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.
- My Vacation Bible School Curriculum Reviews (you might also consider one of the smaller publishers linked from the bottom of that page they typically are less expensive and geared toward smaller churches)
- How To Choose A Vacation Bible School Curriculum
- Off site link: Compare VBS Prices at Family Christian Stores
3 thoughts on “How To Do Vacation Bible School On A Tiny Budget”
Thank you for your great thoughts on writing your own VBS materials. I just finished my third “homemade” VBS and we are starting to plan for next year. Our church is small and finances are always a problem. We have really liked doing our own because it does save a lot of money. We can adapt it to fit our needs and our children. This past week we had about 8 children everyday and 15 adults. Our adults love children and it was such a blessing to have so many there. I discovered that many of our adults had never been to a VBS and they loved the experience. We don’t have a problem with staff. We use anyone who wants to come and they all get involved in the activities. We have done tye-dye tee shirts for 2 years now. This year we had over 1/2 of the shirts donated by the church members. Using Sharpie pens and alcohol for setting the colors, even our Cradle Roll class could make a tee shirt and they came so nice. Yes, the little ones had a lot of help, but, each one got to color their own shirt. That was our biggest expense, but, most of it was donated. All the snacks were donated. The blessing that comes from writing your won is well worth the time and the planning. There are so many ideas for coloring pages, crafts, activities on the internet that it makes putting lessons together very easy. It does not have the bright planned pages of published material, but, it does have the personal touch that gives each person the opportunity to be a servant, a blessing to young ones, and receive the blessing that comes from giving self to Jesus and letting Him use us in ways and places that we never dreamed possible. It would be difficult for a mega church because of the numbers, but, for the smaller churches, it’s well worth all the time. Give it a try and you may never go back to published materials again. God will bless you.
Thank for such wonderful resources. Our church is very small and VBS outreach expenses seems to grow larger each year. With resources such as this one; we will be not only able to present our best but we can use dollars saved to enhance our efforts.
May the Lord continue to bless you as you have been a blessing to us.
Christian Education Director
St. Joseph MB Church – Chicago, IL
After becoming dissatisfied with some of the curriculum options that were available, I have created the curriculum for my church’s VBS since its inception. My career is in education, specifically early childhood education. Since our VBS usually happens over a weekend, I often plan our VBS lessons around the Sunday School lesson for that week. My community has several online gifting groups. I’ve been able to gather basic supplies from group members who are giving items away.