So you’re in charge of recreation for Vacation Bible School? No fear, the Recreation Queen is here!
My husband and I started leading recreation together before we were even married (we’re probably around our ten year mark or so). It is a distinct honor to serve the Lord in this area because we get to be active with the kids and engage with them in different ways than when we’re teaching in a classroom. We adore our time together because the kids are always so excited to see what activity we have planned. So, here are some tips from my experience:
1. Find a good partner. Recreation is like recess on steroids, so finding a great partner will keep you from being overwhelmed. The way we do it: My husband is always the one to lead the games while I act as the planner by picking the games and determining how to incorporate the day’s lesson. Then I “fill in” as needed when he leads the kids (e.g. discipline and organization). Just like in the workplace, your number one assistant can either be a blessing or a curse, so ask the Lord’s guidance in choosing a partner.
2. Recruit at least two reliable helpers. In addition to a wonderful partner you will need extra helpers. The teenagers in our church typically help fill this need, but they all have different schedules. We try to insure that we have at least two helpers each day because having extra hands is a must for some of the games. Also, it’s a great opportunity for recreation leader(s) to mentor other Christians on how to serve children. Helpers are good for keeping eyes on the kids for game honesty and for setting up and taking down each day’s event. So recruit a few people who are willing to help even if they are only available one or two days. Also, be upfront with your expectations and don’t be afraid to dismiss helpers who cause distractions or are a hindrance to the activity. It’s all about drawing the kids closer to Christ, so you certainly don’t want helpers sticking around who aren’t committed to that goal.
3. Pray and incorporate the daily lesson. We’ve made the mistake of talking too much in the past in an effort to incorporate the day’s lesson. We’re also guilty of not taking enough time to make a spiritual connection. So, pray about how you can appropriately incorporate each day’s lesson in recreation. Without incorporation, the kids will be lead to believe that it’s just a “goof off” time. With too much incorporation, the kids might lose interest in playing the games. Something we’ve found to work is reading each day’s memory verse combined with a brief synopsis of the day’s lesson so the kids know what to expect from their other classes.
4. Don’t pick games that are too athletic. What do I mean by that? Well, you always have kids who can run for twenty straight minutes, but the majority of them won’t be able to keep up if the game is too taxing. It’s okay to have alternative, “harder” versions of each game, but just realize they probably won’t be practical. Keep the games within reach for each age group. And remember to simplify the games for younger kiddos, such as moving in boundary lines or putting them into smaller groups.
5. Don’t push participation. It certainly goes unsaid that kids are expected to participate in recreation, but each year we have at least one kid who (for whatever reason) needs helping “warming-up” to the games. My advice is to not push participation with a child, but rather encourage them through statements like, “I would love for you to come and play with us, so whenever you’re ready come join us,” or “Would you help me play the game?” Some kids just lack the confidence to successfully help their teams, so they try to sit out instead. However, most kids will eventually join in once they see the fun being had. So try not to get frustrated with a child’s desire to sit out, but instead be their cheerleader and encourager.
6. Have at least one water game. Every year we have a water balloon day, and the kids look forward to it all week. We also try to have at least one other water activity to keep the kids’ excitement level high. While water activities certainly take more preparation (and clean up), they are well worth it. Just don’t plan the activities too late in the week or you’ll be asking for it to rain and then have some disappointed kids. Which leads us to the next tip…
7. Have a back-up plan. You need back-ups for helpers, back-ups for games, and back-ups for location. Just go ahead and back everything up! Speak to the church and/or Vacation Bible School administrators on what you can do and where you can go if your location suddenly becomes unavailable. Our recreation is always held outside, so you probably don’t have to worry as much if you will be inside a gym or big classroom, but it still doesn’t hurt to have a plan.
8. Allow time for the kids to rest before their next activity. This is probably our overall chief failure each year – we don’t give the kids enough time to settle down before going to their next class and they drive their next group of teachers bonkers! The kids will also want a drink or restroom break after playing games, so stopping a little early will give their group leaders a little extra leeway. And consider prepping the kids on which class they go to next by looking at the schedule and reminding them of the behavioral standards for that setting.
9. Remember to pray as a group. Before you dismiss the kids you should always pray. Pray for the Lord to speak to their hearts as they learn about his word and for them to make the choice to become a follower of Christ if they are not believers. Vacation Bible School has the awesome potential of reaching “un-churched” kids, so reiterating the simple gospel message through prayer can be the determining factor for a child to accept Jesus.
I pray these tips help you feel better equipped to lead recreation, because I sure wish I had them when we started. Now take a deep breath, relax, and don’t forget to drink some caffeine. You’re going to do great!