9 Steps For Planning Vacation Bible School

It’s that time of year and everyone is working on planning VBS. In this article, I’ll give you a simple 9 step process for organizing vacation Bible school. Then I’ll share some of my best practical tips about vacation Bible school. As always, you can leave a comment and help me make this resource better.

Update: This article was first posted last year, but I wanted to bring it back out for the VBS season. Let me know what you think – leave a comment at the bottom of this page.

happy kidMake prayer a part of your planning. I didn’t include praying as one of the steps below because it should be a part of every step. You’ll need God’s help at every point to make this year’s vacation Bible school an eternal success.

1. Determine your support level
It takes more than money to put together a great Bible school week. You’ll also need volunteers, donations, pastoral backing, facilities, and prayer partners. Before your launch into planning, take time to consider how much support is available. The approach you take will depend on how much backing is available. If you find low support, you might need to opt for a shortened schedule (3-days) or find another church to work with. If support level is high, you might be able to do something extra like an extended schedule (all-day or 2-weeks) or host a community wide VBS for several smaller churches to join.

2. Choose dates for your VBS
Several factors affect scheduling. In our town, we work around several major summer events like the county fair, the boat races and Relay for Life. It is also smart to check with other churches in town to see which weeks they have planned for VBS. Work together with church leaders to pick the best available week. (But there will always be someone on vacation.)

3. Choose & order curriculum for your VBS
I’ve written a whole article on How To Choose A Vacation Bible School Curriculum. This is an important step, because not all VBS themes will fit every church situation. Like everything, it’s better to start early and get the materials in hand ASAP. Most publishers include a very helpful guide to planning Bible school at your church. If you need more help finding the right curriculum, you can read my Vacation Bible School Curriculum Reviews.

4. Create a rotation schedule and room assignment chart
There are many right ways to do this. I tend to be as simple as possible. Your plan will be determined by your support level and facility setup. We have several large meeting rooms, so I prefer large group stations for crafts, music, learning and snack. You can download an example of my rotation schedule here.

5. Recruit volunteers for Vacation Bible Schoolokay sign
The next step is to create your roster. To keep things simple, I put mine on the same document as the rotation schedule. The key to finding volunteers is relationships and helping volunteers find the right spot. Our church has many volunteers who work VBS every summer. I’ve written an article on this topic too: You can read more about finding volunteers for vacation Bible school. Consider using teenage VBS workers, but only with the proper training.

6. Publicize and pre-register children for Bible school
Once all the pieces are in place (or at least you’re trying), it’s time to start promotion. Most churches will ask members to speak with their neighbors about coming to Bible school. I prefer a half-sheer registration flyer that also works for a promotion piece. Depending on your budget, advertising can be a major expense. We use a large sign on the road in front of our church to increase awareness. Some publishers offer online registration tools that can simplify the process.

7. Communicate the plan
Make sure all your volunteers know their roles before VBS starts. Some churches have multiple meetings to walk through the plan. For our church, I typically spare them the meeting but call everyone to make sure they are on the same page. If you do have a meeting, use it to encourage the workers and pray for God’s help.

6. Adjust as needed during VBS week
Even the best plans will need adjustments during Bible school week. For this reason, I try to delegate all the teaching responsibilities so I am free to make decisions during the week. If you’ve communicated your plan well, then adjustments should be minimal.

7. Follow up any new contacts made during Bible school
The missing step for most churches is to follow up after VBS. I suggest a letter from the pastor for all un-churched guests and possibly home visitations. If you have children who come to Christ, make these priorities. The most effective form of follow-up is to get prospects enrolled in Sunday school. If you struggle to make that happen, I recommend you read this article by Darryl Wilson: Grow Your Sunday School by Following Up Vacation Bible School. Tip: Write a follow-up letter for the children who attended VBS. You can send it home with them on the last day or mail it to them a week later. You can seem my sample VBS letter to children here.

