How To Choose The Right Vacation Bible School Curriculum

vacation bible school curriculum

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Vacation Bible School curriculum options are getting better every year. With the host of excellent VBS themes comes a problem – which one is right for your church? Here are the top elements I look at when choosing a Vacation Bible School curriculum.

Theology
Vacation Bible School publishers typically downplay doctrinal distinctives. This makes sense, because they are trying to reach the largest cross section of churches. But you can’t assume that every Vacation Bible School Curriculum is theologically neutral. How can you evaluate the theological bias of a VBS program?

  • Check to see if the publisher has a statement of faith.
  • Dig a little deeper and see what types of churches typically use their curriculum.
  • Read the sample lessons carefully and with discernment.
  • If you are trying a new publisher, always check with your pastor or church board.

Quality Of The Lesson Plans
Not all Bible lessons are created equal. When I think about quality I like to see lessons with clear learning objectives. Good curriculum will balance between challenging church kids and connecting with the unchurched. This is not an easy task! I also check to see of the Bible references clearly support the lesson aim. Too often verses are jammed into lessons just fit with the daily theme. Look carefully at the Bible teaching; it’s the heart of every great Vacation Bible School Curricula.

Support
Many curriculum publishers have online forums where you can share ideas with other Vacation Bible School directors. This is a great way to get support and make new friends. Some publishers even offer regional training meetings. This is strength of using a major publisher’s Vacation Bible School Curriculum.

Ministry Setting
Think carefully about your ministry setting. Not all themes will fit well in every community. For example, some Vacation Bible School curricula might not connect with city kids the same way they connect with rural children. If you reach unchurched children, find a VBS program that leans toward evangelism. If most of your VBS learners are from other churches, select a curriculum that leans toward discipleship.

Music And Video Demonstrations
What music styles are influencing the culture in your town? I give a lot of weight to the music when choosing a Vacation Bible School curriculum. If possible, let some kids in your life sample the music off the publisher’s website. I have been surprised to find that music I thought was “cool” sounds like “pre-school music” to our kids. It’s also important to find a publisher that offers DVD music demonstrations.

Marketing
Vacation Bible School as a concept has less cultural draw than in previous generations. Most publishers offer a good selection of publicity material to help boost attendance. Be careful, the cost of these can add up quickly. I usually make flyers with the approved advertising logos that are included in the curriculum. We also place a large sign on the road by our church. This works well because of our location, but you may need to get more creative.

Easy To Use
“Easy” has become a buzzword for children’s ministry curriculum. While there is a danger in lowering expectations for your volunteers, but we all have to negotiate time in our busy lives. I try to make things easy on the preparation side, but expect a lot of energy and compassion from our workers on the scene. Finding a VBS program that makes things easy is always a plus.

Price
Many of the larger Vacation Bible School curricula have similar price points. Watch out for hidden costs such as workbooks, craft kits and extra teacher manuals. If budget is a concern, get creative with snack donations, and craft supplies. I know of several churches that work together to save costs by sharing their materials. You can also shop around online and find steep discounts on Vacation Bible school curriculum.

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What do you think?

Which elements do you look at when choosing a Vacation Bible School curriculum? Leave a comment below and join the conversation.


Comments

  1. Elizabeth says

    I agree that teens need their own class…as do adults. My point is that, while of course teens are not as mature (in general) as adults (in general), needing to be taught does not mean one should not begin teaching or at least helping.

    In our church, we have a pre-K-12 camping program spread over four weeks. The policy is that one must be at least 13 and at least three years older than the oldest child at that camp in order to be a helper. A mature adult is responsible for the teaching and discipline.

    For example, when I turned 13, I helped a veteran leader with the the preschool VBS group. I was an extra pair of eyes and ears, walked kids to the bathroom, helped them with crafts, etc. I was so excited to help out. As I grew older, I was able to help out in more ways, but it wasn’t until I was an adult that I taught any of the lessons. It would have been inappropriate to place the lesson and the classroom discipline in my hands, but I did not need to be 18 to tie a knot in a necklace or to bring up the rear or a train of 4-year-olds.

