Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Project VBS - Pulling it all together

Being an avid crafter, I have a stash of patterns for all kinds of projects. The patterns are the building blocks of the project telling me exactly what supplies I need and showing me how to tailor and put together each piece so the finished project turns out great.

If your church can afford to purchase the prepackaged materials for VBS, you have the pattern right there and all the supplies you need to create a great program. But if you are in a small church with a limited staff, space, or budget, the "store-bought" pattern might not create a program that will fit your needs.

That's when you need to create your own pattern. In my Wednesday blog two weeks ago, I shared some questions you could ask to assess the needs of your church. Last week, we discussed developing a theme. Today I'm going to take the assessments and theme to help you develop a pattern for your program.

Most types of children's outreach share the same basic pattern pieces including the lesson, memory verses, games, crafts, snacks, music, pre-event advertising and follow up. In a small church situation, you may lack the resources to do some of those things.

Using your resource assessment, decide what you want to include in your program and how you want to use it.

Lessons, memory work and review,: - Do you have enough teachers to break the children up into age groups? No? No problem! This was a frequent problem we encountered. We found several great solutions:

1. Have one teacher present the same lesson on a rotating schedule to the different age groups. You only need one willing "teacher". Since there were often many volunteers who offered to help but didn't want to teach, this worked well. The teacher only had to prepare one lesson but they had to present it more than once, each time to a different age level.

2. If you have limited staff, facilities or a small group of children. you might also consider having the lesson time with the entire group together in a sort of opening assembly, then break up into other rotating activities. You could include fast paced music and the memory work in this time as well.

Games, snacks, activities, videos, contests, crafts decorations and music: These pattern pieces are optional and can be included or excluded based on your type of outreach, your program goals, facilities and staff. You choose which elements will best suit your needs.

Once you decide which elements you want to include in your program, the fun begins!

Take the Theme you chose and list the elements of your program. List them across the top of a blackboard or a large piece of newsprint taped on the wall. Then brainstorm ideas related to each item.

You can either have people call out their ideas, or provide a stack of 3 x 5 note cards and have everyone list their ideas on the cards, placing one idea on each card. Set a time limit for the brainstorming and encourage them to write down their ideas as quickly as possible.

Collect the cards and sort them into the categories on the board. You will then be able to take a few minutes with each category to choose the ideas you want to use.

Here is what one of our programs looked like:

Theme: Safari Theme

Lesson patterns: Bible truths we want to teach, Characters we will use to teach it (Bible stories or life application stories based on scripture), memory verses, review games

We chose to create our own skits with life application stories, having all the children together for the lesson . In this case, it maximized our pool of volunteers to help teach the lesson.

We created Indiana Dan, a world famous explorer who was inept and lovable (We lived in Indiana, PA and Dan is my hubby who enjoys doing silly skits with the kids). The character was on a Safari hunt to discover the treasure of God's Word.
The Bible was his map, his light, his sword and filled with riches to help us live in this world.

We chose appropriate Bible verses for each night's lesson and took time to review them with the children each night before breaking into age groups to do Games, snacks and crafts.

One of the crafts I remember were small plaster of paris fridgies in the shapes of jungle animals which the children painted with markers. To mold the critters, we used a plastic candy mold found in the cake decorating aisle of WalMart and plaster of paris mix. After the pieces were molded and cured for a day, I coated them with a mix of 1 part school glue and one part water. When dry, the children could color on the animals more easily - the color was not absorbed by the plaster figures and they became more durable.

We met for a 5 minute closing before dismissing the children each night.

Decorations included a jungle hut, green sheets with leaves pinned on them for a jungle backdrop and miles of vines made from brown crepe paper streamers twisted to resemble the vines with small pieces of green crepe paper tied on at intervals for leaves. These were strung EVERYWHERE .

It was fun to watch the staff come up with jungle games and names for common snacks.

Your assignment: Take your assessment and theme and use the program pattern pieces to come up with ideas of your own!

Next week, I'll share one of our programs in more detail!

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