Thursday, March 29, 2012

Becoming a Servant Leader, Part 1

The success of your Vacation Bible School ministry is, more than anything else, dependent upon you — the VBS leader or helper.As you serve the Lord in VBS, you will make the difference in lives of young people you touch. For most people, leadership does not come naturally; it must be learned, developed, and nurtured. The secular world is full of books, CDs, and DVDs to help people become successful — at least according to the standards of the world. However, as Christians, we are called to be leaders of a different kind; we are called to be servant leaders.

Get acquainted with the servant leader


The Bible gives many guidelines for effective leadership; as Christian leaders we should put these into practice in our lives and in our ministries to young students.

Jesus, the Greatest Leader of all, gives us the first guideline to follow. He said, "Whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister [servant]: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." (Mark 10:43-45) As Christian leaders, we are called upon to serve others as Jesus did — by ministering to them and by meeting their needs. To help us do this, we can look at the characteristics of Jesus' leadership while He was on earth.

In Isaiah 42, in referring to the coming Messiah, the prophet says, "Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my Spirit upon him." (Isaiah 42:1) Just as Jesus was God's chosen servant and God placed His Spirit on Him, if God has called you to be a VBS leader to helper, you are God's chosen servant and He has promised to place His Spirit on you as you serve Him.

Isaiah goes on to say that God's chosen servant "will not shout or cry out or raise his voice... A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out." (Isaiah 42:2-3 NIV) Jesus was a gentle, kind, and loving leader: One who cared for the weak and struggling people around Him, One who treated everyone fairly and with equity. This should be the standard that you try to follow as you lead your Vacation Bible School (or any) ministry. Are you fair? Do you care about each of your students equally — even the underachievers, the rebels, the quiet ones; do you treat each one with love and compassion?

According to the world's guidelines, leadership depends on cleverness, wit, humor, and talent. But Jesus' leadership was different (and ours should be, too). Jesus was available and He was vulnerable. He cared for each individual person and He showed it in the supreme way.

(We'll continue with Part 2 on Becoming a servant Leader next week.)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

How Many VBS Leaders Do I Need?

Many churches have a VBS Director to oversee the program and to order materials for everyone. Good leadership is the most important part of any successful children's program. There should be at least three persons assigned to each preschool and early elementary (primaries) group, and at least two for middle elementary and preteen groups.

For a mostly-two- or three-year-old group, there should be no more than three children per leader or helper. Ideally, there should be at least one adult for each learning center or rotation spot (or whatever your VBS program calls for), plus the leader who will conduct the group activities during the meeting. In this way, each helper can be responsible for setting up, equipping, and teaching at a specific learning center. If it is simply impossible to recruit three or four leaders and helpers, you can still have a VBS program for younger children, but you may want a classroom-based program that does not have rotation spots or learning centers.

For elementary-age children, ideally there should be at least one adult for every ten children. Try to have a variety of people working with your VBS program. Make an effort to involve men in the program. Many people who have no children of their own, or have youngsters of a different age, might enjoy working with the children.

Teenagers and college students make wonderful helpers! Perhaps you know college students who are majoring in elementary or early childhood education. Let them intern in your VBS program for experience. And high school youth can also make energetic helpers.

Choosing top leaders

Those you choose as leaders should have a genuine love for children—and they should like them too! Choose the kind of people who can be depended upon to be there on time, always well prepared. Look for workers who will do their jobs enthusiastically and cheerfully, and will transmit their joy in Christ to the children who will be watching them so closely.

Assure your prospective workers that a willingness to learn is just as important as previous experience or specialized training. Then, be sure to give them opportunities to be doers—not just spectators. VBS leaders should think of each child as an individual and make every effort to know the children with whom they work. Teaching children about Jesus and His love is an important job—and it takes the best people you can find!

Organize a substitute pool

Organize a substitute pool from which to draw if/when a leader is unable to attend a day or any time during your vacation Bible school. There are always those who aren't available on a weekly basis, or who don't want to be tied to a schedule, so VBS is the perfect opportunity for them to help. These individuals could be invited to prepare craft materials, visual aids, or snacks. Some might enjoy coming just a day or two to teach songs, tell a story, or do something special. You'll find these people in many areas of your church—teen groups, singles, and seniors. Make sure the members of these groups are aware of the needs and of the opportunity to be of help—but don't make them feel trapped. Let those who do respond know you appreciate them!

