Download and print these fun coloring sheets to get kids (and adults!) excited about VBS! This is also a great activity for families to do at home. You can share this download link with parents via email or social media.
With VBS season approaching, it’s important to make sure your volunteers feel appreciated. This simple appreciation gift will get volunteers excited about VBS and let them know you’re grateful for them! Click here to download the instructions and tags.
By Jenny Whitaker
Last summer, Vacation Bible Schools (VBS) around the country were mostly either done virtually, in homes and neighborhoods, or not at all. I love VBS, and the idea of cancelling it—for any reason—was never an option.
We had to find a way to do VBS because it’s an important and fruitful tool in the hands of the local church, especially in this day and age when statistics show that the average regular church attender is coming to church one to three times a month as opposed to one to three times a week just a couple of decades ago (It’s Worth It, pp. 107-18).
Still, the thought of trying to do a virtual VBS seemed daunting. As I thought about the many small churches around our community and region, I wondered if virtual VBS was even a possibility for many of them. So I reached out to some of those local churches and asked if they’d be willing to partner together to reach as many kids as possible, and graciously, they said yes!
I was among a small group of leaders who hosted a virtual VBS for more than 45 churches from around the country. We know of at least two children who accepted Christ that week, and I’m certain many more seeds were planted not only in the hearts of the children who participated, but in the families exposed to the gospel we shared every day that week.
Without that partnership, what we did wouldn’t have been possible—not for my church or for the many others who partnered with us.
This year, I’ve traveled across my state, Florida, and talked to other kids ministry and VBS leaders around the country, and while many of us are opening or beginning to open back up for in-person ministry, VBS is still on the chopping block for many churches due to a lack of volunteers, budget resources, or perhaps other reasons.
Even before the pandemic, 61% of churches did not host a VBS due to a lack of teachers and volunteers (It’s Worth It, page 98). How many more churches will be forced to cancel VBS this year for the same reason?
Based on what we learn from Lifeway Research’s 2018 study on VBS, I would argue that we can’t afford to cancel VBS this summer, for a number of reasons. But most importantly, VBS is one of the largest evangelical outreach opportunities a church will have in a given year.
Additionally, even in the COVID-era, with its lack of volunteers and lower attendance numbers, VBS is one of the only events all year long that offers discipleship engagement and mobilization for the entire church body; there’s a way for everyone in your church to get involved.
This Lifeway Research study also revealed that 80% of those attending church one or more times per month believe they have a personal responsibility to share their faith, but only 39% of people are doing so. VBS is the perfect opportunity for people to do what they think they ought to be doing.
And in 2018, Cigna found that younger generations reported they were the loneliest generation, with loneliness levels reaching epidemic levels. How much worse must that statistic be given the isolation kids around the world have faced this past year due to COVID? Kids are in need of connection, even if it is virtually or on a smaller scale, and the church has an opportunity to offer it this summer through VBS.
If cancelling isn’t an option, what should local church do if they don’t have the resources to host VBS this summer? I say the solution is working with other local churches for a combined gospel-focused effort.
It seems like an obvious solution, but working together comes with its own set of challenges. Logistics aside, we must admit that working together will require some adjustments on the part of the local church when it comes to how we define success.
VBS is often a ministry that provides the numbers and metrics that many of us value and often use to measure our success in a given year: How many unchurched people in the community did we reach? How many church prospects were identified? How many people were reached by the gospel through the church? How many baptisms did we do?
These metrics aren’t bad. In fact, these are the very metrics we’re using to show how valuable VBS is to the ministry of the local church. But when those metrics keep us from working together because they might lower or alter our numbers, then perhaps we need to reconsider how much value we put into them.
In 2017, VBS reports showed that more than 2.4 million people were enrolled in Vacation Bible School, and that of those, 65,301 salvation decisions were made, and 160,926 church prospects were identified (It’s Worth It, page 73). Those numbers aren’t likely to change if we give people the opportunity to attend VBS.
That said, working together will require some creativity and flexibility when it comes to reporting the victories, as well as launching a successful follow-up strategy. Follow-up is a critical part of Vacation Bible School. It is essentially a mission trip in your backyard. And like any mission trip, it is important to extend that week of discipleship by connecting the unchurched and new believers with a local church.
