivid rainforest environment of jungle sounds, sights and smells, where they’ll dig into the Bible and meet Jesus in every day’s story.

VBS Starter Kit: $69.99
Super Starter Kit: $199.99
View Super Starter Kit Details

(Click above to view Sonquest course overview)

Kingdom of the Son

Take a walk on the wild side with Kingdom of the Son VBS! During this spectacular prayer safari kids will journey into the Serengeti—the magnificent grassland region of Tanzania and Kenya. They'll discover exotic animals, create safari crafts, play exciting games, sing upbeat songs, and enjoy delicious safari snacks!

And while your kids are having safari fun, they'll also learn to talk to God as they explore the Lord's Prayer, and go on an expedition into the pages of God's Word. (This VBS is in the King James Version.) Take your kids on the wildest VBS ever!
VBS Super Starter Kit: $199.99
View Super Starter Kit Details

Sonrock Kids Camp

Where kids build their lives on the Rock: Jesus!

Remember summer camp? The fun games, new friends, singing around the campfire... and the most important memory, making the life-changing decision to follow Jesus.

Nothing challenges a person to examine his or her identity quite like an adventure in God's great outdoors. And high above the cluttered schedules and ringing cell phones for ordinary life, SonRock Kids Camp is an outdoor adventure camp like no other.

Here students will learn how their lives can be transformed by God's great love: "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God" (1 John 3:1).

Gospel Light's VBS provides evangelism opportunities everyday and the salvation message in every lesson.

VBS Starter Kit: $79.99
Super Starter Kit: $199.99
(Click image above to see Theme Chart)

Monday, January 11, 2010

2010 VBS Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Our church only uses the King James Version of the Bible. Which VBS programs can we use?
A: The following VBS programs are available in KJV:
  • Kingdom of the Son: A Prayer Safari (This 2009 VBS is still available.)
  • Hero Headquarters   lists references only. It does not actually have the verses written out, and there are Bible Verse Posters available additionally in KJV.
  • The Preschool All-in-One Kit lists all memory verses in KJV first, followed by the NIV. Simply cover the NIV verse or cut it off before copying your student sheets.
  • Regular Baptist Press also carries a VBS program in KJV.
Q: When is the Returns Deadline for VBS material?
A: closes on July 31, and this is our VBS returns deadline. If you have a late VBS and need to return some items, call us at 800-854-1531 and we can work with you. Please note that some items are non-returnable, and are clearly marked on our website.

Q: Can I return opened packages of product for partial credit?
A: Because we receive product prepackaged from our vendors, we are unable to process returns of opened or partially used packages. If you do find yourself with a few extras, use them as special gift surprises for Sunday school, for siblings of students, or for those who couldn't attend VBS.

Q: I’ve never done VBS before. What should I do first?
A: Dig into the Starter Kit(s) you’re interested in. Order more than one at Shop VBS...we offer a 30-day risk-free review on Starter Kits. Explore all the cool stuff, then find the Director’s Guide. This will give you the big picture of the theme, all the possibilities, and the activities that are included. Most Director’s Guides include a step-by-step planning calendar and training helps, too. Above all, decide what you want to accomplish in your VBS program: What do you want the kids to walk away with? Focus on that first!

Q: Can I use a VBS program in something other than a five-day format?
A: Most VBS programs nowadays are flexible. The Director Manuals contain different format options, including weekday mornings, weekday evenings, midweek clubs, day camp, Sunday mornings, or weekend retreats. If a specific program’s Director Manual does not contain these formats…improvise! Many options allow for the whole family to be involved.

Q: How do I figure out a budget for VBS?
A: The catalog for each program can help you plan your budget and choose the resources that will work best for you. (Remember to order early, as some items have limited quantities.)
If your church has had a VBS in the past, look at the registration numbers. Set a goal for how many kids you would like to reach this year. Then, using the catalog, write down the cost of each item you need and tally the cost. Visit Shop VBS to see VBS catalogs and online order forms from a number of publishers.

