How to Plan a VBS Program

Five simple steps and handy ideas on how to plan and create a Vacation Bible School (VBS) program the children will enjoy for free!

Did you know that over 60% of the churches in the United States host a summer Vacation Bible School (VBS) program? Planning a successful VBS program can take some time, and money, especially if you are expecting over 100 children in attendance. The average cost for a VBS program can be from $500 to over $1,000. However, expected attendance for the majority of churches is well under 100, averaging about 60 kids.

Planning a VBS program for 50 to 60 children does not need to be overwhelming or costly, especially if you are willing to do some of the work yourself. Here are a few suggestions on how you can put your own VBS program together that the children will enjoy for free!

 
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Five Simple Steps:
Actually, there are many more than five steps, but here are the basic steps to consider.

1. Determine how many children you expect to attend. If you plan for too many or too few, it is difficult to adjust the day of the event.

2. Recruit volunteers and helpers along with a few backups. You will need station leaders, helpers, visual designers, food preparation, and organizers.

3. Choose what lessons and supporting materials you would like to use, and make them available to your volunteers.

4. Select a theme to enhance the children's experience. Prepare visuals and obtain any other resources that will help develop your theme.

5. Promote your event several weeks or months ahead of time.

The Details:
VBS programs normally have teams of kids that go from one station to the next during the course of the day. Each station can be a separate room, or a section of a larger area. The children do something different in each station. At one, they might hear a Bible story; at another, they might work on a craft. At yet another station, they might learn a song. Snack time should be included as one of the stations. Each station requires a sufficient number of helpers, depending on the number of kids you expect to have in each team.

Most VBS programs last for five days, sometime less. The chart below shows you how to work with four teams of children over a five-day period. Each team can consist of anywhere from 5 to 20 children. With four teams, you can easily accommodate 20-80 children. If you expect a larger attendance, you can double the number of teams to eight. The team names are only suggestions. You will want to choose team names that fit your VBS theme.  

In the example below, children who belong to the "Time Journeyers" team start each day in the Craft station. Then follow with the Story station, Game station, Snack station, and finally the Music station. The other teams go to the same rooms, or sections, but at different times.
  

  Teams

  Times
Time
Journeyers
Time
Explorers
Time
Travelers
Time
Adventurers
 6:00 PM Craft Story Game Music
 6:30 PM Story Game Music Craft
 7:00 PM Game Music Snack Snack
 7:30 PM Snack Snack Craft Story
 8:00 PM Music Craft Story Game
 8:30 PM Pick Up Pick Up Pick Up Pick Up

 
The helpers at each station see the children from all four teams at some time during the day. For example, helpers at the craft station see the children from the Time Journeyers team first, then the Time Adventurers team. During the next period, they help serve snacks. Then, resume with children from the Time Travelers team and finally the Time Explorers team. Helpers from two stations are always available to help with the snacks.

Notice also that the time shown for each station is 30 minutes. Moving from one station to another will take a few minutes. Getting the children to settle down and get started at the beginning of each station will also take a few minutes. Therefore, you should plan for each activity to take no more than 20 minutes. The actual times shown above are only suggestions.

Some VBS programs may take place during the morning and snack time can actually be a light lunch. Make sure you have more than enough food or snacks available, because VBS usually creates some hungry kids, and helpers.

The following chart shows how you can move the snack time later on during the program to accommodate lunch, and give more time for moving from one station to another. This chart also includes an extra ten minutes at the beginning of each day so you can arrange the children into teams and cover any announcements.  

