As we prepare to enter our second summer of the pandemic, planning for VBS can seem like a massive challenge. It’s impossible to predict whether it will be safe to meet in person again by then. But don’t panic! You don’t have to create custom content for every eventuality. With a few simple principles in place, you can provide an intergenerational VBS experience that works equally well in a variety of settings.
1. Focus on the “Bible” part of vacation Bible school.
The main reason that we’re gathering is to learn more about and engage more fully with scripture. That can happen anywhere. It can be difficult to trust that texts thousands of years old can connect with people today sans special songs, fancy sets, and custom dances. But my experience in teaching scripture in diverse settings has taught me it can (my all-time favorite VBS was one done in a prison cafeteria, with a budget of $100!). This collection of books contains epic battles and grand love stories, man-eating lions and talking donkeys. And the painful stuff is in there, too. The biblical authors knew all about living through plagues. And crushing poverty. And life in a police state that kills innocent minorities. Trust that the text is powerful enough to speak, whether that is in a fellowship hall, a field, or in front of a computer screen.
2. Build in Flexibility and Delegate
Planning for VBS can often fall on the shoulders of a director of Christian education, pastor/diaconal minister, or a single volunteer. It’s no wonder we so often go for the “VBS in a box” programs where all of the content is right there! And rest assured—Sparkhouse is offering a variety of programs for both in-person and virtual VBS! But in cases where a high degree of flexibility is required, it really is possible to create programming that can be adjusted on a dime, and without a ton of stress. One excellent starting point is the wide variety of offerings Sparkhouse has that are specifically designed to be used in a wide variety of settings. It may not have “VBS” on the cover, but inside, you will find lots of flexible programming. Contact a Sparkhouse representative to get assistance in picking resources.
It also is possible to quickly design a highly adaptable program if we keep things simple, get volunteers to help with planning, and set parameters for those volunteers. Though the person(s) in charge of planning for VBS are responsible for making sure the content is theologically sound and safe, if we ask each volunteer or family to supply just one piece of content and have a clear framework in place, people of all ages and experience levels can contribute wonderful content. And please be sure to include children and teens in your planning! Given the events of this past year, they are masters of adaptation. A schedule for a church that had decided to focus on the theme “Who Were the Disciples?” might look something like this:
10 a.m.-10:30 a.m.
Read and discuss a brief definition of and list of disciples (provided by person responsible for VBS)
-The word disciple means “student” or “follower.” Who are some people in your life who you trust to teach you important things? Why do you trust them?
-Jesus got a lot of attention because the people he chose to follow him were people who society underestimated or didn’t think had important things to say. Was there ever a time where people thought you couldn’t do something (or maybe you even thought it yourself!) and then one person believed in you? What did that feel like? Have you ever been that person for someone else?
-Most of the people Jesus called to follow him were teenagers. Often, people don’t believe kids can be leaders. Who are some of the kids you know who are doing amazing things today?
What was your favorite name out of the list of disciples you heard earlier? Draw a picture of what you think that person looked like, and discuss why you drew them the way you did.
(Volunteer needed to research a craft that can be done to create a desert scene, such as a shoebox diorama or a fishbowl desert-something that is portable and requires fewer than eight supplies)
11:30 a.m-12:30 p.m.
Read and discuss John 1:35-51 from the Good News Bible (easily found online)
-How many disciples does Jesus have at this point?
-Research online what the Bible says about these disciples—whose story excites you the most? Why?
-How do you think you might respond if someone walked up to you and said “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man,” as he did to Nathaniel?
1:15 p.m.-2:15 p.m.
(Volunteer needed to research a game that can be done with groups of 3-8 that involves calling one another)
2:15 p.m.-3:15 p.m.
(Volunteer needed to research a snack where participants can make and eat little human figures)
Watch the videos on YouTube from The Bible Project about the disciples we have met so far.
Prayer and Dismissal