Last year, our team planned with the end in mind. By knowing the importance of connecting people to the local church after VBS, we developed a strategy we felt would best serve those we were ministering. As people registered, we made sure to get their address, and based on their proximity to a given church, we shared the information of any family without a church home to the church closest to them and let that church do the follow-up. Did it alter our numbers? Of course. Was it worth it? Absolutely. But what does working together look like? And how do we do it successfully?
I wish there was a formula every church could follow, but like anything in ministry, it really depends on your demographics, the community you are serving, and what gifts God has blessed your specific church with.
For our church, we’re struggling to find enough volunteers to staff the same size VBS as we’ve hosted in the past. Truthfully, even with reducing the size of our VBS, we’re struggling to get enough volunteers—and that’s not uncommon this year. Almost every other children’s leader I have talked with has a similar story.
What we do have, however, is a facility that can house hundreds of kids, if we can find the volunteers to teach and serve them. By simply partnering with one or two smaller churches in our community, we can safely welcome as many kids from our community as will come by using the combined team of volunteers from our three churches.
We’ll get creative about identifying prospects, we’ll celebrate every child who makes a salvation decision and worry about whose report it will go on later, and maybe we’ll get creative about baptisms and have a joint service one day to see all our VBS kids follow through in the step of obedience together. The point is this: We’ll work together in humble submission to the Father to further His Kingdom instead of getting caught up in the growth of our individual churches.
At VBS, statistics show it’s not about if we reach a child for Christ; it’s about how many we’ll reach. The 2018 Lifeway Research study showed that 95% of American parents agreed that VBS positively influenced their child’s spiritual growth. With that much fruitfulness, we can’t afford to cancel VBS without putting up a fight. And in this battle, we are stronger together than we will ever be apart—especially with the challenges we face in this season of ministry.
Whether you pool human or financial resources with other local churches and do VBS in person, virtually, in a neighborhood, at home, or some combination of the above, VBS offers an opportunity unlike any other ministry all year. Children and families need to connect with Jesus and the local church; it’s worth considering how working together can make VBS possible during a summer when it might otherwise not be.
Lifeway offers numerous resources to help equip VBS leaders to do VBS strategically in this season of ministry. To find those resources and more for a “kids ministry from anywhere” time visit lifeway.com/kmfa.
This post first appeared on lifewayresearch.com
Jenny is the children and family ministry director of Bradfordville First Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Fla., where she lives with her husband and three children. Jenny is a writer for Lifeway Kids curriculum and enjoys training children’s ministry leaders across the state of Florida.
By Sam Luce
This past year has been one of the more difficult of our lifetimes. There has been much loss and much difficulty, but there have been some unexpected blessings as well. One of those blessings in disguise is the killing of church-as-usual and programs-as-tradition. It has caused us to think about why we do what we do.
This was a fruitful exercise because it can lay the groundwork for starting something new or evaluating something old and create a plan to start again. Twenty years ago, I led VBS because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do as a new kids pastor. I did it for about five years but didn’t get the buy-in or the traction that the effort required of me, my team, and our volunteers.
I’m also ashamed to admit that I fell into the school of thought that VBS was outdated; I was wrong! After a 12-year break, we started to do VBS again. Regardless of our opinions, most Americans are quite pro-VBS. Findings from Lifeway Research show that most (95%) American parents—regardless of how often they attend church—say their kids had a favorable experience at VBS.
What’s more, a similar number (94%) said VBS helped their child better understand the Bible, and 95% agreed VBS was one of the most meaningful church experiences for their child.
Here are a few reasons we started again and why it could be the most important item on your church calendar.
Your unchurched neighbors are open to it.
We live in a very pluralistic society that doesn’t value church but values traditions. Many parents have young kids who either don’t go to church or infrequently attend church but have great VBS memories. They want their kids to have those memories and put their kids in VBS before taking them to a church service on the weekend.
It’s an effective way to partner with parents.
Having 15 hours in the VBS week to speak new truths or reinforce what is being taught at home is invaluable. The new “regular attendees” standard is now 12 to 24 Sundays a year. VBS gives you a nice chunk of time to drill down into core truths kids need in the world we now live in.
Partnering with parents starts with equipping parents. Doing VBS with this in mind makes VBS more valuable than a simple stand-alone program.