8. Evaluate and make detailed notes
I keep a notebook open all week to record my observations from VBS. This has been my best teacher. During Bible school, you can see first hand things you may wish to do differently next year. So, write it down and file it away. If you’re brave, ask several key leaders to keep their own list. Have lunch together the week after Bible school and compare notes. Here are some printable VBS evaluation forms.

9. Say thank you to every volunteer
I’ve saved this one for last, but it is very important. We try to recognize volunteers at VBS graduation, in church the following Sunday, with personal thank you notes. Go the extra mile for key leaders and phone them to say thanks. Practically, you can’t do Bible school without the workers. Pray that God will bless them for all their hard work.

Need more ideas? Then here are six more ideas for how to plan VBS . . .

Practical Tips For Planning Vacation Bible School

  1. Begin early. Some people work best under pressure, but this is not true for team efforts such as vacation Bible school. Don’t wait until the last minute! If possible, have your volunteer roster filled several weeks early. Starting things late will cause stress and distract your focus from ministering to the children.
  2. Talk about it. Start talking to people as soon as you can. Be vocal about the progress of your VBS plan all through the process. This will help people share your excitement and provide redundant channels of communication. I’ve discovered that talking about Bible school with our church volunteers is a great way get feedback and to refine my ideas.
  3. Learn from last year. Even if this is your first year as VBS director, you can still get some great information by asking about what worked in the past. So, talk to volunteers from last year and see what they liked and what needs improvement.
  4. Have fun. Doing God’s work should bring joy into your life. Don’t let all the details and worries rob you of that. Besides, if the leaders aren’t having fun, then the kids will suffer.
  5. Find ideas online. Most major VBS publishers have forums on their website for churches to share ideas about the curriculum. This can be a great source of inspiration. Here are a few that I’ve checked out: LifeWay, Group, Gospel Light
  6. Keep it simple. This was the biggest lesson I learned after my first year leading Bible school. All those bells and whistles were distracting our people from the real ministry with the children. So, whenever possible go simple. Spend your time and energy on what will make a lasting difference, like relationships, prayer and teaching.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article. You can get all my practical tips for children’s ministry by signing up for my free email newsletter. If you have something to add, please leave a comment and share your thoughts.


Comments

  1. Michelle Valley says

    This is my first year doing VBS and I am so excited to use this material. We have a small church but I believe God is going to bring in the children with this Armor of God theme…Prayers needed
    Thank you so very much>>>>

  2. Daniel - Hyd, India says

    Hi Tony, This is a very nice article: Thank you for posting such useful information. However, I was not able to agree to one point which you have made. The point is “If you find low support, you might need to opt for a shortened schedule (3-days) or find another church to work with.” I, as a responsible volunteer or staff cannot lookout of a comfort zone, instead I would give the best, even with low support or limited available resources.

  3. Tammy says

    Our VBS starts in 16 days, and the director held his first “meeting” today. I’m disgusted. He told everyone all the things he wants volunteers to do so we can have a “quality” VBS. Everything mentioned, like decorations for the auditorium, should already be done. It’s no wonder we have so few kids in our church with “quality” programs like this one. :( Apparently advertising will consist of a couple hours of canvassing, since “kids don’t usually read the newspaper.” I have to concentrate on making my class/lessons the best I can, and hope that I have students show up. But clearly I’m feeling defeated and angry that such an important children’s ministry program has been placed in the hands of a nincompoop. :(

  4. Tiffany Tai says

    Our church has never done any VBS. Beside all the suggestions that you have given, we wonder if there are rules or regulations on having a VBS Class? Do we need extra insurance, apply any license? Where can we find relative information?

    • says

      The standard church insurance policy should cover any normal ministry events, but you should make a call to the agent if you have any doubts.

  5. Pearleen Waters says

    This site was very helpful to me as a first time organizer of VBS as director. Thank you.

