How To Do Vacation Bible School On A Tiny Budget

Some churches budget thousands of dollars for their annual Vacation Bible School program. But many smaller churches struggle to find the resources to support VBS. Here are some ideas for doing your Vacation Bible School without a lot of money. You should also check out our free curriculum for VBS.

Partner With Another Church’s VBS

Sometimes the best use of VBS money is to partner with another church (or churches) in your town to do a “Community Vacation Bible School.” There are some downsides to this in terms of safety and specific evangelistic outreach, but good planning can overcome those issues. The added challenges in planning will require a good director who can work with a team to pull it off.

Reuse Curriculum From Another Church’s VBS

Why not ask a church if you can use their materials after Bible school is over? This can work very well if you plan your VBS in July, while their’s is in June. If you have time, go and volunteer at their Bible school to see hands on how the program works. Our church makes plans to pass on our materials every year. It’s become a tradition to count how many churches get to use our props and curriculum.

Plan Easy Crafts

Aside from curriculum, craft supplies can be a major expense. If you keep the crafts minimal there is a potential to save. Don’t be too cheap, but skip the expensive craft kits that some of the publishers sell.

Ask For Simple Snack Donations

In most cases, you shouldn’t have to budget for snacks. Ask volunteers or church members to donate paper goods, cookies and other durable snacks. Even drink mixed can be donated by VBS supporters or local businesses. Kids love snacks, and usually are just happy with simple and inexpensive options.

Find A Donor To Underwrite VBS

If the church budget can’t cover the expenses, look for individual donors or business to sponsor your vacation Bible school. A few hundred dollars can make a huge difference to make your Bible school a success. Make sure you thank them publicly (if they don’t mind) and send a thank you card signed by the kids.

Another option would be to have the church take a special offering for Vacation Bible school. This may be effective in smaller churches that don’t have an annual budget. Pastoral support is essential to make this happen, so be sure your minister understands how important proper funding is for running Bible school.

Only Buy The Minimum VBS Elements

Most VBS programs allow you to buy a starter kit and then optional components separately. Often you can get by without all the fancy extras. This is something to look for when you choose a curriculum. Some require materials for every learner, while others let you make do with only the teacher’s guides. I still struggle to spend money on buying the themed t-shirts. Fortunately, our craft people have the children make custom shirts. These are about 1/3 the price and have more keepsake value for the families.

Ask For More Budget Next Year

It may be too late for this year, but why not ask for a budget increase next year? Even in small churches, the people will recognize VBS as the flagship program for children’s outreach. As soon as Bible school is over, draft a budget for the next year and take it to the pastor and finance people. The timing is important because VBS is often just a memory by the Fall when the budget committee crunches their numbers. If you can get them to agree in theory that more money would help, then it should make budget process easier when the time actually comes.

How does your church save money?

Our church is very generous toward the children’s ministry and give above what we need. So if you have more ideas to share I would love to hear them. If you have experience running VBS on a small budget, leave a comment below.

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Comments

  1. Sydnee says

    The summer of 2012 was my first time (co)directing – or even staffing – a VBS program. We (my co-director and myself) had between 30 and 40 kids attend, grades K-3. With a bit of help from our church, we pulled off the entire program for around $200.
    My best money-saving tip? Write your own curriculum! It may sound daunting, especially if you have never done it before, but I promise, it’s well worth the investment! You can customize the entire program to your church’s needs. Start thinking and praying early (about 5-6 months in advance or more, if you can) about what your theme should be, pick your theme verse, and what stories and points you will use to emphasize this theme each day. Then, think about how you want to teach each story, and go from there. If you are like me and don’t have little to no experience writing curriculum or teaching in a classroom setting, ask those in your church who do have experience for help, such as an elementary school teacher or even a Sunday school teacher.
    Another good way to save money on a VBS program is to customize the crafts or other objects kids use/take home to your budget (i.e. pick things kids can have fun with, but that are also dirt cheap to buy). For example, one of the crafts we had were sugar cube castles, made with sugar cubes and school glue. Kids also used ‘special binoculars’ made out of donated toilet paper rolls, scotch tape, and yarn to ‘discover God in nature.’ As the article suggests, ask for snack donations from your church congregation via a list where people can sign up to donate items. But don’t be afraid to ask for other needed things. See if your church already has craft materials they would let you use for your VBS program. Ask about using items for games that are already available at your church. Getting involved and asking if our church had these kinds of things saved us a LOT of money, time, and effort!
    If you decide to go the adventurous route of writing your own curriculum/program to save money, I highly recommend and encourage you to do so. Try to think of themes that would be easy to decorate or customize at your VBS location. For example, if you are holding VBS at a summer camp-like location, you could easily do a theme on nature, going on a treasure hunt (like pirates), or building your house on a firm foundation (wise and foolish builders). I hope this helps everyone. :)

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