It brings the church together.
VBS has to be a whole-church focus. It can’t be something only your department does, or an execution of the same handful of volunteers who do everything else in the church. I did a kids department-focused VBS years ago and just finished a church-driven VBS. The difference is night and day.
It’s a discipleship tool for the families in your church.
Reaching new families has to be a focus but not the whole focus. We want to reach new families, but we also need to build foundations for our families. Picking the right curriculum is essential. VBS is more than an outreach tool; it’s a gospel-shaping delivery device for the whole family.
Our church has changed. We still care about the weekend service, but we care more about intentional ways to help with spiritual formation and discipleship. The stats back this up. According to Lifeway’s research, a staggering 88% of respondents said VBS positively affected their spiritual growth as a child, and 96% feel it has positively affected their child’s spiritual growth.
If how and why we do VBS changes, it can be an effective tool to reinforce your entire church’s framework. I hope you pray about how you should do VBS.
Some ideas on how to rethink VBS in our current COVID world:
Backyard Bible School
This is a great option because it allows you to reach neighborhoods and kids you wouldn’t normally reach. It also allows you to be more flexible and keep groups smaller, which may be important depending on your state’s rules or the rate of infections in your area.
Regional Bible School
This is again a way to have a smaller setting in the communities that may attend your church but would be able to invite more neighbors. One of the things we have to look at in regard to our VBS being an outreach is how far people who don’t attend our church are willing to drive.
VBS Tent Edition
Rent tents and use them for more spacing or for complete outdoor VBS if indoor meeting is shut down again this year.
My encouragement for you is to do VBS this year. The kids in your church and community need connection, discipleship, and hope more than ever. Do VBS even if you don’t usually do it. Our world post-COVID has changed because people have changed.
We’re going to have to think smaller, be more intentional, and demonstrate more flexibility, not just now, but on the other side of the COVID crisis.
Sam lives in upstate New York with his wife and four children. He has served as the pastor of families at Redeemer Church for the past 23 years. Read more at his blog SamLuce.com.
This post originally appeared on lifewayresearch.com.
2020 was a challenging season for ministry—and 2021 is (so far) proving no less difficult! But that doesn’t mean we can continue to delay or postpone strategic ministry opportunities until a time that is (hopefully) more convenient. Ministry to children cannot be deterred or deferred. It’s simply too important! For most churches, 2020 meant that they couldn’t conduct regular church programming and special events in the same ways as usual. Sunday School went virtual. Worship was livestreamed. There was certainly a learning curve, but many churches saw that once they broke out of the same old mold they’ve been using for years, their creativity kicked in and the work of ministry continued in new, fresh, and exciting ways.
It’s time to do the same thing for Vacation Bible School! VBS is one of the largest evangelistic outreaches of the year for many churches. It consistently accounts for one-quarter of ALL baptisms in a given year. It has the potential to open more doors in your community than any other single week on the church calendar. That’s why it’s so important to say YES to VBS this summer—no matter what it looks like! You can have a VBS in-person, in the park, in the home, or any way in between. Where and how doesn’t matter … it’s the WHY that counts. It’s worth it to your kids to say yes to VBS this summer! It’s worth it to your community to say yes to VBS! It’s worth it to the kingdom to say yes to VBS!
This summer, whether you’re in person, online, or somewhere in between, Lifeway wants to help you say yes to VBS! We’ve identified four creative (and safe) ways VBS can happen in 2021 and a whole set of resources to help you be successful, no matter which option you choose. I’m particularly excited about the new resources designed especially for virtual VBS, which include:
- Daily Bible story videos (5 for preschoolers, 5 for kids)
- Virtual VBS Directors Guide (with activity adaptations for Bible study, rec, and crafts)
- Family Connection Bundle (take home resources for families to do together)
- Kids Craft Bundle (individual, pre-packaged crafts for each day)
- VBS at Home on Ministry Grid (videos and written prompts to equip parents to lead a VBS experience at home)
The time to say yes to VBS is now. Pick a format and commit to it. Begin preparing now so that you are well positioned to pivot as needed. Remember, no matter how you say yes to VBS this summer—Lifeway’s got you covered! Learn more at https://vbs.lifeway.com/yes-to-vbs/
by Bekah Stoneking
There are three things I remember most vividly from my summer vacations as a kid:
- Mom homeschooled us to keep our skills sharp over the break (I still get a little itchy when I see math workbooks or Reader’s Digest vocab lists)
- “Fun Fridays,” when we’d get a break from “summer school” to go on field trips around the city
- Vacation Bible School
Like many other VBS kids in the 90s I remember store brand cookies and punch on the gym floor, colorful beads on a leather bracelet symbolizing the plan of salvation, what recreation felt like out in that steamy Georgia heat, and learning the motions to really fun songs.
