For many churches, Vacation Bible School is one of the most important and exciting times of the year. It’s when many children hear the gospel and commit their lives to Christ. And in most congregations, it takes an army of volunteers.
Recruiting them is no small task. Sometimes it’s a struggle to find enough volunteers to work with children on a normal week—and that’s asking people to help for only an hour or two.
For VBS, volunteers often have to give up a week of their time. VBS usually takes place in the summer, conflicting with vacations and summer activities. And more volunteers are needed—as many as three times the number needed for a regular week.
Despite all those issues, it’s worth doing. It’s worth it for the kids and families who will hear the gospel, and it’s worth it for the church family to serve alongside one another for the greater purpose of kingdom expansion.
Vacation Bible School and other large-scale events can be a great opportunity for an all-hands-on-deck mentality that can strengthen entire congregations, with multiple generations playing a role. Here are some ideas to consider when recruiting, training, and rewarding those who choose to say yes to serving.
COMMUNICATE THE VALUE OF VBS
Begin with the “why.” Tell your church why VBS matters. It’s not about entertaining kids for a week. It’s not about silly songs and games, even though they’re fun.
It’s about creating an intentional time and space for kids of all ages to hear the gospel, learn Scripture, and tell their friends about Jesus. Most pastors agree VBS is the most evangelistic program a church can offer to communities. Churched and unchurched kids get a full week of diving into God’s Word.
Is it a lot of work to put on? Yes. Do we need everyone’s help to accomplish this? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely.
Create a systematic way for people to sign up to serve. After the vision for VBS has been presented, be ready for what’s next.
Some churches devote multiple Sundays to enlistment, decorating tables with VBS promotional items in heavy foot traffic areas. Friendly faces greet people and ask if they would like to sign up.
Other churches have online sign-ups with emails going out for the call to action. Electronic applications can be used to capture information. Some churches use both methods.
OFFER MULTIPLE WAYS TO SERVE
Many people assume serving in VBS means they have to teach kids. Not everyone feels equipped to teach, and that’s OK. There are many ways to serve in VBS.
Be sure to present all the roles—snack coordinators and servers, set builders and decoration installers, greeters, worship leaders, registration helpers, T-shirt organizers, and the list goes on. Everyone has a way to use their gifts during VBS.
HOST A KICKOFF PARTY
Once you have enlistment complete—or even partially complete—get folks excited by throwing a party. This helps potential and committed volunteers feel more connected to the upcoming event. More specific training can come later for certain groups, like those who will teach.
Get creative and serve the snacks that will be served during VBS, decorate with theme-related décor, play some of the games, and engage with the crafts. Most importantly, talk about the Bible content and how exciting it is to share this with the kids who will come to VBS.
Close by praying for the week, asking God to work in the hearts of those who attend, and to do great things in the life of your church.
SERVE THOSE WHO ARE SERVING
Let potential volunteers know they will be cared for: create a hospitality team with the task of serving VBS volunteers. Encourage this team to provide food, daily notes of encouragement and, if possible, a space to take quick breaks during the event.
This strategy allows another group of people to use their gifts while helping those who are working feel blessed and refreshed.
When VBS is over, the most important way to thank your volunteers is to celebrate what God has done.
After the last bit of glue has been scrubbed from tables and the worship pastor finally has the stage free from extra props and scenery, don’t forget to give thanks for the gospel being displayed and shared, for God’s name being made known, and for the work He accomplished in the lives of those who served.
Once volunteers see what happens when everyone rolls up their sleeves and serves alongside one another for the gospel to be shared, this joy can overflow into the next season of recruitment.
Jana Magruder serves as the Director of Lifeway Kids. She is a Baylor graduate and offers a wealth of experience and passion for kids ministry, education, and publishing. She is the author of Kids Ministry that Nourishes and Life Verse Creative Journal, which she co-authored with her teenage daughter. She and her husband, Michael, along with their three children reside in Nashville.