After posting my little series last week on the importance of truly feeding the children, spiritually speaking, I realized that there are also VBS leaders out there who are looking for ideas regarding literally feeding the children as well. So today, I thought it would do well to address the issue of refreshments, or snack-time, at Vacation Bible School.
Whether you have a group of fifty or a hundred, or you have only five or fifteen, the idea is basically the same; and although it is a smaller part of the VBS program time-wise, it remains important to consider nonetheless.
The Vacation Bible School Refreshments Leader
One of the first things you will have to think about in regards to Vacation Bible School refreshments is who will be your Refreshments Leader. Like any position to be filled in Vacation Bible School leadership, the Refreshments Leader primarily must have love for God and love for the children, which shines out in a cheerful disposition.
One of the nice things about this position, though, is that it is less demanding, both in terms of time and in terms of physical ability. Perhaps there is someone at your church who would like to help out at VBS, but because of his or her age or physical challenges, finds most of the jobs too difficult. The duties of the Refreshments Leader may be done at a leisurely pace ahead of time, or they may be done rather quickly if so desired. The actual amount of direct dealing with the children is relatively small in this position—most of the work is “behind-the-scenes”.
One arrangement that often works very well is for the Refreshment Leader to double as a Vacation Bible School registration helper, as well, since registration is a position with a temporary high demand and then a trickle throughout the duration of the Vacation Bible School.
Refreshment time at VBS is best kept brief—ten to fifteen minutes, depending on the age group—but should definitely be included in the schedule. Many children are used to having some sort of snack part-way through their morning and missing out on this can lead to them not feeling as energetic as they should. Others may have left home only having a scanty breakfast—or worse yet, none at all.
Either way, the little boost that refreshment time gives helps prevent encountering an eleven o’clock child who is fighting to think of anything but food.
Additionally, by taking the refreshment time as an opportunity to get everyone hydrated, you will be doing all you can to ensure that those young minds (and yours!) are operating at peak efficiency.
The timing of refreshments at your Vacation Bible School also must be considered. To assist in providing age-appropriate portions, it helps to have the three VBS age groups at refreshment time separately. (This is the way it is arranged in the VBS Schedule that comes with Hasten Home’s Vacation Bible School materials.) Another advantage to serving them at three different times is the extra little window that it allows the Refreshments Leader to prepare the snack.
A very logical place in the schedule for refreshment time is immediately following outdoor recreation. Having the refreshments set up on a table near the entrance back into the church makes for a smooth transition from outdoor “rec” to refreshments to back indoors.
As the children head indoors, the teachers should encourage them to grab a drink of water (either from a nearby fountain or from a pitcher that was prepared ahead of time) and to use the restroom and wash their hands. As the children finish up, they should have a place to line up in preparation to head to their next activity. In this way, the transition flows in a sensible, organized way.
What to serve
Finally—and perhaps most obviously—the question arises as to what the children should be served. It is wise to take into consideration that some children are accustomed to snacking and others are not.
In your VBS, there is a good chance that you will have some of each, and we want to be respectful of both. For this reason, I believe that the two best types of snacks to serve are melons and fruit juice (on separate days).
Melons are nice as there may be a member of your church who has some to offer from their garden. The melon should be washed and pre-cut into chunks. It could be placed into small portion-sized cups. Some churches like to serve the melon hors d’oeuvre style, with toothpicks in each chunk. If you choose the latter method, obviously, the children will need to be carefully supervised and instructed on careful eating of the fruit. (This goes especially for the younger ones.)
Fruit juice is the other option, and often there will be someone willing to donate it for VBS. Serve the juice in serving-sized cups (4-ounce or so for the Kindies; 8-ounce for the Juniors; and somewhere in the middle for Primaries, if available), so that all of the children feel that they are getting a full cup.
It is better to allow seconds than to have cupfuls of juice being tossed in the trash (which should be readily available in the refreshment area, as well).
One caution here: as fun as it sounds, you probably want to avoid freezing the juice into popsicles, as popsicles can take a very long time to be consumed!
Also, it is wise to have a question on your Vacation Bible School registration forms regarding food allergies. Even though most parents will mark that their child has no concerns in this area, you do not want to miss the one that does. Of course, be sure to make that child known to the Refreshment Leader and Division Leader (and Crafts Leader if there will be any food made in craft time) so that appropriate exceptions can be arranged. (Here is another helpful reason for refreshments and registration to be led by the same VBS helper.)
As you can see, refreshments are not only part of the fun, but an important part of the Vacation Bible School schedule. With a bit of forethought, refreshment time can be an enjoyable opportunity for an elderly or disabled church member to interact with the children and for the children to be (fittingly 🙂 ) refreshed!