Vacation Bible School is the most wonderful week of the year! It’s fun, exhilarating, and crazy all at the same time. But the real reason most volunteers are there is not for the hype. It’s because they want to make an eternal impact on kids! They’ve spent weeks, if not months, preparing. And once that wonderful week arrives, it’s full throttle all the way to the moment the last child is picked up on Friday. So it’s no surprise that many volunteers finish the week exhausted. Here are some tips to help you not just survive VBS, but to actually THRIVE!
- Make yourself available. God will take care of the rest. You don’t have to be the most experienced, the most creative, or the greatest teacher in the world. Just commit to being there and being prepared. That’s it. There’s no secret formula. Be prepared and be ready for God to use you. Smile, laugh, love, and be present in the moment with kids. Demonstrate what the love of God looks like. God will honor all the preparation you’ve put in and He will work through you.
- Remember that VBS is not about you. VBS is all about the kids. It’s a time when the whole church comes together and does something that clearly says, “Kids, you’re important to God, and you’re important to us!” VBS isn’t the time for you to hang out with the other adult leaders or to get to know someone new. It’s a time for you to pour into and invest in kids. Their fun, their relationships, and their spiritual growth are the number one priorities.
- Prepare ahead of time. Most likely, your VBS Director has given you a specific job to do during VBS. Know what that job is and prepare for it ahead of time. Look over the schedule so that you know where the kids are going to be, study the Bible stories, practice your lesson plans, and gather and prepare all of your supplies before you need them. Take your responsibilities seriously and offer them as unto the Lord.
- Pray up! Pray for each child by name. Pray for your fellow leaders. Pray for your pastor and VBS Director. Start praying as soon as you agree to be a volunteer and continue praying long after VBS is over. Never underestimate the power of your prayers!
- Learn the kids’ names. Taking the time to learn (and USE) names shows kids that they are important to you. It’s the first step in building relationships. And since you’re there to demonstrate God’s love to each child, make sure to show them a God who not only knows each child by name but also knows them completely and fully—right down to the number of hairs on their heads!
- Don’t stress. Smile and have fun! Trust in the preparation you’ve put in ahead of time. When you know you’ve adequately prepared, you can be flexible and start having fun. Enjoy the week. Enjoy the kids. Smile. It’s amazing the difference a smile can make! Smile at everyone you see—kids, parents, and volunteers. Laugh with kids when something funny happens. Positive feelings and happy memories at church make a lasting impression that will impact a child’s feelings about church and God for the rest of his or her life.
- Participate. Sit among the kids during Worship Rally, Bible study, and rotations. Sing the songs with them. Do the motions, play the games, and eat the snacks with the kids! Don’t stand in the back of the room drinking coffee or surfing Facebook on your phone—be an active participant! Watch for those kids who need a friend and become their best buddy. Try to engage with each child over the course of the week.
- Arrive early. The first person in the room is the one who’s in charge—make sure it’s you! Plan to arrive early and be ready to start the moment the first child enters the room. Give yourself enough time to arrive at the building and prepare yourself before any of the kids arrive. If you do this, you won’t feel rushed and you (and the kids) will have a much more enjoyable week!
- Give grace. Give yourself—and your kids—grace. VBS is a crazy, busy week full of overstimulation. By Wednesday or Thursday, everyone is tired, and kids may act out. That’s normal. Be ready with an extra helping of patience and grace.
- Don’t forget the little details. It’s easy for things to fall through the cracks during VBS. So plan ahead for emergencies. Keep a first aid kit handy. Grab a few extra name tags. Have a backup activity or two ready to go in case something bombs or takes way less time than you anticipated. Wear cool clothes and comfortable shoes. Get a good night’s sleep. Sometimes these little details make all the difference between surviving or thriving!
Melita Thomas serves as LifeWay’s VBS Specialist and was previously an editor of LifeWay’s VBS resources. Melita holds a masters degree in Childhood Ministry from Dallas Baptist University. A passionate advocate for kids ministry in the local church, Melita enjoys teaching kindergartners and preteens at Nashville First Baptist Church.