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Easy Does It

Jody Brolsma

Hold on to your hats! Before you know it, vacation Bible school will be upon you. It seems that the more years have gone by, the bigger vacation Bible schools have grown. It's one of the biggest happenings in a church year -- Christmas, Easter, VBS. No wonder organizing a VBS can seem like a huge, overwhelming task. Here are a few ways to make this year's VBS go easily and smoothly.

1. Use the buddy system. Any job is more fun to do with a friend, so find a co-director to share the load. Clearly specify who does what. Maybe one person is in charge of supplies and the other is in charge of staffing. Pray for each other daily. Get together for coffee to touch base. On each day of your VBS, one of you can be a "roamer" and the other one stationed in the "office." Use walkie-talkies to stay in touch and troubleshoot any issues. "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work" (Ecclesiastes 4:9).

2. Stay focused on your vision. Is your vision neighborhood outreach? family outreach? growing your children's ministry? Your vision sharpens your plans and affects all decisions, such as location, time, length, and activities. As you develop your program, a vision helps you stick to important elements and not add unessential bells and whistles. For example, if you choose to do an outdoor VBS to reach neighborhood children, you might choose to put less time into elaborate decorations. Set a vision and use it as a filter during planning. Keep your eyes on the goal. "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14). Goals are good!

3. Choose a format. If you haven't yet chosen your format, allow your vision to direct your choice. What works best for your church? When and where will you hold your VBS? An evening format might make it easier to get volunteers. Or if you want lots of families to attend, a weekend or a retreat format might work best. Or if you have a small church and like to work with others, host a communitywide VBS, partnering with other churches.

4. Gather supplies early. Order resources early so you have time to organize them. On a bulletin board and in your church bulletin, list additional supplies you'll need and then set out a grocery cart to collect items church members donate. One church took digital pictures of the supplies they needed and hung the pictures on a bulletin board. That way, the church members knew exactly what to donate.

5. Recruit staff according to gifts. Instead of having your volunteers do everything in a traditional classroom, consider rotating kids through specific stations such as games, crafts, snacks, Bible stories, and songs. A person who loves drama and storytelling could lead Bible stories, a person who loves to cook could organize snacks, and a person who'd rather work behind the scenes could help with decorations or baking or publicity. Staff members will dig into their roles when they're allowed to use their gifts. "The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ" (1 Corinthians 12:12).

6. Use a combined-age approach. Studies show that children learn as much or more when linked with kids of different ages. In fact, one study observed that children naturally chose to play with other children their age only 6 percent of the time. They played with children at least one year older or younger 55 percent of the time. Multiage groups facilitate cooperation. Older kids help younger ones and the younger ones try to be like the older ones. Multiage cuts down on discipline and makes discussion times easier. And multiage cuts down on the variety of crafts you'll need since you choose crafts that all ages can do.

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