It was the Sunday immediately following Vacation Bible School and I was elated that a church of 300 had hosted 440 kids for a week of turning their eyes and hearts toward Jesus. Not once, not twice, but three times that morning members of the church approached me with the same questions: How many kids were saved this week? And, how many new families do you think we’ll see begin attending? My answers were: none that I know of … yet, and none that I know of … yet. A week that was absolutely thrilling to me was obviously disappointing to others.
What had gone wrong? Very simply, the objective of our VBS had not been communicated adequately. Those in on planning VBS were aware that our goal was to have four kids attend who knew nothing about the Lord for every one child who we regularly saw. We exceeded that goal! Our objective was that every child who attended: (1) felt safe and had their needs met, (2) realized that this was a place where kids were understood and respected, and (3) had a new relationship with someone who knew their name and shared God’s love with them. Four out of five kids attending were hearing about God, His Son Jesus, and the Word of God for the first time in their lives. We felt that any child’s life-changing salvation experience needs to be made on a solid foundation, and we didn’t feel that one short week of introducing Jesus as Savior was enough to time to do that. Every single activity, game, craft, snack, and skit, though, was tightly connected to the Word of God and that’s how we poured the wet cement that we hoped would be the foundation for a life-changing experience someday.
To experience a win, you first have to know what the win is. You have to know what your objectives are—what you want kids to understand in their hearts when they leave. That objective is determined by your answers to five questions. There are no right or wrong answers, but the answers that you come up with are instrumental in clarifying your objective … and your WIN.
Are you targeting a special group of kids?
You may have a special group of kids your program applies to—girls, physically handicapped, soccer players, kids with musical talent, specific neighborhoods, etc. If you’re doing a sports program, then kids who are really interested in sports will be drawn to it. Put resources into advertising at the ballpark and through coaches. Your VBS may really want to connect with kids who are in day care centers throughout the summer. You’ll need to think through special permission, transportation, and how you can reach these working parents.
What age span is the program/event (VBS) for?
Set your age span or grade level … then, stick to it. Create activities, games, crafts, and music that hit that sweet spot age group. Beforehand, make sure you know exactly what this age span/grade level means. Will this include kids coming out of or going into that grade? Will workers be able to enroll their child, even though they’re not in that age group? With every exception, you will be weakening your focus and a chance for a strong win. If your VBS is for preschoolers and kindergartners, then permitting a second grade worker’s child to attend is likely to cause a disruption—simply because the activities are not age-appropriate for this one child.
Where are the children developmentally?
Are the children you are targeting on the high end of development or are they more challenged developmentally? Perhaps, your target group is preschoolers who have well-developed fine motor skills and are early readers. The activities you design for them will be different from a target group of children who have had little attention and instruction from adults.
What socioeconomic group are the children in?
Before deciding whether there will be a charge for VBS, a heavy emphasis on giving to a mission project, or a request for supplies, equipment, or uniforms, take time to determine the socioeconomic group your target set is in. You don’t want finances to become a barrier that will hinder you reaching your objective.
Where is the target group spiritually?
This is where many churches get off track. If your target group for VBS is the kids who attend your church regularly, then, more than likely, you can push them pretty strongly to take major spiritual steps. But, if your target group is kids who have never heard about Jesus, who have never held a Bible, and who have never sung a worship song, then the way you conduct VBS has to be totally different. You’ll need to help your workers understand that your church building is a foreign—even alien—to the kids, and it’s a HUGE step for them to even venture out to see what’s inside. It’s time to handle these kids with great care. You will not be able to assume that they know what a book of the Bible or the numbers for chapter and verse mean. They will not understand the meaning of “Savior” or “Lord”, so that means nothing when you ask for a salvation decision. You’ll need to go back to very basics. Force yourself to look at every piece of your program through the eyes of a child who is experiencing this for the very first time.
Answering these five questions will give you the basis for articulating the objective of your program, event, or Vacation Bible School. Know that objective, communicate that objective with your team and with the church, and when you’re soaking your feet after it’s all over, you’ll be able to truthfully ascertain if it was a WIN.