My church loved us kids and it was obvious—from VBS, to Sunday school, and everything in between—that they believed Jesus loved us, too, and they wanted us to know that and to know Him. I came to faith as a young child and events like VBS helped nurture my young faith.
What I didn’t realize at the time was how God was using VBS to not only continue working out my salvation, but to draw me to a lifetime of serving Him.
The summers after I’d aged out of my church’s VBS just lacked color and vibrancy. So, the summer before my freshman year of high school, I signed up to volunteer; I just couldn’t stay away from Vacation Bible School! I served with other youth group members on the rec team, and on the crew that collected and organized the supplies the kids donated for our missions project. Then on “Family Night” the Sunday after VBS, I sat frozen in my pew, hands gripped so tightly on the pew in front of me my knuckles turned white and my fingers throbbed.
Everyone around me was up, moving around, singing, and doing the motions. But there I sat, trying to convince God I couldn’t do what He was asking me to do.
There, the summer I turned 14, just a handful of weeks before I was to start high school, God called me into children’s ministry.
At the end of the worship rally our pastor shared the gospel. As people walked the aisle in repentance and faith, I walked the aisle in tears—confused, feeling really young, and convinced I’d be told there was no place for me.
But that’s not how I was received, of course. My pastors were among the most loving and encouraging people in my young life. They helped me find my place in our church’s ministry. I shadowed a few leaders and volunteered in different areas until I found my fit. I went to training alongside the adults. I was loved and respected, even though I was young. And after a few years of apprenticing, I became the lead teacher of a Kindergarten Sunday school class my senior year.
I went on to college where I majored in elementary education and served in children’s and youth ministries in my college town. I became a second grade teacher. I went on to seminary and served a church as their children’s minister. There, I began writing lesson plans for our church, and for summer programming at another church. I graduated from SEBTS and was a part of a church plant where I helped oversee and create educational content for the children’s ministry there. This is also when I began writing for Lifeway Kids. I re-enrolled at SEBTS and am now finishing my doctorate in education while serving churches through Lifeway Kids full time.
And it all started in a little town in Georgia at Vacation Bible School.
From hearing the gospel and meeting Jesus for the first time to realizing the “thing” God made them to do, VBS can be the tool God uses to change a kid’s life forever, and He can work through that life to touch thousands.
VBS is so profoundly worth it. As someone who participated in VBS, then was called to ministry through VBS, then planned and led VBS from a church leadership position, and now works alongside the VBS team at Lifeway, I am just one story of how a week over the course of a few summers can impact a kid. The work you’re doing matters. Every hour, every plan, every changed plan, and every changed plan that changes again matters to the kingdom because every kid matters to the kingdom, and God has a plan for how He will work through those kids to impact your neighborhood and neighborhoods around the world for His glory.
I look forward to January all year long. Why? Because January = VBS Previews! My absolute favorite time of year! It’s always so exciting to be with VBS leaders from across the country as we get our very first look at the brand new VBS. We all get amped up and inspired to make this year our best VBS ever!
VBS Previews have typically taken place in four different cities across the country. And while that was great for people who live within driving distance of those cities, many people have expressed disappointment that it’s too far and too expensive for them to ever attend. That’s just not fair! We believe everyone ought to be able to experience the magic that is a VBS Preview!
So for the first time ever, VBS Previews are going virtual in 2021! That’s great news! You won’t have to take off work to attend, there will be no travel expenses, and you can bring even more of your team! Plus, you can pick the date and time that works best for you!