Monday, March 12, 2012

2012 VBS Comparison Chart

It's finally finished! The 2012 edition of our annual VBS Comparison Chart is here!

We locked our best editors in their offices with a large supply of Peeps® and enough coffee to last most people a lifetime, and they weren't allowed to come out until they finished this year's VBS Comparison Chart. When they emerged, they held the most complete and objective Comparison Chart with the most Vacation Bible School programs we've seen yet.

See for yourself...

After you've reviewed this chart with your VBS team, you can order your kits and supplies at, where you'll find discounted prices every day, plus free shipping on all orders over $99!

Still can't decide which VBS program to use? We know that the very best way to decide which program will be best for your church is to get your hands on the materials! That's why we offer a 30-day review of all our kits. Go ahead and order several themes for 2012 and then decide which to use. Or use the extra kit(s) for another special children's program...they're such a great value! Shop VBS >

Friday, March 2, 2012

Recruiting and Training Preschool Leaders and Helpers

The adult leaders and helpers have some of the most important roles in starting and running your preschool program. They are the ones who will provide the very early church experiences for your preschoolers and will act as guides to help the children explore Bible truths.

"You may feel that because you are teaching twos and threes, you don't need much wisdom or spiritual discernment," says Mary A. Barbour in her book You Can Teach 2s & 3s. "But you soon discover you need a great deal, for you are working with children while they are at their most impressionable level of development.

"Your responsibilities are great to keep yourself growing in Christian virtues and to know the Saviour better day by day. This you may do with an open Bible, an open heart, and an open line of communication with the Lord through frequent, earnest prayer. And the more you grow as a Christian, the better teacher you will be."*

To ensure your preschoolers the very best experiences in your program, look for leaders and teachers with the following qualifications:
  • Are dedicated Christians who seek to live for Christ daily, who study God's Word, and who know the plan of salvation
  • Are tuned in to kids, and able to build upon their natural interests
  • Enjoy sharing in the children's joy of discovery
  • Are warm, outgoing, and have a genuine love and sensitivity for children
  • Have a basic understanding of children in terms of their physical, mental, and emotional development, and their spiritual needs
  • Are reliable and disciplined to prepare for each meeting
  • Are suitable role models for children

How to Recruit Preschool Leaders

Prayerfully and with a lot of help! 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 to the people whom He wants to teach your precious preschoolers. Ask Him to prepare the hearts of these people to be receptive to becoming preschool 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 preschool program and the responsibilities of a preschool leader or helper. Ask him or her to pray about the decision, and if desired, leave a specific job description with him or her.

It is good to involve a variety of people in working with your preschool program: fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, college students, or adults with older children may all enjoy working with twos and threes. Make a concerted effort to get men involved in the program—particularly fathers of twos and threes. They will love it, and so will the kids. A man in the classroom often helps to reduce discipline problems, too.

Organize a list of "substitute" teachers from which to draw when a regular leader or helper is unable to attend. Be sure to fill each vacancy as soon as possible.

There are most likely people in your church who aren't available on a weekly basis or just don't want to be tied to a schedule, but do like to help when presented with a special need, such as VBS. These are the people who can help you by preparing handcraft materials, cutting out visuals, or making or providing snacks. Senior citizens and singles are particularly receptive to this idea. Show your appreciation for their help, just as you show your appreciation to your regular leaders and helpers.

The leaders are the most important part of your preschool program—not because they do everything themselves, but because they are the only means through which children can be truly involved and discipled. The most successful preschool group is usually the one where the adult leaders do less so the children can do more. This is the toughest kind of leadership, but it's the kind that produces disciples and leaders in your students.

*Mary A. Barbour, You Can Teach 2s & 3s (Wheaton, IL: Victor books, 1987), 33.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Should You Include Preschoolers in Your VBS Program?

If you've been debating whether or not you should include preschoolers in your VBS program—you're not alone! If you do include preschoolers, you'll want to be sure they have their own age-appropriate programming.

