Keeping family first in Vacation Bible School ministry, part 3

Sack lunch

Pack a lunch and have pre-VBS party with the older children!

Often many of the willing volunteers for Vacation Bible School will be parents with children at home.  Vacation Bible School is all about ministering to children.

While we find great joy in sharing the love of Jesus with the children of our communities, it would be hypocritical at best to neglect our own children in the process.

As VBS leaders, we know that every volunteer is important.  It takes a great team to have a great Vacation Bible School.  So how can we encourage our parent-volunteers to stick around–and more importantly, how can we help family ties to strengthen as we reach out to the children beyond our homes?

Let’s take a look at four areas where some simple planning and understanding will go a long way towards making it possible: preparations, meetings, Vacation Bible School, and priorities.

  1. Preparations
  2. There is a lot to do before Vacation Bible School even starts.  Purchasing the right set of inspirational Vacation Bible School materials is a great start, but you will put a lot of your own work into the program, too.

    There are worksheets to organize, games to plan, halls and rooms to decorate, crafts to set up, and more.  In all of this preparation, there is a multitude of little opportunities to include children of nearly any age in the process.  Our previous “Keeping family first in Vacation Bible School ministry” post includes many tips for parents on this very topic.

    As the Vacation Bible School leader, you can actually hold a pre-VBS “party” or two.  It can be a lot of fun to enlist the help of a group of teens and pre-teens for repetitive, assembly-line tasks such as setting up craft kits for individual students or arranging worksheet packets–especially if your church is doing the actual assembling of the packets.

    Invite the children and their families.  Tell everyone to bring a sack lunch, and you bring enough juice freezer-pops for everyone.  Plan to work about half of your time, then everyone have lunch and a freezer pop, and finish up the day with the other half of the work.  With careful supervision and direction for the children (and a good plan to start the day with) you can get a lot accomplished together!

  3. Meetings
  4. As part of good communication, you will be having a few meetings, some before and some after Vacation Bible School.  Parents should not feel that they (or their children) are a burden at these meetings.

    Some parents will opt to have a spouse or someone else stay with their children at home, but others will either prefer to or find it necessary to bring their children along with them.

    Two basic options exist for including children during Vacation Bible School meetings: allow the children into the meetings, and/or have a special “meeting” for the children.  You will have to decide (ask the parents’ opinions, too!) whether to choose one or the other option, or to mix in a bit of both.

    If you decide to keep the children in the meetings, be sure they sit with their own parent or a trusted, familiar adult.  Whatever you do, do not allow five or ten children on one edge of the table and all the adults on the other–mix the children in!

    If you have younger children in your group, be sure to provide lined paper, coloring sheets, and a pen or crayons.  Try to keep the supplies similar to what the adults will be using, as this will help the children feel a part of the group.  Older children might appreciate a piece of paper and a pen to take notes, as well–especially if they plan to be helpers at Vacation Bible School.

    Also, whatever the age of the children, be sure to allow them to speak if they have suggestions.  You will want to make it clear up front that once the meeting starts, the conversation is to be kept strictly on topic–that is, your Vacation Bible School meeting is a time to discuss Vacation Bible School. 🙂

    Of course, adults are just as likely to stray off topic as children at times, so this is a reminder for everybody.

    If you and the parents decide it is best not to have the children in the meeting with the adults, you will plan things a bit differently.  Perhaps you have a more rambunctious crowd, a long meeting, or simply a lot of children compared to adults.  Either way, you will need to call on some of the other adults in the church–maybe some of the parents who will not be in the Vacation Bible School meeting–to help out.  Plan your meeting for a time of day that is convenient for your extra helpers.

    The children’s meeting does not have to be complicated, but it should have some sort of a plan.  Unscheduled time plus lots of children equals trouble!

    Even in their special meeting, you can include the children by giving them a little something to do to help out with Vacation Bible School.  It is probably not the best time to try to fit in your preparations party, but the children could team up to clean a classroom or two or something similar.

    You could also include a few simple activities such as singing together, doing puzzles, or playing a Bible game.

  5. Vacation Bible School
  6. When Vacation Bible School comes around, it will not be hard to figure out what to do with the five- to twelve-year-olds–they will be in Vacation Bible School!  It will not be too hard to decide what to do with the teens–put them to work!

    However, you may have a small dilemma if some of your volunteers have very young children.  The best thing to do is make special arrangements for them.

    Very often, a three- or four-year-old child can fit in quite well in the Kindie class with just a little adjustment on the teacher’s part.

    A mother with a baby could fill a supporting role at Vacation Bible School that allows her to take a break away from time to time when her baby needs her extra care.

    If your church has a lot of little ones, your team might want to consider a special class at Vacation Bible School just for them.  This class would be mostly planned play and need not add a lot of extra burden to the planning.  Little ones usually enjoy taking part in general assembly, too.

  7. Priorities
  8. The success of Vacation Bible School will always be greatest when our priorities are straight.  God should always be first, and no child should ever feel inferior–not our own and not anybody else’s.  As Vacation Bible School leaders, it is up to us to encourage parents to put their God-given role as parents first.

    Understand when a parent needs time to especially devote to his or her family.  Be sure they know that you understand.  As Christian families are strengthened “behind the scenes”, their potential for ministry is growing, too.  In the end, more children will be blessed.

Encouraging Results

Vacation Bible School does take a lot of effort, but stress should never be its greatest result.  As the Lord leads us as Vacation Bible School leaders to encourage our volunteers in their various life roles, the blessings are certain to be returned.

Many young parents would like to help out at Vacation Bible School if only they were supported in their primary role as parent, rather than feeling forced to choose between ministry roles.  As family ties are strengthened and we all pitch in to spread God’s love throughout the world of children around us, we will have no doubt that keeping family first in Vacation Bible School is certainly the right thing to do!


  • What do you do to be sure parents with children at home can still participate in Vacation Bible School, if they choose?
  • Do you agree that God first, family second is a good order of priorities, or would you add something different?  Why?

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