Have you ever gone shopping for just the “right outfit” for some special occasion? Everything looks great on the store rack. But when you get it on in the dressing room, it magnifies the bulges; needs a tuck here or a seam let out there; it's too long in the legs and too short in the waist; or has any number of fitting problems.
Wow! Last week I googled VBS curricula and found lots of great themes from the major publishing houses. They all looked great - but just like shopping for the perfect outfit, choosing a perfect fit for a petite church can be daunting. You either have to purchase a prepackaged program and tweak it to fit your needs, or create your own. Either way, it requires work!
Here's some of the themes I found for 2008:
AIG - Amazon Expedition
Group - Power Lab
Holy Land Tour
Lifeway - Outrigger Island
Holy Land Tour : Jerusalem Marketplace
David C. Cook - Cosmic City
Standard - God's Big Back Yard
Gospel Light - Son World Adventure Park
Cokesbury - Beach Party
Concordia - Friendship Trek
Baptist Press - Dino Detectives
Big Idea (Veggie Tales) - The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything
Augsburg - Rain Forest Adventure
Radiant Life - Deep Sea Adventures
Whew! I'm sure there are others I haven't seen yet.
So why is it important to choose a theme? Your theme is the framework for your event - it ensures that all parts tie together into a cohesive whole so you can accomplish your goal. In interior design it might be called the "inspiration" for the room. It is what influences all the other elements in the design. Likewise in VBS curriculum design, the "inspiration" for the event is what ties it all together and makes it flow.
If you don't feel comfortable creating your VBS from scratch, but you can't afford the entire prepackaged curriculum, you might consider choosing one of the above themes and purchasing a sample kit. The samplers are usually only a portion of the cost and include the bare essentials for putting together a good program. They include the lessons, sample crafts, possibly a CD with music or videos but none of the frills. You would still have find the funds to to purchase any other items you need .
We've done this several times when our Christian ed staff needed a creativity booster. But to be honest, the best programs were the ones we developed from scratch.
*The Theme starts with an idea.
One year several of the major publisher's themes centered around the old west. We liked the idea of the old west but didn't want to duplicate what the other churches were doing so with that in mind, we developed our own materials calling it "Mining for Gospel Gold." Since our church was on Two Lick Drive, it kind of sounded like an old west sort of name which inspired the concept. Once we had the Gold mine theme, all the other elements were planned with that in mind.
One of my favorite VBS themes came about because one of our volunteers had developed an absent minded professor character who did off beat science experiments. When he shared the professor with us at a planning meeting, we all agreed he should be the theme of our VBS that year. He had a catchy sort of name which no on e could spell - Professor Theomopopopodopolos.
*Determine the goal or objective of your program.
What message do you want to get across to your children? (salvation, Christian growth, overcoming life problems, etc.)
What are the needs of your local children? ( do you have military families? a lot of single parents? are your children inner city kids or from poor families?)
What is the median age of your children? (For example, a younger group may not relate as well to something with a lot of science experiments and likewise, an older group may feel they are too old for something like Veggie Tales.)
Your goal should be clearly stated; the clearer your objective, the greater the potential for achieving it. A clear goal will also enhance the fleshing out process of the program idea: choosing a setting, memory work, related activities, snacks, etc.
*Determine the take-away value
You probably learned the verse as a child: “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Psalm 119:145 KJV. This verse is the essence of the “take-away” value of your program. What lesson, thought, feeling, word or image do you want the children to remember long after the outreach has ended?
The children attending your program will probably not remember the contents of the program twenty years from now. However, they may recall a character, a Bible verse or a lesson that impacted their lives. Perhaps they will only remember how much fun it was to be in God’s house. Even that feeling of pleasure can go a long way toward teaching them to enjoy God’s presence in their lives today. What core memory do you want to stay with the child?
* Setting may help determine the theme.
You’ve probably been to Bible lands, the beach, outer space or the wild, wild west and back with the Vacation Bible School curricula available each year from the major publishing houses. These settings stage an imaginative world where children come for the purpose of learning specific lessons. It’s much like reading a good book, separating them from their everyday experiences into a learning environment where everything pertains to the theme.
The setting of the program fires the imagination and enhances the learning process by allowing the child to use all of his/her senses in the outreach experience.
Even if you use generic themes like a circus, jungle, castle or beach, God can use your theme as a starting point to create a memorable event for the children you minister to.
Your Assignment: Come up with a theme for your children's outreach event or VBS. Using your assessment from last week about your resources(Human, financial and facilities) check to be sure such a theme will work for your group.
Next week, we'll start to flesh out the plans for the event. You'll soon see how easy it can be to create a program from scratch that is a perfect fit for your group!