    When I co-directed the day camp, we enlisted the less-mature but highly-eager 7th graders as “minions.” (“Despicable Me” had just come out.) They filled the water coolers, carried messages, and otherwise made themselves very useful to my co-director and me! The cycle continues!

    We want our youth to have a healthy sense of ownership of their churches. The Church in America (based on those various polls), is dealing with flocks of youth and young adults walking away from the Church. Waiting until they are 18 and headed off to school is waiting too long. If we want the next generation in the church to fill our places of leadership, we should start training them early. It seems to me that “train up a child in the way he should go” would also apply in the negative sense. If we train kids that helping out with the program of the church is something old people (as all adults are in their eyes) do, then it will be less natural for them to pitch in when they become the old people. But if we involve them as early as may be in the life of the church – as givers as well as receivers – that pattern will also continue.

    Elizabeth

  2. Jodi says

    I totally agree that todays teens need their own class and are not ready to teach we have done a junior and senior high class the past 2 years and it has been a huge success

  3. says

    How about bring back the “2 Week VBS”? I need a 10-day curriculum. Our VBS has been running a 10-day (2 week) VBS for 50 years! It is the most successful and exciting one in our community! Everyone looks forward to it. We reach twice as many kids, memorize more Scripture, learn more of God’s Word, and have an AWESOME closing musical program! Kids love it, as well as adults. By offering 2 weeks, families can arrange their busy schedule so that they can come at least part of the time! “Vacation one week and VBS the other”….or wear your baseball uniform to VBS, then leave for your game when you need to etc…. We have made it work and people appreciate our extension of 2 weeks! We just shouldn’t have to write our own curriculum for the second week. We have about 4 ladies who divide it up, but it would be nice to have 10 days straight. We also have Jr. High and Sr. High classes! (Very popular!). Today’s teens are NOT ready to teach and need to be taught and grounded in God’s Word! Then, when they graduate, we gradually allow them to help out in crafts, or with the preschool classes. It works out wonderfully and the teens look forward to “being a kid” while they still can, and earn the right to teach when they are 18 or 19! How ’bout it???

  4. says

    @Beckie Johnson: That’s a tough one. If you think you know the publisher, then you can try asking on their forums.

  5. Beckie Johnson says

    I am looking for an old vacation bible school curriculum (possibly Gospel Light or Great Commission Publications) that was done in the early 90’s and it had a great song for kids about wisdom (done in sort of a military style with repeat (like when soldiers are running). The first line was:

    “I don’ t know but I’ve been told; wisdom’s worth its weight in gold.”

    Do you have any idea how I can research this?

    Thanks,
    Beckie Johnson

  6. says

    I think it’s very important that at least one of the week’s stories features a female character in a “starring” role. The Bible is filled with so many wonderful stories about women (named and unnamed), and little girls need to have stories with such biblical heroines that they can look up to and relate with. It’s also important for boys to see that the Bible features leading women as well as men. It saddens me that not as many children, or adults for that matter, don’t know the names or stories of Deborah, Abigale, Lydia, Dorcas, the Woman at the Well, the Woman who touched Jesus’ robe, so on and so forth. I like Cokesbury’s VBS programs because they make an effort to ensure that at least one of these stories does feature a leading female character during the week, and I like the inclusivity of their programs.

  7. B. WIlson says

    Our church is going on a Mission Trip to Mexico and we are going to be doing a VBS for the children. What we aren’t sure of is what kind of program to use since we don’t know if the children can read or not. Any suggestions on something in Spanish but simple?

  8. says

    I know Group has great a great DVD with their Vacation Bible School, but I’m not sure if it has interaction.

    There is a program called KidMo that is massively interactive, it designed for regular use. I would think you could adapt it to VBS.

  9. Jordana says

    I am looking for interactive music DVD’s with songs that the kids are doing motions to. Praise and Worship and fun songs.

  10. says

    Tracy – I appreciate your encouragement. I’m sometimes troubled by the amount of attention the publishers focus on the packaging. The Bible teaching is what changes lives.

  11. Tr@cy says

    This is a great article. Thanks for simplifying a rather hard decision. We have had issues with all of these points in the past. Listing the theology and lesson plans first is the way to go. So many get caught up in the hype and music, forgetting that if the total theme of a VBS is not what we want, it’s all in vain.

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