Everything has officially thawed and kids are getting restless as the school year comes to an end. Summer vacation will be upon us before you know it, and this can only mean one thing, it’s time to plan for Vacation Bible School (VBS)! Whether your VBS is a huge production run by professionals or a small local effort with talented parents behind the scenes, these tips will help you maximize the fun and learning potential of your VBS.
1. Recruit Volunteers Early, and Recruit a LOT! Volunteers can make or break a VBS experience. These are the people that will ensure that everything goes according to plan and that the kids have plenty of snacks, crayons and fun! Here’s a few things to keep in mind:
- Pre-training before your VBS begins. Get volunteers up to speed on VBS formal and informal requirements. Go over a typical day, and what volunteers are expected to do and what they can expect from the kids. Cover things like background checks and safety considerations, what to do if kids get out of hand, Gospel messages, songs and activities. Gain commitments from volutneers about their availablity, and try to match them with their interests as much as possible.
- Give every parent the opportunity to volunteer. Involvement builds commitment - it's not about getting it done the fastest, it's about creating a community with your VBS. Offer volunteer jobs that span the week, take-home jobs like shopping for supplies or preparing craft kits, and one-time spots like leading the morning prayer, a song, or an art activity. Ask parents to donate supplies, provide healthy snacks, etc.
- Schedule and sign up volunteers online and save a tremendous amount time (and stress). Our online sign up sheets eliminate the need for passing clipboards, spreadsheets and reply-all email when coordinating volunteers to help with activities or to bring snacks and supplies. VolunteerSpot makes it easy to ask for help, and easy for parents to choose when and how they will contribute (with a few clicks). Not only do volunteers get plenty of time to organize their calendars, automated reminder messages give VBS leaders peace of mind knowing they will have the help they need when they need it.
2. Be Welcoming to All: VBS gives your church the opportunity to extend the reach of your church into the broader community. Think about everything a new family will need to feel welcome and inspired to learn more about your congregation. Some things to consider:
- Post extra signs during VBS weeks. The signs will show parents and kids where to park and gather. (Put colorful signs down low too so it's easy for kids to see 'em too.)
- Everyone loves food! Welcome everyone with coffee, orange juice and muffins on the first morning (or every morning). If holding an evening VBS, consider providing a simple dinner (pizza, fruit) for both the kids and volunteers arriving after work.
- Provide colorful t-shirts name badges. This way everyone can be easily recognized, and give the kids a chance to make their own for a fun craft project.
3. Follow Up with Families: VBS enhances bonds with your current congregation and builds new relationships within your community. Make sure to take advantage of this outreach opportunity by following up with VBS families. Here are some ways to make a lasting impression.
- Send a letter home with kids on their last day. Summarize the week's events. Include information on future church events and let parents know how happy you are to have been a part of their children’s summer and religious education.
- Enroll children in Sunday School.
- Add VBS families to the church contacts database. Keep them posted of session openings throughout the summer and activites into the school year.
- Be useful with your recruiting. Provide a list of qualified VBS teen volunteers who babysit. (Red Cross-certified, background checked).
4. Always Remember to Say “Thank You!”: Letting your volunteers know that they’re appreciated is a big part of retaining your staff for next year’s VBS. Send personal letters from ministers and kids, give public recognition during Sunday services and in church newsletters, and post photos and thank you messages on a bulletin board and the church website. Our free Volunteer Recognition eBook is filled with other low cost/no-cost tips and ideas for thanking volunteers.
5. Gather Feedback: Ask your volunteers and particiapting families what's working and what they would like to see changed. For example, mixing up the schedule can boost your volunteer ranks. Shifting a start time or end time can boost enrollment, and many churches have had success with a week of evening VBS so more families and volunteers can particiapte after work. Ask in person one-on-one, and consider using a survey. If most volutneers and parents are online, try Survey Monkey, a free online survey tool that makes it easy to gather feedback.
For more great tips and resources for VBS 11, check out our friends at About the Children's Department. Have any of your own tips for VBS? Let us know in the comments below, or over at VolunteerSpot's Facebook page.
Photo couresty of PhotoBucket by child 123