VBS Planning Part Three- Curriculum Evaluation Checklist

We have assembled a leadership team and spent some time determining the purpose of our Vacation Bible School.  Next, we jump into evaluating curriculum.

Part Three- The Curriculum Evaluation Checklist

Making decisions about curriculum can be one of the most daunting parts of early Vacation Bible School planning.  There are so many variables to consider related to the curriculum that it is easy to get confused or frustrated. Below is a checklist to help you as you sort through the different curriculum options.  If you are unsure what curriculum options are available .http://ministry-to-children.com/vacation-bible-school-themes/ is a great place to start.

Big Picture

*What are the main theme of the curriculum?

*Do these themes (or Bible Points) connect with your purpose for VBS?

* What are the daily Bible stories?  Do these stories connect to your purpose? (If you have a strong focus on reaching unchurched kids, will the Bible stories in the curriculum be confusing or complicated without prior knowledge?

*Does the Bible teaching line up with your church/denomination’s theology?

Budget Items

* What is the cost of the starter kit?

* Cost of take home items and student materials?

*Craft costs- are the crafts individual kits for purchase?  Are there more budget friendly options available?  Do the crafts require costly supplies?

* Other budget considerations: cost of music cds, decorating kit, additional leader manuals

Theme

*Is the theme appealing to kids? (I ask my children what they think of various themes)

*Does the theme have relevance in your area?

*What are the decorating suggestions based on the theme?  Are these ideas feasible in your setting (consider space as well as budget in this item)?

*Is the theme the star or the Bible stories?  I have seen far too many VBS curriculum themes go so far overboard that the Bible teaching gets lost in all of the cool theme stuff.

Staffing Needs

* How many stations needed?

* What kinds of personalities/talents are needed for each station? (for example- Do you need serious actors for the  Bible story station or will it work to have leaders who are better at discussion)

* How clear are the leader materials?  Will your leaders be able to get a big picture understanding of the program by reviewing their leader manuals

Other Considerations

*Is the music fun and engaging for all ages?  (Preschoolers like anything with a beat and motions, but older elementary children are much more discerning)

* Are there any popular Christian songs the kids may already know?  Any old hymns being updated?

*If you use a DVD to help teach the music, what’s the quality of the videos for each song?

* How much tweaking or editing of station materials will be needed to fit your program/setting?  Are you able to do this tweaking easily?

*Does the mission project fit your church’s overall mission?  What costs are associated with the mission project?  (Our kids loved making the fleece blankets from Group Publishing several years ago, but the costs were much higher than we anticipated due to shipping)

*How are the children divided into smaller groups?  Does this work in your setting or will you need to make modifications?

*What are other churches in your community using for curriculum?  While you would not want to use a substandard curriculum just to do something different, if the entire town is using one publisher’s curriculum it may be wise to look at other options.

You would not apply the entire checklist to every possible curriculum on the market.  If the big picture items do not fit your purpose, move on to another curriculum.  The first few categories can be assessed by digging through the publisher’s website, but you may need to get a loaner kit or spend some time really looking at the materials in a Christian Bookstore to complete the checklist on the curriculum you like most.

Did I miss anything on our checklist?  What is your primary focus when choosing a curriculum?

 

 

 

VBS Planning part two- Determine your purpose

In our first discussion about planning vacation Bible school, we considered the importance of assembling a leadership team to assist you in making VBS decisions.  Today we will consider the most important thing your leadership team must decide while planning VBS.

Step Two:  Determine the purpose of your Vacation Bible School. 

Are you hoping to grow the faith and knowledge of the children already in your program?  Deepen the bonds among the children and adults of your congregation?  Are you hoping to reach children outside of your church?  Are you dreaming of planting seeds in children who have never heard of Jesus?

The purpose behind your VBS must be the greatest determining factor for every decision you make behind the scenes to plan an amazing VBS.  Our VBS purpose conversation this month led my team to make some radical choices about what our summer children’s ministry will look like.  I hope that whether your purpose is to reach the entire town for Jesus or to grow the faith of the children who are already part of your congregation or both that you will spend some time in prayer and discussion about what God wants to do through your VBS this year.

If your church has a mission statement, your VBS purpose should connect with this mission statement.  Our church mission statement is love, know, serve, and share God.  So as my leadership team and I were discussing our purpose for VBS, we considered where VBS fit under this mission statement umbrella.  Our purpose for VBS is to help children in our community learn to love and know God better so that as they grow they will live lives of service and sharing with others.

Our secondary purpose is to help the adults and teens who serve at VBS to grow in their knowledge and love of God as they serve him and share him with the children who attend.  Often the adults who lead take steps of faith they would not take in other settings because leading children makes us braver.  I have a woman on my leadership team who had never prayed out loud in front of anyone, not even her husband, but on day 1 of VBS prayed out loud in front of eighty children and fifty adults and teens.  In any other setting, she would have asked someone else to lead the prayer, but in that unique VBS setting, filled with energy and boldness, she did something she had never done before.

