Your Treasure Map to the Best VBS

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Need help figuring out which vacation Bible school (VBS) will
have the most impact in your community and children’s lives? Use
the following 20 filters Children’s Ministry Magazine has used for
years in VBS reviews.

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  1. Educational Philosophy
    Are there clear, concrete, measurable objectives? If your
    curriculum stats 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?
  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 active
    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.
  11. Theme-Is it child-oriented and captivating for
    kids? 

    Is the theme well-executed throughout? One curriculum’s
    theme centered around Jesus, but the Bible stories focused on
    everything but Jesus. The theme needs to be emphasized and
    re-emphasized in every component of the VBS program. Are there
    added tips to transform an environment and better communicate the
    theme?
  12. Director Materials
    Are there preplanning tips? Are there teacher-training tips,
    age-level insights, discipline tips, and very clear overviews of
    each class?
  13. Teacher Materials
    Are they easy to understand? helpful? complete? Are there
    age-level insights to give teachers information about what they can
    expect from the age they’re teaching? Are there positive discipline
    techniques that would help a novice teacher?
  14. Student Materials
    Are they age-appropriate? Do they deal with
    the appropriate level of concrete vs. abstract concepts for each
    age group?

    Are they mindless exercises, or do they actually require
    kids to use higher-level thinking skills, which lead to life
    application?

    Are they appealing? Would kids want to read these,
    or are they the same old tired art styles and drab colors?

    Are student materials multisensory? The top-rated
    VBS programs use hands-on activities such as kids making mud
    bricks, crafting jewelry, and sampling candy.

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  15. Publicity Helps
    Are they up-to-date? appealing? easy to use? Are they big
    enough to be seen from a distance? Do they contain follow-up
    materials?

  16. Teacher Aids
    Are they creative, helpful, and relevant?

  17. Art
    Is it up-to-date? colorful? and appealing? In some VBS kits, art
    is not an issue because the kit is simply a guidebook for the
    leader to set up the learning experience. In other kits, art is a
    crucial element.

  18. Crafts
    Are they new and creative? Are they relevant? Do they relate
    to the theme or lesson in an integral way? Or are they just
    time-fillers that have no meaning? Are they neither supply- nor
    preparation-intensive? Are they “keeper” crafts?

  19. Reader Friendliness
    Is it organized and easy-to-understand? Would a novice
    director or teacher clearly understand the material?

  20. Music
    Is it theme-related? relevant? easy to learn? catchy?
    Does it reinforce the content of the VBS program? Does it make
    sense? Does it have childlike hand motions and involvement devices
    that’ll make learning and retention easier? Does it penetrate the
    heart? Will kids remember the music long after the program is
    over?

Excerpted from Children’s Ministry Magazine. Don’t
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