10 VBS Ideas for Small Churches

With summer vacation upon us, many churches are gearing up for their annual Vacation Bible School program. You might think that the success of your VBS has everything to do with how much money and manpower you can invest in it, but that’s not necessarily the case.

If you’ve ever looked around your tiny church auditorium and even tinier group of volunteers and wondered how in the world you’re going to pull off a great VBS program this year, this article is for you! With a little faith and ingenuity, you can reach kids for Christ with a spectacular VBS program, no matter the size of your church! Check out 10 tips for making it happen below:

1. Plan Ahead

Obviously planning ahead is important whether your church is large or small, but it’s especially crucial for small churches. That’s because smaller churches have less manpower to take on the preparation needed to put a great VBS together, and may not be able to complete tasks as fast. Start planning at least 5 months in advance. Divide the work (such as making decorations, preparing craft kits) among your workers and give them ample time to complete it. Here’s a handy timeline:

At least 5 months ahead:

Decide on VBS dates and announce them to the church. Define who will be the VBS director and who will be part of the staff. Decide on a theme and either write, borrow or buy material. Begin a fundraiser to obtain funds if needed.

4 months ahead:

Begin to announce the need for volunteers in the church. Observe gifts and talents of members and ask them to get involved in areas where they might be useful.

3 months ahead:

Hold a VBS training session for workers. Begin to make decorations and hold practices for opening skits, etc.

2 months ahead:

Begin to announce the VBS with fliers and social media. Buy material for crafts and classes.

1 month ahead:

Prepare craft kits and other material needed for your VBS program. Make sure teachers are studying the classes and that skit rehearsals are going well.

1 week ahead:

Buy and make food items needed for the VBS. Place decorations in the building.

Ultimately, doing things ahead of time will ultimately save you money. That’s because if you make time to take on DIY projects, you won’t end up having to buy things at the last minute because there’s no time to make them. No more taking a last minute trip to the supermarket for outlandishly-priced stale cookies. No more buying expensive plastic wall-hangings because there was no time to paint a mural. And that brings us to our next point…

2. Make, Don’t Buy.

Speaking of saving money, making things instead of buying them is normally the cheaper way to go. This is especially true when it comes to decorations and craft kits. Buying pre-packaged packets of foam pieces and sequins can be extremely convenient, but small churches can save by simply buying and cutting the material themselves and packing it into little sandwich baggies. Here’s a list of things that we recommend you make instead of buy:

  • craft kits
  • decorations (wall murals, door/ceiling hangings, etc)
  • snacks/cookies
  • costumes for skits

Here are some things that you might be able to borrow from church members:

  • sports/games equipment (balls, nets, bats, hula hoops)
  • props for skits
  • props for decorations (stuffed animals, tents, chairs, tables)

3. Involve everyone.

Ever heard the saying that in most churches, 20% of the people do 80% of the work? Don’t let that be the case for your VBS program. About 4 months ahead of time, observe church members to discover what talents and abilities God has given them. People don’t have to be good at teaching, or even “good with kids”, to get involved! There is so much behind-the-scenes work to be done for a VBS as well. If few people volunteer to get involved, speak to church members privately and let them know how their specific talents could be a huge help. Here are some of the roles that need to be filled when it comes to VBS:

  • Song leaders
  • Painters/ Decoration makers
  • Prop finders
  • Craft leaders
  • Snack makers
  • Teachers
  • Helpers (keeping kids in line, running errands)
  • Game leaders
  • Audio/Visual leaders (if using a projection screen and sound system)
  • Janitors (someone’s gotta clean up the mess!)

In a small church, one person can take on several roles, as long as he or she is given ample time to prepare. For example, someone in charge of decoration could coordinate painting sessions with other members before VBS starts and ensure that decorations are ready to go, and then double as song leader once VBS begins.

4. Let teens help

Short on help? Get your teens involved! With a little training, teens can be a huge asset to your VBS program. They tend to have more time than adults to practice skits and paint murals. They also have ample energy to create cheers for game time and get kids hyped up about competitions. Don’t worry if they don’t do things “perfectly”— remember that you are training future leaders and sending a message to kids that they, too, can serve God at church during their teenage years.

5. Hold a Training Session

The best way to make the most of your small group of volunteers is to give them the tools they need to do an incredible job. In fact, it’s better to have 10 workers who know exactly what’s expected of them and when to do it, than 50 volunteers who stand around with blank stares on their faces, wondering what to do. Hold your training session on a Saturday, or another day when most of your workers will be able to attend. Give them clearly defined roles and explain the VBS theme and schedule. Delegate tasks so that you don’t end up doing all the work yourself! Spend some time refreshing their knowledge about dealing with kids, teaching, and how to share the gospel with children.

6. Take Advantage of Free VBS Programs

Yes, there really is VBS material available for free on the internet (seems like you can find anything on the internet these days!) It may not be as all-inclusive as purchased material, but it’s a good starting place. If you plan ahead, you can come up with additional crafts, games, and skits to supplement free programs as needed.

7. Partner with Another Church

Two churches are better than one! Combine forces with another like-minded small church and put on one big VBS program together. The advantages are obvious: more workers, more resources, and you’ll be able to reach more kids.

8. Reuse Material from Another Church

It may be possible to borrow material from a larger church, especially if they hold their VBS event before yours. Things like lesson manuals, posters, and decorations can be easily reused. Many larger churches are more than happy to see their material get more use! It sure beats shoving everything into a dark closet where it’s useful to no one but rats and spiders.

9. Use Social Media to Advertise

Short on funds for printing out fliers? No worries, you can still get the word out! Since most kids and their parents are on social media these days, take advantage of the internet to let everyone know about your VBS event! Make a colorful digital “poster” and ask church members to share it with their friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter. Not only is this kind of publicity completely free, but it’s much less likely to end up in a garbage bin. You can even pay Facebook a few bucks to publish the announcement on the feeds of everyone in your town.

10. Don’t Make Excuses!

Just because your church is small, don’t assume your VBS program can’t make a big impact on your community. God’s power isn’t limited by your workers and budget.With some faith, prayer, and planning, you can reach kids with the gospel and change their lives. Because, that’s the point, right? A VBS program doesn’t have to be huge and expensive to help kids meet Christ. Even if only ONE kid accepts Christ, your program will have been worth it. So don’t make excuses— do your best, and let God turn your 5 loaves and 2 fishes into huge blessings for a multitude.

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