The 9th Annual VBS Review

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Spring is right around the corner, and you know what that
means…it’s VBS-planning time. So to help make your VBS planning a
breeze, here are the three award-winning VBS programs from our 2000
VBS review.

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Searching for the perfect VBS program for your children’s ministry
is often an overwhelming task. So to lighten your load and help you
make the best choice for your children, we assembled a team of
children’s ministry experts to review 16 VBS kits. The kits were
evaluated in the areas of overall first impression; theme; content;
flexibility and ease of use; and fun, creative activities and
ideas. Check out these top three award-winning programs.

GOOD NEWS OCEAN ODYSSEY
LIFEWAY CHRISTIAN RESOURCES

Kids will dive into the depths of God’s faithfulness in this
underwater VBS adventure from the Southern Baptists. This fun theme
is well-executed throughout the entire program. Kids will delight
in the colorful tropical fish, sea creatures, coral, sand dollars,
sea weed, and fanciful fish nets that adorn this sea odyssey. Kids
gather daily for praise and worship in the Worship Rally Center,
which is a transformed submarine.

While the program seems fairly complex, the multisensory
activities are creative and imaginative. Yet the Bible story time
is heavily teacher-centered and doesn’t offer many open-ended
discussion questions. The strong visual appeal is carried
throughout the program and into the colorful and visually appealing
student books and teacher manuals. Even the kit has a unique
packaging concept-a large colorful “oxygen tank” that stores all
the materials. There’s a large selection of colorful, eye-catching
publicity posters with underwater scenes and colorful fish that are
included in the Scuba Sampler (starter kit).

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Good News Ocean Odyssey has strong evangelistic emphasis, and the
missions portion helps kids learn about missionaries around the
world in places such as Togo, Africa, as well as Savannah, Georgia.
Each day kids watch a short video about a real missionary and
participate in activities that reinforce what they’ve learned. The
publisher also offers the Church Prospect Services designed to help
churches reach unchurched families in their communities by
accessing a customized list of local addresses.

This flexible VBS program offers a variety of schedule options for
a five-day, three-day, weekend, or expanded VBS program. Kids can
dive in age-graded groups or stay in individual classrooms and
S.C.U.B.A. in a “self-contained underwater Bible adventure.” There
are also options for site-rotation classes. This underwater
adventure is great for large churches with multiple centers for
multiple ages. And there are many fish in this sea with additional
VBS programs available for the entire church with adult, youth, and
special education programs.

The extensive director’s manual includes detailed instructions,
information on the principles of VBS, listings of age-level
characteristics, and a section on special needs children including
ideas for mainstreaming. The director’s manual also includes
clip-art, publicity helps, and an impressive selection of 16
overheads. The directions are fun and use catchy terms, but the
scuba lingo can get confusing.

Kids will love to submerse themselves in the fun, creative
activities. At the Craft Reef, kids get to make Bubble Seascapes
out of clear plastic ornaments filled with aquarium gravel and
small sea shells to reinforce one of the daily Bible lessons. The
imaginative crafts appeal to boys and girls. There are craft
options for younger kids and preteens and craft substitutions based
on group size or budget. Kids also enjoy the tasty theme-related
snacks, such as Crab Cupcakes, Jellyfish Sandwiches, and Squid Legs
made out of breadsticks and lunch meat. The snacks aren’t time- or
supply-intensive, but kids don’t get to make the snacks themselves.
There are suggestions for simple refreshments such as Goldfish
crackers and blue Kool-Aid soft drinks that keep with the ocean
theme. At the Recreation Reef, kids are involved in a variety of
outdoor and indoor theme-related games that’ll keep them moving.
Kids also dive into the lively songs and easy-to-learn motions that
relate to the theme and the Bible stories.

The creative, theme-related activities help kids experience God’s
love as they explore his Word in this underwater adventure.

AT A GLANCE

Strengths:

Good News Ocean Odyssey has a fun theme with lots of great
decorating possibilities. The creative activities and fun ideas
have strong kid-appeal. The director’s manual is loaded with
information and includes excellent overheads. The program is
visually appealing throughout the materials and in the unique
packaging concept.

Weaknesses:

The activities are heavily teacher-centered and sometimes make
kids passive participants. There’s too much “teacher talk” and it
doesn’t provide enough open-ended questions for engaging
discussions. It requires a lot of volunteers to execute the
program, which might not be small-church friendly. Some activities
require a lot of preparation.

Bible Lessons: Jesus is born (Matthew 1:18-2:12); Jesus feeds
5,000 (Mark 6:30-44); Jesus calms the storm (Mark 4: 35-41); Jesus
teaches Nicodemus (John 3:1-21); and the Holy Spirit comes (Acts
2:1-47).

Starter kit includes: Promotional video, director’s
guide, teaching guide for each activity, teaching guide for each
age level, student book for each age level, promotional poster set,
worship cassette and book, and “Dive Into Becoming a Christian”
tract.

Cost: Scuba Sampler, $49.95.

Available from: LifeWay Christian Resources, 127 Ninth
Ave. N., Nashville, Tennessee 37234; 800-458-2772 or (615)
251-2643; www.lifeway.com

     

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