Find out what funds, if any, have been designated in the church budget. Determine if you will have a per-child registration fee to cover some costs. Make a wish list and work in conjunction with church staff to brainstorm ideas for additional funding (special offerings, fund-raisers, etc.).
You can even network with other local churches who are offering the same program this year and creatively collaborate for sharing some materials and resources.

Q: Do any of the VBS programs provide resources to guide children to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior?
A: Yes. Most of the VBS programs include helps for explaining the gospel message to children and counseling them about salvation.
  • Gospel Light has booklets to introduce children to Jesus Christ (God Loves You Evangelism Booklet) as well as booklets for children who are growing in Christ (Growing As God's Child Discipleship Booklets).
  • The Preschool All-in-One Kit has a section for the leader about "Leading a Young Child to Christ."
  • Wildwood Forest Director's Guide has reproducible resources to send home with a child who accepts Jesus Christ as Savior during your VBS. All Leader's Guides for this program have information on leading a child to Christ. Days 3 and 5 focus specifically on salvation lessons.
Q: What if our space is limited or we don't have enough kids or leaders for VBS?
A: Talk with other area churches about hosting VBS jointly. In addition to increasing the number of kids and volunteers, cooperative VBS programs are great ecumenical opportunities in your community. Cooperative VBS programs often lead to future events among different churches that can strengthen individual congregations and the entire community.

Q: What’s the best way to do VBS—Classroom-based or Site-based?
A: The way that works best for you! There are plenty of fun options in every VBS program.
Most programs can be set up as Classroom-based or Site-based. This means you can group kids by ages or grades to learn and interact in individual classrooms with teams of teachers and assistants (Classroom-based). Or you can group kids by ages or grades into small crews that move from site to site with their backyard crew guides (Site-based). Other VBS programs give the option of combining mixed ages of kids into one group (either Classroom- or Site-based). Some programs are not as easy to adjust one way or the other, so make sure you review your Director’s Guide before planning!

Q: How can we adapt a site-based model to a classroom model?
A: This may be easier for some programs than others. The steps outlined here are for general use of the classroom model. Modify them as needed.
  1. Determine how you will group your kids. The easiest way is to have one group per age/grade level. Recruit staff based on the number of Small Groups you anticipate. You'll need one Guide for each Small Group, as well as a Worship Leader, and other support staff as needed.
  2. Assign classroom space for each Small Group.
  3. Determine your large group gathering space(s) for the Opening and Closing times.
  4. Order your Leader and Student Resources
Q: How can our VBS program support faith formation at home?
A: Many student books feature a family activity for each day, and even if they don't, most kids like to share what they did at VBS with their families.
  • Including Adults and/or youth allows parents and teens to study the same Bible texts as the kids attending Vacation Bible School, either in their own small groups or at home.
  • Souvenirs, such as memory buddies, help the student to remember the Bible point and Bible memory verse for each day of VBS.
  • Giving each child a CD of the music from VBS helps them connect VBS worship at home. Consider giving children a CD when they register for VBS—then they will already know the songs when they come to VBS!
  • Some VBS programs include coloring pages for younger students and sheets that older children can take home each day to reinforce the daily theme and memory verse at home.
  • Follow up on the final day of VBS by inviting families to come back for your church worship service or Bible club or for your Harvest celebration.
Q: What schedule is best?
A: This depends on how much time you have. Most programs recommend at least three hours per day if you want to include all the activities provided, but that’s not always possible—especially if you have an evening VBS. You may need to modify the amount of time spent at each activity. Most Director’s Guides include sample schedules—modify them to suit your needs.

7 Steps to a Successful VBS

1. Pray
This is a big job, so meet with your Christian Education Director, Children’s Pastor, or Sunday School Superintendent. Begin with prayer, asking the Lord to direct you and give you wisdom as you plan for your vacation Bible school. You may want to organize a prayer team who will continue to pray for your program before, during, and after your VBS dates.

2. Plan
Once you have a budget, order several VBS starter kits to determine which one(s) will work best with your church and community. Return the kits you won’t need or keep an extra kit to use as an outreach program over spring break—or any time you need a special program. Your kids will enjoy the fun VBS crafts and gifts anytime. Visit Shop VBS to see a VBS Comparison Chart and print out a VBS Planning Guide and Timeline for organizing your VBS preparation.

