As churches begin to focus more and more on ways they can bring the family together, Vacation Bible School has increasingly been viewed a place where that can happen. The number of churches offering Family VBS where the family attends, learns, and plays together is on the rise. At ReFocus, we field a number of inquiries about Family VBS every year and this year, several churches have told us they are using our Family Faith Formation curriculum to structure their VBS experience.
Planning a Family Vacation Bible School (VBS) requires careful consideration and intentional decision-making. Hopefully, the information here will offer a helpful guide in the process of designing a Family VBS that aligns with a church’s mission and engages families in a meaningful way. We explore key elements such as defining your “Why,” refining your “What,” designing your “How,” and aligning your “Who” to ensure a successful Family VBS experience.
Define Your Why
The first step in planning a Family VBS is to clearly define your purpose or “Why.” This will serve as the foundation for your entire event. What are the reasons you feel that hosting VBS for the whole family is the right call for your church, your community, or your mission? If you don’t have a compelling reason to embark on a new venture, it can be hard to muster up buy-in from your community and have the stamina needed to create something new.
Some examples of “Whys” include:
- To provide a distraction-free environment for families to interact and grow in their faith together.
- To create a space where families can deepen their faith and foster community.
- To offer free, enjoyable activities that bring families from the church and community together.
Refine Your What
Once you have established your “Why,” it’s time to evaluate how the traditional VBS format aligns with your purpose. A traditional VBS typically involves week-long sessions, a few hours each day, where children are dropped off. Volunteers play a crucial role, snacks are provided, media and music are incorporated, and crafts and teaching are central to the programming.
Using your “Why” as a filter, consider how this traditional format can be adapted to fulfill your purpose. What specific elements would your Family VBS need?
Here are three examples:
- Introduce intentional family activities that encourage interaction and faith formation like games and crafts that the whole family can do together.
- Incorporate opportunities for families to grow deeper in their faith both individually and in community. For instance, have follow-up handouts for deeper discussions at home or follow-up activities like service projects and community experience that help the family put what they’ve learned into action. During VBS, have times where the family practices faith talks together.
- Offer a range of free and fun activities that engage families from the church and the local community. This could be a meal or an event like a Trikes-and-Treats bike ride or a group hike. It doesn’t have to be big or costly; it should just be something that accentuates your “Why” and keeps momentum.
Design Your How
With your “Why” and “What” in mind, it’s time to start designing the flow of your Family VBS. Brainstorm ideas and create a program that aligns with your “Why.” Consider activities that foster meaningful interactions, faith discussions, and spiritual growth for families.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Interactive games and challenges that encourage collaboration among family members.
- Small group sessions for parents and children to explore faith-related topics together.
- Engaging worship experiences that incorporate music and multimedia.