Before You Start VBS – the tips and encouragement you need most
By Cherie Werner
Are you helping with VBS this year? Are you feeling nervous? Just the thought of VBS can be a bit daunting, even for the best of us!
But it can also be one of the biggest joys and delights of the summer season. Why? Because it is blessed by God and it has eternal significance! So let me be the first to say, “Thank you!” I believe God will use you to touch the lives of the families you serve and that the activities of your VBS will have an impact lasting far into the future!
During VBS . . .
Smile! Seeing a friendly, smiling adult can go a long way to helping children feel safe and happy in a large group of people. Your smile will help them feel more comfortable and willing to cooperate. It will also help you to connect with individual children.
Make connections. Some children have very few adult mentors in their lives. During VBS, be intentional about talking to individual children. Ask questions, listen, ask follow-up questions, and show interest. When you help a child feel important and valued, he or she will listen to you and trust what you say.
Have fun! If you are having fun, the children will have fun! Your enthusiasm will also make them more willing to participate and follow your lead.
Encourage them. Use positive words to help children see their value. Do it frequently and be specific. Say words like these:
- “Wow! That was thoughtful of you!”
- “Thanks for being a hard worker.”
- “I like how you didn’t give up even though that was hard!”
- “Thank you for being a good friend.”
- “You are a really fast runner. How did you learn to do that?”
- “Doesn’t it feel good when you can make someone else smile?”
Think about your tone. Along with encouraging words, be intentional about using a positive, encouraging tone with your words. Use different voice volumes to catch and keep the kids’ attention. Keep your voice upbeat and friendly.
Take time to prepare. No matter what your job is, make sure you are ready. Prepare your space and know your material. In addition, think about how you want things to go. Create a visual in your mind of what will be happening when children are in your care. How do you want them to behave? What do you want them to do? After you determine what you would like to see, write down the steps needed to fulfill your vision. When children come to you or arrive at VBS, teach them your expectations. For example: “When you come into the snack area, you will pick up your juice over here, walk carefully to the table, and sit down. Someone will then bring your snack. When you are finished eating, please stay at the table until your leader gives you permission to take your trash to the garbage can. When you are finished you may sit back down at the table or color over at the table by the door.” Model and explain what you want to see them doing. After explaining what will happen, give children time to practice once or twice so they know exactly what to do. It might seem simplistic, but explaining, modeling, and practicing will make things go more smoothly.
Get the children involved. As much as possible, keep the children busy and actively involved with whatever you are doing. Have them do actions with you, make sound effects, or act out stories. You can also create interest by changing your environment (think: go outside or turn off the lights) and the way you ask children to sit or walk (think: sit under the desks or walk like a crab). Anything out of the ordinary will create a memory and make it more fun! (Remember to tell them what you expect and how you want them to behave in the middle of that fun so that you can maintain control.)
God has chosen you. No matter what job you have for VBS, you play an important role in reaching others with Jesus’ love and grace. As Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” (John 15:16 ESV).
God will use you. As you speak, show, and share God’s Word with others, God is working! “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10–11 ESV).
God will help you. No matter what God calls you to do, he says to you, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10 ESV).
VBS is an incredible chance to share the Good News about Jesus with many people, some who may have never heard it before. You are part of the path that can lead these people to their Savior! Thank you for serving—all to God’s glory!
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