Rather than a two-day event, VBS Previews 2021 will be condensed into a single morning or afternoon. (Each person on your team will need his/her own ticket. When purchasing multiple tickets, PLEASE make sure to register each person using his/her own email address in order for each person to get his/her own login.) Tune in LIVE during those hours and you’ll get to attend an energizing main session that overviews the theme, Bible content, and choreography for Destination Dig as well as take your pick from over 20 breakouts to train, equip, and prepare you for VBS 2021.
Will it feel like I’m just watching videos by myself? Absolutely not! You will be able interact with everyone attending with you from around the country live and in real time. We’ve even designed special spaces within the online event that will allow you to turn on your camera and microphone to participate in live discussions with the Lifeway VBS team and with VBS leaders just like you! You’ll be able to network with one another and share ideas as well as get individualized help. Oh, and did I mention that there will be PRIZES and giveaways? Oh yes! Throughout the live event you will have opportunities to play games and win prizes—just for attending.
Tickets are just $49 and include live access during the event, specialized countdowns and bumpers for Destination Dig, and a free VBS t-shirt. Click here to reserve your spot today!
This article originally appeared on the Lifeway VBS Blog here.
By Landry Holmes
This year, many churches have been faced with the challenge of doing VBS differently than before, or not doing it at all. Fortunately my church took a cue from the free eBook 4 VBS Strategies for This Summer and chose to conduct VBS at a city park.
It was a great experience, and here’s what I learned from teaching at VBS this year:
- Kids thrive outdoors. Behavioral challenges were virtually non-existent. The use of the park’s pavilion, as well as wide-open grassy areas, gave kids room to be kids. They could run, talk loudly, and move about more freely than in the confines of a building.
- Volunteers respond to new challenges. As soon as our church family heard we were going to conduct VBS at a local park rather than at our church building, adults and teens signed up to teach, prepare snacks, set-up and take-down awnings, and help in many other ways.
- Curriculum works anywhere. Everyday, I led a small group of kids in Bible study under a tree. I used the curriculum my church had purchased for a traditional indoor VBS, and with an adjustment here and there, I was able to teach boys and girls about Jesus effectively. The kids played games, listened to a Bible story, and used their activity books. Again, I had little trouble keeping their attention.
- The gospel is location neutral. This past Sunday, my pastor baptized a boy who became a Christian during VBS. He and his family are affiliated with another church in town; however, the child wanted to be baptized in our church. Would this kid have come to our church building, heard the gospel, and trusted in Jesus during a traditional VBS? Perhaps. However, I do know that each day at the park every child heard the gospel.
I was surprised at the consistency in which kids attended VBS this year. In fact, every child in my Bible study group who started on Monday stayed until the end of VBS on Friday. Was it hot? Yes. Was it inconvenient to set-up and tear-down daily? Yes. Were there bugs? Yes. Did the snacks melt prematurely? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely!
Even during a global pandemic, VBS is worth it because the gospel is worth it!
Landry Holmes is the Manager of Lifeway Kids Publishing and Network Partnerships. A graduate of Howard Payne University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Landry served on church staffs before joining Lifeway Kids. He is a church leader, writer, workshop facilitator, and publisher. Landry also teaches children at his church in Middle Tennessee. He and his wife Janetta are the parents of two adult sons and two daughters-in-law, and the grandparents of four adorable grandchildren.
Pack your bags and grab your gear, VBS 2021 is headed to present-day Israel where an epic adventure of discovery awaits. Discover long-hidden treasures, amazing finds, and exciting evidence that proves biblical events were not just stories. They really happened.
Each day during Destination Dig, junior archaeologists will use a real-life artifact from Bible times to help them discover more about who Jesus is and why He came. Let’s take a closer look at the Bible stories connected to each artifact.
Day 1: Jesus Was Born (Isaiah 7:14; Micah 5:2; Matthew 1:18–2:6)
Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, God told prophets to write about His plan to send His Son to be our Savior. Many years later an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph. The angel told him Mary would have God’s Son, and they were to name Him Jesus. Just as God promised, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. God promised He would send His Son, and He did.
Day 2: Jesus Healed a Blind Man (Psalm 146:8; Isaiah 35:6-6a; John 9:1-41)
Prophets wrote about what would happen when God’s Son came to earth. They wrote about miracles He would perform such as healing people. When Jesus began His ministry, He did everything God said He would do. One day while in Jerusalem, Jesus passed a man who had been blind since birth. Jesus spat on the ground and made some mud. He spread the mud over the man’s eyes and told the man to go wash in the Pool of Siloam. The man did as he was told, and he could see! The man told people what Jesus had done. Later, when the man saw Jesus, he worshiped Him.