    Question: Is it appropriate to sing the Nat’l Athem in the closing program of VBS. Are there any protocol or ettiquettes with respect to who the worship leader should be? For example, my church has the Pastor as the worship leader. Is this protocol?

    I think the other director has used this information as well because our VBS is organized like these steps suggested.

    • Carrie says

      Hi Nece

      Noted your query – I have been given the task of preparing a VBS for 2012 Christmas season to totally unchurched group of children. Have you received any replies that you could possibly share with me?!! Any suggestions would be helpful! Blessings, Carrie from Qld Australia!

  6. Kelci says

    Thank you so much for this article!! VBS 2012 will be my first year being the VBS Director at our church. I have been really nervous, ever since I was nominated! You had some really good tips, and i go to a very small church, but we have more children than adult members. This article (and whole website) has really helped me with my new position in Children Ministry. Thank you so much!!

  7. Barbara says

    Your article on 9 steps to VBS made me feel so much better about being the newest director in our church. I have utalized your material the past two years Full Armour of God and God Always Wins. Both have been a great success, this past year we had 7 children make professions of faith and follow with baptisim! Praise God! After reading the 9 steps I felt so much better about how we proceeded, seems like we may have done everything per the 9 step program without knowing what it was! I was so unsure of myself the first year, but through the power of prayer and God being right by my side it was a success as the past two have been. I know this was God’s plan for my involvement in VBS, to keep me grounded and reliant totally on Him! Thank you for your wonderful material, I rely on your site a lot. I am just now using your site for youth as well. I want our Wednesday nite youth study to be about knowing what our faith; our denomination is all about and to keep the grounded in that faith.

  8. Joshua Smith says

    I wanted to say thanks for your practical advice and helpful suggestions you provide here. I am using your outline above to explain to people in my city about being prepared for their Vacation Bible School. I did notice your number and counting is off though. You may have already noticed. There are 11 steps not 9. God bless josh Seoul, Korea

  9. Roxanne Meyer says

    We have a very small church of about 100 members. We have about 60 that will attend or help during vbs but that also includes a teen class and adult class. We really can’t afford the typical vbs curriculum. So I pick a theme, write my own lesson plans then start looking. I buy 2-3 years in advance sometimes if I have a plan in mind I keep a notebook in my purse and let my imagaination go. I buy decorations and crafts all year. Even though we are small we have awesome vbs. I am now planning 2013. 2011 is in the bag and so is 2012. I start with reminders and volunteers around Feb. of each year. My oldest children are now teens and they enjoy just as much as my youngest who is in preschool. My one son gets to use his talents as the officiall photographer. My oldest likes to help with scenery. My oldest daughter can’t wait to be a craft assistant. I also always follow up with my volunteers with a thank you note and small gifts. I never have trouble getting volunteers.

  10. sheila says

    This will be my second year as chair of VBS. I would love to reach out more to the community. I thought about doing a mailing to churches but VBS is really about those unsaved souls. We do good within the church for advertising but any suggestions for reaching out outside the walls of your own congregation

    • Roxanne Meyer says

      Send flyers to preschools, community centers that offer meal programs for children, and daycares in the areas. Also having a banner that announces that everyone is welcome seems to help.

  11. Marie says

    I am hoping to take a group of high school students to a very small island in the Grenadines to do a vacation Bible school next year. We are very limited with the availability of technology, supplies, space. We will have to take all supplies with us. Are there any curriculum designed for use in the Caribbean, that are inexpensive and able to be used by a teenager?

  12. Rev. Nelson Adewole says

    Great reading this page! So much to learn as we plan for our maiden vbs in August this year. Thanks.

  13. Melane Threats says

    Greetings Tony, I have thoroughly enjoyed all the info you have provided concerning children’s ministry. I am new to this ministry and not much experience other than my own personal spiritual knowledge and experience as a professional RN, now retired due to disability. We have a very small church and use materials from urban ministries. Soon we will have our VBS and I will need all the help I can get. Thank-you again and God bless.

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