  Teams

  Times
Time
Journeyers
Time
Explorers
Time
Travelers
Time
Adventurers
 9:00 AM (Use this time to get children into their teams each day)
 9:10 AM Craft Story Game Music
 9:50 AM Story Game Music Craft
 10:30 AM Music Craft Story Game
 11:10 AM Game Music Snack Snack
 11:50 AM Snack Snack Craft Story
 12:30 PM Pick Up Pick Up Pick Up Pick Up

 
 
A typical schedule may look like this: 
 

 All days
Team 9:00 AM 9:10 AM 09:50 AM 10:30 AM 11:10 AM 11:50 AM 12:30 PM
A Gathering
area
Room 1
(Craft)
Room 2
(Story)
Room 4
(Music)
Room 3
(Game)
Snack
area
Pick-up
B Gathering
area
Room 2
(Story)
Room 3
(Game)
Room 1
(Craft)
Room 4
(Music)
Snack
area
Pick-up
C Gathering
area
Room 3
(Game)
Room 4
(Music)
Room 2
(Story)
Snack
area
Room 1
(Craft)
Pick-up
D Gathering
area
Room 4
(Music)
Room 1
(Craft)
Room 3
(Game)
Snack
area
Room 2
(Story)
Pick-up

 

Volunteers and Helpers
Start looking for volunteers and helpers many months before the event. You will need about one helper for every five children for preschool, and about one for every eight children for grade school. Every station should have at least two helpers, one to act as leader, and the other(s) to assist. You also need volunteers to help prepare the food items, and to create any visuals you wish to display.

Choosing Lessons and Supporting Materials
Kids Sunday School Place offers many lessons that work well with a VBS program. For example, you could use any five-lesson series such as "The Life of Noah" or "Discovering Jesus" for grade school, and "The Life of Moses" or "Who is Jesus" for preschool. Within these series, you will find Bible stores, games, activities, crafts, and songs to use within each station. Another suggestion is to choose any five lessons from "The Miracles of Jesus," "Parables," or "Special People of the Bible."

Choosing a Theme
Choosing a theme and deciding what visuals to use can be fun. There are so many different ones from which to choose. If you are using the lessons from Noah, you could use a water theme. Many lesson plans can go with a variety of themes. Here are a few suggestions:
   ~ Time Travelers (using lessons from the Old and New Testament)
   ~ Journey to Egypt (using lessons on the life of Moses)
   ~ Buried Treasures (using lessons on the Parables of Jesus)

To make your theme come alive you should include visuals, props, and even costumes that match your theme. Here is a link to one website that offers thematic decorations and other resources for Vacations Bible School: www.shindigz.com

Preparing Visuals
It is really quite easy to produce your own colorful VBS posters and banners. You will need access to a few common items such as a projector, transparency film, poster board, butcher-block paper, markers, and paint. To create your own VBS artwork simply follow the five steps below:

1. Find graphics that fit your theme and print these images on transparency paper. Oftentimes, you can print more than one graphic per transparency.
2. Tape the poster board or butcher-block paper to a wall.
3. Using the projector cast the graphic image onto the paper you taped to the wall. You can easily resize the image by either moving the projector closer to or further away from the wall.
4. Using a black marker trace the outline of the image onto the paper.
5. Finish by painting the poster or banner using the graphic you initially selected as a guide.

Stations
Story:
Each lesson contains a passage from the Bible, or a children's version of the Bible passage along with discussion questions. This will usually take from 15 to 20 minutes. You can also include a short puppet skit or object lesson during this time.

Craft:
Choose crafts that kids can complete within the allotted time. You may need to do some of the cutting or complete portions of each craft beforehand to ensure the children can complete their projects on time. Children should be able to take their completed craft home with them each day.

Game:
In this station, you can have the children play a game, do an activity, solve a puzzle, or even perform a skit.

Music:
You can go as elaborate as you want here with CD tracks, piano, and guitar players, etc., or as simple as you like by singing a cappella. As long as the children have fun and learn a new song, it really doesn't matter. Because it takes a few times for the children to learn a new song, you may only want to introduce one or two during the week.

Snack:
Be sure to have enough helpers to clean up after one team leaves, and to set up again before the next team arrives. With the suggested schedule, two teams gather at the same time for the snack period.