Day 3: Jesus Experienced Betrayal and Rejection (Psalm 41:9; Isaiah 53:3,7; John 13; 18:1–19:16)
Jesus shared one last special supper with His disciples. During the meal Jesus explained that one of the disciples would betray Him. Jesus knew His betrayal and death would fulfill God’s plan. After the meal, Jesus and all the disciples except for Judas went to the garden in Gethsemane. While they were there, Judas brought the soldiers to arrest Jesus and take Him to the high priest to begin the trials the prophets had written about many years before. Pilate, the Roman governor, tried to find a way to release Jesus, but the crowd shouted, “Crucify Him!” Jesus remained silent just as the prophecy said He would. Finally, Pilate gave in to the people’s demands, and Jesus was handed over to the soldiers to be crucified.
Day 4: Jesus Is Alive (Isaiah 53:5,9-11; John 19:17–20:18)
God told prophets that Jesus would be born and that He would die for our sins. God also said that Jesus would die with the wicked, be buried with the rich, and be raised from the dead. Just as God said, Jesus was crucified between two criminals and Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy man, buried Jesus’ body in Joseph’s tomb. A stone was rolled in front of the tomb. On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb. The stone had been rolled away, and Jesus was gone. Peter and John came to the tomb and saw the burial clothes, but Jesus was not there. While Mary stood outside the tomb crying, a man she thought was a gardener appeared. The Man called her name and immediately Mary knew He was Jesus. She couldn’t wait to tell the disciples that Jesus is alive!
Day 5: Philip Told the Good News (Isaiah 53:7-8; Acts 8:26-40)
While Philip was preaching in Samaria, an angel of the Lord told him to go south to the road that goes to Gaza. Philip obeyed the angel. Philip saw a man traveling in a chariot. The man was reading a copy of the Isaiah scroll. Philip asked the man if he understood what he was reading. The man said he did not and that he needed someone to explain it to him. Philip explained the good news about Jesus to the man. The man believed what Philip told him and believed in Jesus. Philip baptized the man, and the man went on his way rejoicing.
by Rhonda VanCleave
From the sound of the first heartbeat, to the gender reveal day, to hospital “go time,” new parents celebrate every step of the anticipation of a new life joining theirs. After the celebration of birth, do they drop the baby off in the crib and go about their lives? ABSOLUTELY NOT! That would be appalling.
Sadly, a similar thing happens in some churches with a birth that is equally important, the New Birth of a Christian. Much effort has been put into VBS (or any other outreach event). People have worked tirelessly to make preparations, to plan for the best experience ever, and when “go time” came, they gave it everything they had. And, joy of all joys, when kids and adults trusted Jesus as their Savior, there was much celebration! But, how many times are their names assigned to a small group class role and people go on about their church lives? We drop baby Christians in their “crib” and expect them to grow.
What plans does your church have in place that will help new Christians take their first unsteady steps toward Christian growth? The VBS Administrative Guide (the ultimate toolbox of resources for VBS planners) contains practical helps to follow up with those who have become Christians during VBS.
First steps involve communication. Talk with parents whose children have made a profession of faith during VBS. A sample letter is provided on the CD-ROM included with the VBS Administrative Guide (“Sample_Followup_Letters.rtf”). The letter explains that someone from your church will be contacting parents. A personal conversation with the parent is very important.
Sometimes the child may be actively involved in another church. In that case, a sample letter is also provided to help communicate the information with that pastor so their church can come alongside the child for discipleship.
Next, the beginning of discipleship is helping kids understand what it means, “Now that I’m a Christian.” Page 38 of the VBS Administrative Guide describes some of the resources available for this important step, starting with the I’m a Christian Now! Leader Kit. A basic follow-up and discipleship plan is also outlined on page 39 of the Administrative Guide. Churches can choose or develop the plan that works best for them.
The bottom line is this, plan for those new baby Christians with the same effort new parents plan for their anticipated arrivals. Expect great things from God and be prepared to welcome those new responsibilities with joy!