It sometimes seems like summer break has barely started when kids begin complaining “There's nothing to do.” What better way to stop the boredom than by rounding up all those young rascals for a rousing week or two of Vacation Bible School?
Begin promoting VBS at your church well in advance with an indoor/outdoor Western Desert Banner which comes in sizes up to 48” by 96” for great visibility. Customize the banner with date, time, and name of your prepared curriculum, or come up with a catchy title of your own, like SonRise Rodeo, or God's Wranglers. Include contact information for registration.
Hopefully the weather will allow for a lot of the VBS activities to be outside, but whether inside or out, establish a group meeting place by covering one wall with a barn door scene prop and red barn siding panels. Use hay bales for seating. Make things look even more authentic by creating a fake campfire with a ring of rocks, logs stacked in the traditional pyramid style, and crinkled up red and orange cellophane for “flames.”
On the first day, you will want to give each child a printed t-shirt or bandana. Encourage the boys and girls to wear them every day to show they are proud members of God's posse.
Gather all ages together each morning for a welcome, opening prayer, announcements, and a few familiar songs. It would be great if one of the leaders could accompany the singing on the guitar.. This would also be a good time to introduce the memory Bible verse of the day. Let the kids know they have all started as cowpokes, but have the chance to rise to the positions of assistant sheriff, designated with a silver badge, and full sheriff, with a shiny gold badge, depending on the number of verses they master.
Break into age groups for the Bible story and lesson. Make sure each different area is decked out with western decorations, including wild west sign cutouts, cactus cutouts, and bandana pennant banners.
After the lesson, young cowpokes will be ready for a snack. Whether you are having morning or afternoon sessions, you will not want to interfere with a meal, so keep things light. Good snack ideas are trail mix (of course), popcorn, haystacks—otherwise known as rice krispie treats, popsicles, finger jello, and lemonade. Serve watermelon slices one day, followed by a rowdy seed-spitting contest. Kids will ask for watermelon everyday! Just be sure you have plenty of western bandana beverage napkins on hand.
Craft and/or activity time is often one of the most anticipated parts of the day. The first or second day would be a perfect time for making “Wanted” posters of the kids. Borrow or purchase a few costume props. Kids will love putting on cowboy boots, hats,and vests. Take each child's picture, print them out on standard-size paper, and post them on wanted reward photo holders. The posters will make a great addition to the decorations for the week and a treasured memento to take home when VBS is over.
Have kids make a memory verse booklet which they will add to each day of VBS. Punch holes in the pages and bind them together with yarn. Everyone expects to leave vacation Bible school with at least one braided lanyard. Find materials and instructions online. Let kids work off excess energy with a rousing game of horseshoes.
Bring everyone back together at the gathering place at the end of the day to sing the VBS theme song and say a closing prayer.
A successful Bible school will not only win the hearts of the kids, but hopefully encourage their parents to attend church as well. With that goal in mind, have kids invite their parents to a final VBS round-up cookout. Serve traditional picnic food, including hamburgers, hotdogs, corn on the cob, and watermelon. Cowprint plates and napkins will add to the fun. With extra adults on hand to supervise, think about having a real bonfire to roast marshmallows and make s'mores. Prepare children to recite their memory verses and sing the songs they have learned. It would be very special to take family pictures to put in additional wanted posters.
After such an exciting couple of weeks, church leaders should not be surprised to see the shining faces of their young cowpokes sitting in the pews on Sunday morning.
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