Some VBS programs include preschool, but for those that don't, you'll need to figure out how to include these precious little ones.

Preschoolers are wiggly, giggly, and filled with enthusiasm. We've created 3 VBS preschool programs with all of these characteristics in mind. Each one will work as a stand-alone program, or along with whatever VBS program you're using. They're buzzing with fun for little ones, helpers, and everyone involved. Children will explore God's Word and learn how to apply it to their lives.

The special summer edition of the Preschool All-in-One Kit includes a VBS option. Each quarter of this preschool curriculum can also be used for any time you have preschoolers (children's church, midweek, MOPS, or more). The curriculum contains a full quarter (13 weeks) of lessons, with instructions on how to adapt for a 5-day or 10-day vacation Bible school program. Plus, there's an optional Awards Program available if you'd like to supplement your kids' Bible learning. It is totally flexible and designed to work with whichever elementary program you choose.
Each day, preschoolers will:
  • Participate in age-appropriate, hands-on learning centers 
  • Watch a brief puppet show that introduces them to the Bible theme of the day 
  • Do a finger play or action rhyme to help get the wiggles out before the Bible story 
  • Hear a Bible story written for their age level 
  • Learn short Bible memory words 
  • Do coloring activities 
  • Play games 
  • Make a simple craft to take home 
  • Have yummy snacks (suggestions are given in the Leader's Guide, or you may choose to use some of the snack ideas from your elementary VBS program) 
The Preschool All-in-One Kit includes everything you need to teach children ages 2-5 in one classroom! More information & samples >

The Jesus in Nazareth Preschool VBS is designed to supplement your elementary VBS program. Written especially for 2- to 5-year-olds, this five-day VBS program includes Bible stories, snacks, crafts, and games with reproducible student sheets and colorful visuals. Your little ones can travel to the Marketplace before the older children but can also enjoy the stories of Jesus written at their own level. Crafts and games in the Preschool Leader’s Guide are preschool-friendly. The preschool VBS program is completely flexible.

This VBS is available with a Preschool Leader’s Guide plus CD-ROM. This is a great way to include your younger children with activities written just for them.

Each day, preschoolers will:
  • Hear a Bible story about Jesus written for their age level 
  • Learn short Bible memory words 
  • Do coloring activities 
  • Play games 
  • Make a simple craft to take home 
  • Have yummy snacks (suggestions are given in the Snack Leader's Guide, or you may choose to use some of the snack ideas from the marketplace in your elementary VBS program)
The Jesus in Nazareth Preschool VBS includes everything you need to give children ages 2-5 their own VBS. More information & samples >

This Joseph in Egypt Preschool VBS is also a great program to supplement your elementary VBS program this summer. Written especially for 2- to 5-year-olds, this five-day VBS program includes Bible stories, snacks, crafts, and games with reproducible student sheets and colorful visuals. Your little ones can travel to the Marketplace before the older children but can also enjoy the stories of Joseph written at their own level.

The Preschool Leader’s Guide includes decorating ideas, tips for working with preschoolers, a suggested rotation schedule, and a preschool sign-in sheet. The download contains separate job descriptions for your Snack Leader, Bible Story Leader, Games Leader, and Crafts Leader. You can print instructions for the leaders each day of your VBS so they can collect any needed supplies and decide which options to use. The download also includes registration cards, safety tips, a course overview, coloring pages with NLT and NIV memory verses, “How to Lead a Child to Christ,” recruiting tips, and lots more.

The Joseph in Egypt Preschool VBS includes everything you need to give children ages 2-5 their own VBS. More information & samples >

Whichever program(s) you decide to use, you may want to begin each day of your VBS with elementary children and preschoolers together for a time of opening music. Be prepared to have one or two helpers take the two-year-olds to your preschool classroom for free play if the large group setting becomes overwhelming. We recommend ending each day with a prayer time especially for your preschoolers and then letting the preschool children have free play until their parents arrive.

So, our answer to the question, "Should we include Preschoolers in our VBS?" Yes. If you can recruit the volunteers to do so (more on that tomorrow)'ll be glad you did when you see their eyes light up throughout the week. You'll be planting seeds in those precious little hearts, and if even one of those children comes to know Christ, it's all worth it for His kingdom.