VBS in a Small Church, part 1


Some of my warmest VBS memories are based in a 6,200 square foot church facility with a body of about 100 in most worship services and 50 in Sunday School.

It’s where I learned an important lesson: a large building, budget, and body aren’t necessary for VBS. What’s needed is a committed church family and God’s blessing.

It’s also the church where my dad is the pastor and one of my best friends is the VBS director. I was a member before moving to Nashville. There. Biases disclaimed.

I’ve long been amazed at how Witt Baptist Church nails VBS. It is a small, traditional church with a rural background. Last summer, their average VBS attendance was 139, with a total of 189. Witt borrowed a second bus for transportation.

VBS was a huge success, as usual.

So I asked my dad, Dr. Doug Brown and director Tiffany Taylor how they and their volunteers make VBS work in a small church.

A key ingredient is that Witt is a close-knit family and values VBS.

“The general church feeling regarding VBS is one of excitement and anticipation. VBS is near the top of our priority in ministry and is the most effective thing that we do in reaching children,” my dad said.

Reasons for this include the ability to share the gospel with more children and parents, the chance to bring the church together as a team, and the chance to get visitors involved.

“My favorite thing about VBS is the way that everyone comes together to carry out this ministry,” he said.

Everyone gets involved in Witt Baptist Church's VBS.
Everyone gets involved in Witt Baptist Church's VBS.

One of the ways the church stretches a thin budget is by borrowing decorations from a larger church each year, then passing them on.

The church’s teamwork is also vital.

“VBS workers often use some of their personal funds/items as they carry out their ministry,” he said.

The generosity during this time is a beautiful thing to see.

“I think Witt is extremely blessed in that we have members who see the impact that Vacation Bible School has on children,” said Tiffany, “and … in that our workers and volunteers and teachers …see it as … an opportunity of worship.”

There are challenges to VBS in a small church.

Tiffany said they overcome recruitment challenges with the family atmosphere.

“It does require personal interaction … you have to ask people face to face.”

They begin recruiting early, pray, ask God to bring individuals to mind, build excitement about VBS, and thank volunteers with words and small gifts.

“Space is our biggest problem,” Tiffany said describing the sometimes-overwhelming noise level in the small building.

The main solution is to encourage respect for other classes, while keeping perspective.

“They’re kids having fun learning about Jesus,” she said. “They’re excited; you should be too. It’s about letting go of the reins a little bit and knowing when to pull back as well.”

“When it comes down to game time and it’s the week of and everything’s got to go just according to plan … even if it’s not, when you see a hundred kids running around just excited to be there it puts everything in perspective,” she said.

I asked for advice and encouragement for a small church doubting if trying VBS would be successful and worthwhile.

It’s definitely worth it… to get that week of sharing the gospel with kids … that may be the only time they hear it until next year when you do it again,” Tiffany said. “So this may be the only time that your church, no matter how small, can plant major seeds.”

My dad agreed that “VBS is worth all the time, effort, and resources that we muster. It is an opportunity to reach out to families that do not normally attend church. Furthermore, VBS is an opportunity to build a sense of unity and purpose in your church. Also VBS is an opportunity to include worship attenders as volunteers and help them feel a sense of belonged-ness. I would also commend a prayerful dependence on God and his ability to help VBS to be a success… God always helps us know that the effort has been worthwhile when a child responds in faith, a family has been encouraged or a church member finds their niche in ministry.”

Do you attend a small church? Do you have any tips for how to make VBS a success? Maybe you're in a larger church. How can you encourage some of the smaller churches in your area? Let us know in the comments! And stay tuned next week for part two- tips for using LifeWay curriculum to make VBS a success in a small church.


  1. Carol A Gilmore says

    This testimony hit the nails on the heads - all of them! It definitely requires team work, My church runs abut 50-60 in worship and about 30-35 in Sunday School s I know what it is t have a VBS in a small church.

    We have a large library ministry and all the materials and supplies are being coordinated through it. Being a rural church has its disadvantages but we will be invited the homeschoolers that are involved in the library ministry to come. By having all the supplies in one place and in order, the cost overall is less. One class can use the Woosh! balls then another class and so on.

    Most of our team went to the associational training so that will help them do their job. They have been trained and will be equipped.

    God always blesses our efforts. That;s what VBS is all about - doing our best for HIM!

  2. Becca Stocking says

    This article hits the nail on the head! I have always known BIG VBS at small churches, and I wouldn't want it any other way. It takes an outreach-minded congregation that really supports the program with their time, prayers and finances. This year, our church will be doing only Backyard Bible Clubs, but we are planning BIG and getting our workers just as excited about going OUT into the community in areas where our attempts to bring them IN have not worked.

  3. Amy Sherrod says

    Our church is really small with about 25 adults and 30+ kids. Our VBS is HUGE! But it takes EVERYONE in our church to work at VBS. We start planning in January all the way through June when VBS starts. Once we are finished, we all sit down and talk about things we could do better, different, or was a great success. I keep a list for the next year and make changes accordingly. I also hold two workshops, where we as a group make some decisions. Everyone feels they are making a difference and stay engaged.

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