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At the Center for Congregations, we believe in learning from each other. The best resources and information come from the congregations we work with directly. The following is a guest blog from Beth Keller of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. Beth shares her experience of creating an engaging Vacation Bible School program with her congregation.
What do you think of when you hear the words “Vacation Bible School?”
I have many memories of fun summers at my home church when I was young, but as a child, I didn’t notice the adults who were volunteering in the multitudes of positions needed to run a successful VBS. Then I was asked by our pastors at Immanuel Lutheran Church to take the lead and run Vacation Bible School. Talk about an eye-opening experience! There were so many moving parts and so many helping hands were needed to make VBS work. But how do the moving parts and helping hands work together to pull off a successful week?
The number one moving part is planning. I know that seems obvious, but the planning needs to be thorough and intentional, and it cannot be carried out by just one person. Our pastors are integral to the planning process and lead sessions throughout the week. Our church does not always have the same VBS leader, but the former leaders keep their records, lists, files, and ideas organized, either on paper or digitally. When I agreed to lead VBS, I reached out to the previous year’s director. She provided many wonderful artifacts and I was able to get started on the planning right away.
Relationships are another important moving part. After the pastor asked me to be the VBS Leader, I contacted my “never-fails,” the families I know I can reach out to in any situation, at church or in my life, and they will never fail to be there and help. When I knew they were on board, I thought about finding a good co-leader. I have been a member of Immanuel Lutheran for 38 years, and at church, a young teacher that I have known for her whole life approached me and asked if she could help with VBS.
Blessings from heaven, indeed! Now, we are the VBS Team and get to meet for coffee and text at all hours, knowing that we can count on each other to get the job done.
The first kind of communication we used was a meeting after church for any volunteers interested in helping with VBS. Several helpers attended the meeting and even more reached out to me to declare their interest. As we gathered adult and middle school volunteers, we began the process of communicating to congregation and school parents. We started with social media posts, church school newsletters, and bulletin announcements.
Then we began the process of online registration by sending out a link to a Google form. Our VBS is free this year, so we did not need to collect fees online. We were given a budget by our congregation, and use grants and donations to cover extra expenses.
Now it’s time for Vacation Bible School! We plan a training meeting, using agendas from previous years, and organize a schedule for all our volunteers. They help with decorating our worship and class space, sorting snack donations, and organizing sign-in sheets and name tags. We communicate final details to families and wait excitedly for the children to arrive. We look forward to a post-VBS luncheon, organized by a long-time volunteer. Finally, we pray that relationships will be built and strengthened as we work together to bring the children and each other closer to Jesus.