3. Recruit
Ask the Lord to direct you to the people whom He wants to teach your precious children. Ask Him to prepare the hearts of these people to be receptive to becoming VBS leaders or helpers. Then make a list of qualified people who might be interested, and make an appointment to visit them in their homes. Explain the VBS program and the responsibilities of a VBS leader or helper. Ask him or her to pray about the decision, and if desired, leave a specific job description with him or her. To ensure your children the very best experiences in your VBS program, look for leaders and teachers with the following qualifications:
ü   Are dedicated Christians who seek to live for Christ daily, who study God’s Word, and who know the plan of salvation
ü   Are tuned in to kids, and able to build upon their natural interests
ü   Enjoy sharing in the children’s joy of discovery
ü   Are warm, outgoing, and have a genuine love and sensitivity for children
ü   Appreciate and seek to follow God’s command to teach children
ü   Have a basic understanding of children in terms of their physical, mental, and emotional development, and their spiritual needs
ü   Are reliable and disciplined to prepare for each meeting
ü   Are suitable role models for children

4. Prepare
Before you begin signing up children for VBS, print registration cards onto heavy stock. You can download Honeybees, Cubby Bears, and All-Stars for Jesus Registration Cards at Design your own for VBS or use these. Give the cards to parents when they register their children. Have parents fill out a registration card for each child attending your program. The card should contain emergency information and a place to list allergies and other medical conditions of your students. For any child with allergies, create a special, brightly colored name badge with the allergies listed so all leaders and helpers are aware of the allergies and don’t inadvertently give the child something that might cause an allergic reaction.

5. Be Creative!
Creativity may not be your strong suit, but no doubt your church is full of creative talent just waiting to be put to good use. Someone who can paint backdrops, another person who can concoct inexpensive yet healthy snack options, a seamstress who can design skit costumes or theme decorations, a crafty mom who can modify the suggested VBS crafts into easy-to-prepare keepsakes made from household supplies—all of these people can play a role in kicking your VBS program up a notch. The key is to tap into their talents without giving them overwhelming responsibilities.

6. Pray (Continually!)
Each day during your VBS program, have volunteers arrive 15-20 minutes early for announcements and a time of prayer. You may want to provide coffee and juice each morning, with donuts or bagels and fruit the first day. Or provide dinner in the evening and invite your VBS families to come (have your volunteers arrive 15-20 minutes before dinner). Use your VBS theme for a brief devotion, then make announcements, share prayer requests and praises, and conclude with a time of prayer (for each other, for the children, and for God’s wisdom and discernment). Each day, let volunteers share stories of how God is working during VBS. Then take time to thank Him for the ways He is using each person to spread His Word and change lives.

7. Consider Including Preschoolers in Your VBS
VBS is a great way to introduce young families to your church. Consider including 2- to 5-year-olds in your VBS program. You may want to run a separate preschool program for your little ones. The hours can be the same as for your elementary program, but younger children can have their own learning centers, games, and age-appropriate crafts. The preschoolers can join the other children for your VBS opening and then go their own preschool rooms for the rest of the morning. If your VBS begins with everyone together for an opening song time, be prepared to have one or two helpers take younger children to your preschool classroom for free play if the large group setting becomes overwhelming. Visit our Children’s Ministry Blog for more ideas on including preschoolers in your VBS (See the article, “How to Have a Preschool-Friendly VBS). Visit Shop VBS to take a look at a Preschool All-in-One Kit, VBS curriculum written especially for your two- to five-year-olds.

And Finally…Evaluate!
Before your VBS ends, have thank-you notes and evaluation forms ready for your helpers. Gather feedback about what worked and what didn’t so you can make changes for next year. Make notes so if you are not involved, you can pass them on to your successor. Thank God for the ways He worked to change lives during VBS. Be sure to let your volunteers know how much they were appreciated. While they’re still excited about the great things that happened during VBS, ask if they would be willing to consider being a part of the team next year. (Just to get an idea, not for a firm commitment.) Then follow up around March or April (or just as soon as you set the next date) to have them start praying about volunteering for your next VBS program.