By spending time considering your purpose for Vacation Bible School, you will have a much easier time taking the next steps- evaluating curriculum.

What is your VBS purpose?  Does your church have a mission statement?  Tell us about it in the comments section.

Vacation Bible School Planning Part One

Vacation Bible School Planning

Vacation Bible School is one of the cornerstones of children’s ministry.  For many, planning VBS begins almost as soon as the Christmas decorations are packed away.  Others start planning in May for a program in July.  For our first blog series at KidMin Solutions, I’ll be looking at the very early planning and decision making stages of VBS to help you work smarter and grow deeper in your ministry goals.

Step One:  Assemble a team.

The wisest decision our church made in regards to children’s ministry was to assemble a VBS leadership team.  In the beginnings of this team, we worked in support of what the director of lay ministries did to prepare for VBS.  That first year, we made a big leap in what we offered in our VBS and needed a team of organized, child centered, deeply committed Christians to help think through every detail of VBS.

Who should be on my team?  How many people should be on my team?

There is no hard and fast rule about numbers for a good VBS team.  I would highly recommend involving your pastor in at least the very early planning phases.  This may mean he/she is part of the team, but it may also mean that just keep them in the loop through email or personal meetings.  If your church has a staff member who coordinates ministry (perhaps a director of lay ministries or ministry coordinator), that person should be on your team if they are willing to serve this way.  Our director of lay ministries had been the driving force of our VBS for many years and still serves on our team to help shape the vision for VBS.

My situation may not be yours.  Your pastor may not be very interested in children’s ministry and would prefer just to know it happens each year.  You may have a church staff that includes the pastor and the secretary.  Whatever the church staffing situation you have, it is wise to keep someone on staff aware of the early planning decisions whether they choose to be part of your leadership team or not.

Next, consider the members of your previous VBS staff or those who have been involved in children’s ministry throughout the year.  You want people on your team who are passionate about reaching children’s hearts for Jesus.  It is also important to have people on your team who balance out your strengths.  If you are a big picture person, you need at least one detail person on your team to make sure the registration table is staffed and the first aid kits are stocked.  It is also crucial to have people who really understand children and child development.  Having an elementary or preschool teacher on your team can be a huge asset as they have a wealth of tricks of the trade to share with the entire VBS staff.  As with most steering committees or planning teams, a group of five to seven people seems to be ideal.

What am I going to do with this team?

Our VBS leadership team has evolved over the years from being a brainstorming group to being equally invested members with responsibilities of their own to manage and share with the team.  We begin with the big picture kind of dreaming that works best in teams- what are our hopes and dreams for this ministry this year?  We re-commit or re-establish our mission in hosting a VBS at our church.  If you do not have dates established for your VBS, the team makes that decision as well.  The team helps make some of the big decisions in the planning process easier-everything from where your stations will be held to what time your program should run.  As VBS gets closer this group of people can help spread the excitement about VBS when you are ready to start recruiting help and registering children.

Whether you have directed VBS for years or this is your first year leading VBS, I strongly recommend you establish a leadership team.  You will be much stronger for it.

Do you plan VBS with a team?  What challenges you or encourages you about trying?

Stay tuned tomorrow for tip 2:  Determine your purpose.

What and Who is KidMin Solutions?

I am so thrilled to be launching KidMin Solutions.  I hope that this blog and website becomes a place for inspiration, support and conversation for all kinds of children’s ministry.

You may be wondering about the person behind KidMin Solutions.  My name is Amanda Rousu.  I am one of those people who in many ways prefers being around children than being with adults.  God makes some of us uniquely suited towards this mission of reaching the hearts of children.  I have been a public school teacher, worked in preschools and am raising three children of my own.

It is through my children that I became involved in children’s ministry in my church. As a stay at home mom of young children, I was recruited to help with the preschool Vacation Bible School.  Because I had teaching experience (I taught vocal music and drama before my children were born), my ministry director gave me a teaching manual and said something along the lines of “good luck and God bless!”  I’m sure she breathed a huge sigh of relief to not have to search any further for someone willing to teach preschool.  I loved every moment of that first week of children’s ministry, but found myself wondering about how to improve the program overall.  Fast forward eight years (and a major family move and another child), and I am now a children’s ministry coordinator at our church.

My passion in children’s ministry is planting the seeds of God’s Word into the hearts of children in as many ways as I can.  My approach favors relationship over crafts, content over gimmicks.  Our budget is small, our technology is limited, and space is tight, but we invest in the children with our whole hearts.  If this sounds like you, let’s start the conversation.  How did you begin in children’s ministry?