Vacation Bible School (VBS) is a God-centered ministry to children that reaches into countless communities every summer. Curriculum for VBS should be purchased one year in advance online or through a local Christian bookstore. Curriculum today includes leaders' information, DVDs, theme-related music and everything you need for a successful VBS--except the schedule. Pass out volunteer lists for teachers and for the VBS prayer team six months in advance. Four months in advance, hold the first meeting with the leaders. Over 25 percent of all salvations recorded by Southern Baptists are made during VBS, according to Christian Index online. VBS changes lives.
Draw a layout of your church, considering the floor and room space available. Locate what you consider to be the VBS entrance doorway. Mark it on the map. Highlight each room and number it, beginning at the door. Include the kitchen/fellowship hall room, as this is the snack area and a portion of the rotation.
Create age groups on another sheet of paper. It is usually best to begin accepting children into Vacation Bible School when they are in kindergarten. Ages younger than that require a nursery or toddler room, which is not feasible in many VBS curriculums. Group the ages appropriately, such as kindergarten and first grade in one group, second and third grades together and so on. If your VBS program is a larger one, you may need a separate class for each grade, or even more than one class per grade. Once VBS begins, you can vary groups depending upon the number of children attending. For example, if the roster has only one fourth grader, place him with the fifth grade group.
Determine your support team. How many volunteers will you have to help? Assign two teachers per group. The groups for rotation are craft lesson, music lesson, Bible lesson, Bible game time and snack time. Add more if desired.
Consider the crafts and lessons included in your curriculum before determining the rotation order. For example, if one particular craft is a messy painting lesson or a large project, assign crafts last on the rotation list, instead of first. If you place it first, it will slow your other rotations down, as well as keep the kids distracted the rest of the schedule due to the paint smudges remaining on their fingers or faces.
Fill out the map drawing by entering the names of those within your support team. Label numbers on the drawing, numbering each room. Include the kitchen/fellowship hall area as a room. This will be needed for snack time. Begin with the room closest to the entrance doorway.
Begin the rotation at the entrance doorway. This is where the children will sign in. On the first night of VBS, offer the children a necklace with their name on it. Once all of the children have signed in, the next order of business for a successful rotation is to line up behind the teachers and leaders and to enter the sanctuary for prayer and to sing the new VBS worship songs. This is called Base Camp. Base Camp should be about 10 minutes long.
Allow the groups to break away in the first main rotation from the sanctuary. Each class should be 20 minutes long. The key here is to inform every instructor to close their lesson at the exact same moment. Then everyone switches at the same time, with two minutes to rotate. When the next class comes into the instructor's room, they teach the same lesson again to the next age group for 20 minutes. For example, the teacher who is teaching the Moses craft may teach it five times that day if there are five age groups.
Schedule a snack time in the rotation, also. Snack time is always one of the most fun areas of VBS. Those who volunteer to make the snacks should be making them according to the curriculum theme. The children will eat fast, so snack time rotation is a great time for a restroom break.
Rotate the children to the sanctuary last, after they leave their last rotation, for a word from the pastor or youth leader. Some VBS leaders like to do missions financial challenges or other nightly games to wind down the evening. Gather everyone together for prayer before the children disburse to their parents or the church van.
Gather the children's name tags as they leave to place back on them the next day. Schedule a family night on the fifth night. Invite the parents to have snacks, fellowship and watch their children sing the songs they learned at VBS.
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As a former elementary school teacher, Cheryl Starr now writes full-time from Missouri. Her work has appeared in various magazines, including "Teachers of Vision," "Insight" and "Highlights." She is currently writing a novel and a devotional book. Starr studied elementary education at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.