Use Children’s Ministry Magazine’s Complete Guide to Choosing the Best VBS to ensure maximum outreach in your community and impact in kids’ lives. Choose the best VBS by using the following 20 filters that Children’s Ministry Magazine has used for years in VBS reviews.
1. Educational Philosophy Are there clear, concrete, measurable objectives? If your curriculum starts as an objective for preschoolers that they would know the full joy of believing in God, how does a teacher measure that? Or if one states that young elementary children would share deeply about their faith, is that realistic?
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2. Is it teacher- or student-focused? What percentage of control does the teacher have? What are teachers doing? Are they telling, explaining, and saying for the most part? Or are they asking, directing, and observing? The teacher needs to function as one who is involved in the discovery process of learning, rather than the sole dispenser of knowledge.
3. Does it incorporate R.E.A.L. learning? This does not mean that children are simply busy. What it does mean is that children are integrally involved in the discovery and learning process. At its best, active learning evokes emotion in the children and helps them connect the learning experience to a real-life situation. Active learning must always be focused through open-ended debriefing questions that help kids “get the point.
4. Does it incorporate the principles of interactive learning? What a misused educational term this has been in the last few years. We’ve seen curriculum that claims to be interactive, but is nothing more than children’s pencils interacting with meaningless fill-in-the-blank handouts. Interactive learning means that children do not learn in isolation. Rather, they learn best as they interact with others. Each group member contributes to the learning process?
5. Does it foster intrinsic or extrinsic motivation? Reward programs are out; the joy of learning is in. If a curriculum relies on external reward programs to motivate children to be involved in learning, there’s something wrong. The activities should be so compelling and exciting in and of themselves that children passionately engage in the learning process?
6. Do Bible memory activities focus on understanding and relevance? Or is the goal of the program to simply cram Bible verses into children so they can parrot them back at the end of the program-without real understanding?
7. Is it flexible enough to encompass all types of kids? We look for suggested adaptations for physically and emotionally challenged children, ethnically diverse children, and unchurched kids.
8. Content: Is it Bible-based? Is the Bible used correctly and in context? Are the language and stories of the Bible age-appropriate?
9. Is it relevant to children? Does it meet the “so-what” factor that would give kids a desire to learn about God’s Word? The content needs to delve into the heart issues that are important to children.
10. Does it focus on life application? A VBS curriculum should not assume that kids will apply biblical principles. There must be open-ended questions that lead children to put their faith into action.