by Ryan Frank
God has given me the privilege of connecting with thousands of children’s pastors and ministry workers. Through the ministry of KidzMatter and K! Magazine, I interact with new people in children’s ministry almost every day. One thing I’ve learned is this: everyone in children’s ministry desires to reach children for the Lord Jesus Christ. Is there anything greater one can do than to reach boys and girls for our Savior?
One of the greatest ways to reach children in your church and community each summer is with Vacation Bible School. It’s the biggest thing we do at my church and it’s the highlight of my summer.
I learned early in ministry that it’s not enough to say, “I want to reach kids.” It’s not enough for a church to say, “We want to reach kids.” Those are simply words unless there is action. In order to take action, you must have a plan.
Here are six tips to help you make VBS the biggest thing all summer.
• Choose to take the lead.
As a vocational children’s pastor, part of what I do is assess our current ministries. If they aren’t fulfilling the intended purpose, they are scrapped. If there is something new we can do to better facilitate our purpose, it’s time for change.
Recently I was evaluating our summer ministries, specifically, Vacation Bible School. We do VBS each summer to fulfill the Great Commission (reach kids with the gospel and make disciples) and to engage our community. I looked at other summer programming options—there are lots of new programs we could start to help us reach these goals. When I stopped to ask which new program would be best, it dawned on me: I already have a program that does what I’m after. Why should we start several new programs to do the work Vacation Bible School was designed to do? I left that evaluation session with a renewed passion to make Vacation Bible School the biggest thing of the summer.
If you have decided to use VBS in your church, make a commitment now: Step up to the plate and take your VBS from good to great. Decide you are going to take seriously this business of reaching children for the Lord Jesus Christ. Be the leader.
• Clarify your vision.
Ask God to make his vision clear for reaching children and families through Vacation Bible School. Once you have this vision, write it down as a starting place. Your vision gives energy to your objectives and strategy.
God said in Habakkuk 2:2, “Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it” (King James Version).
First, Habakkuk was told to write the vision. You might have a vision for VBS, but have you written it down? It’s important to write your vision on paper and keep it in front of you.
Second, Habakkuk was told to make it plain upon tables. In other words, make your vision simple enough that everyone can understand it. Any volunteer should be able to read your vision for VBS and understand it.
Third, Habakkuk was told to write it down so people could run with it. The last thing you want to do when God gives you a vision is to sit on it. He wants you to run with your vision and make it happen.
• Develop objectives and a strategy.
What are your objectives for VBS? You may have several, but I hope two of them are to reach lost children with the gospel and to disciple children who are already Christians.
Your objectives become a reality when you have a strategy. Here is another way of saying it: Your strategy drives your objectives. You should develop a strategy that begins many months (maybe even a year) before VBS and leads right up to the week of VBS. Most VBS kits include a plan to help you with this process. Be committed to the plan.
• Build a team.
As you pray and plan for VBS, ask God to give you others who will own the vision.
God normally gives the vision for his work to a leader. It is the leader’s job to transfer that vision to others. Don’t get mad if no one in your church has a vision for Vacation Bible School. God hasn’t given them the vision—he has given it to you. Your job is to share that vision with them and pray they will catch it.
Pray that God will give you the leadership team and volunteers needed to make VBS the biggest thing of the summer. As God brings that team together, pray as a team that God will bless your efforts.
• Expand your network.
God has placed people in your life to help fulfill your plan for making VBS great. Keep expanding your team to include other concerned adults with hearts for reaching kids. Ask God to lead these people to you.
They may include (1) other children’s pastors and ministry colleagues, (2) parents and grandparents, (3) volunteers in your church, (4) school staff and teachers, (5) community organizations (YMCA, etc.), and (6) business people.
Author Peter Drucker said, “More business decisions occur over lunch and dinner than at any other time, yet no MBA courses are given on the subject.” Apply this to ministry. An important part of your VBS success is the connections you make outside the church building. These are a priority.
• Work your plan.
If the goal of VBS is to reach children and engage your community, it will require a plan! A plan is only as good as your commitment to working it. Working the plan is the difference between saying you want to reach children and their families and actually accomplishing your goal. It’s been said you must plan your work and work your plan.
Are you willing to work your plan and give it all you’ve got? Children’s worship leader Rob Biagi said, “Jesus calls us to be extraordinary, not just to live a life of comfort and routine. We need to DO SOMETHING with what we know. We must GET OUT THERE and change our world! With God’s help, we can be influential and make a difference. Are you ready to join him?”
Ryan Frank is the children’s pastor at Liberty Baptist Church in Sweetser, Indiana. He is the creator of KidzMatter Inc. and the publisher of K! Magazine. He also serves on the board of directors for the International Network of Children’s Ministry.