Community-Wide Vacation Bible School

January 11th, 2013
This article is featured in the Outreach 2013 (Nov/Dec/Jan 2012-13) issue of Circuit Rider

A community-wide VBS allows smaller churches in a rural area or certain area of town come together in fellowship and fun. The churches can share resources and start an annual tradition that saves money for each church and opens the door for those on the periphery of church to join in a community event.

Getting Started

Begin in the fall by contacting pastors and Christian Education directors of at least five churches in your area and asking them  to take a survey of interest in coming together for a community-wide VBS. Suggest tentative dates from at least three different weeks to hold the VBS. As a matter of hospitality and to show that you are very invested in the effort, offer your church as host unless someone else volunteers his or her church for the location.  Give an overview of planning a community-wide VBS and how you can share resources. The letter should include a deadline for showing interest and committing volunteers. Try to schedule your initial meeting at least by January of the year of the VBS.

Topics for Discussion as You Plan

At the initial meeting, settle on a budget and get the commitment for financial contributions from each participating church.  Develop a plan for advertising the event, including radio ads, flyers, and/or newspaper ads. Estimate at least one thousand dollars to buy program materials, snacks, and arts and crafts supplies for about seventy people for five nights.  Go to the grocery store in advance to determine the cost for food and supplies. 

Information regarding the curriculum you choose can be found at a local Cokesbury store or online.  It is important to get an estimate of how much the materials will cost for the budget.  Review the potential programs for the upcoming summer and finalize your theme together. Purchase the starter kit, which includes books, music, arts and crafts, and much more. Be sure to read the material and to determine what supplies and organizational planning will be required.

Once you receive the names of volunteers and how they can assist (arts and crafts, preparing snacks, teaching class, leading music, etc.), prepare packages for each of them with instructions and information on preparing for the VBS. 

Meet regularly throughout the spring to plan and prepare.  Remember to give a deadline for all churches to have registration forms returned so materials can be ordered in advance. 

VBS Week

The last few days before your VBS can be devoted to setup, including decoration and preparation of the various spaces that will be used. Have attendance sheets and offering envelopes in each classroom, and a good CD player for the music area.

Pooling your resources among the participating churches enables you to gather supplies you already have on hand—decorations, craft supplies, kitchen paper products, and more—rather than purchasing them all new. You can also share kitchen duties for each night’s snacks. Decide on the menu, whether you will use the suggested menus in the VBS director’s manual or suggest healthy snacks like celery with cream cheese and raisins, yogurt, fruit cups, or granola bars. Be prepared to have at least five people work in the kitchen to prepare the snacks. 

Finalize the schedule for each day, including an opening devotion with prayer, scripture, and songs.  After devotions, dismiss the classes with the teachers by dismissing the preschool first and then school age in order. Try to have volunteers from each of the churches participating in each classroom or activity station, so the children will always have at least one familiar adult face while meeting new people.

Make the last night special by planning a cookout or ice cream social.  The children can sing the VBS songs and give a brief presentation of what they learned that week. Giving families from all the churches a chance to mingle makes it a real community event.

Going Forward

Debrief with your planning team to discuss what worked and what needs improving. If the arrangement is deemed a success, develop a schedule for churches to rotate as hosts for the annual community-wide VBS. This is an annual event that saves money, brings people together in sharing their resources, and offers a good time of fellowship and fun for children and families across the community.

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