What I Wish I Knew My First Year as VBS Director

What I Wish I Knew My First Year as VBS Director
March 18, 2019 Julia Johnson
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Becoming the VBS Director can be exciting, scary, overwhelming, and thrilling all at the same time. Maybe you have big shoes to fill, or maybe you’re taking on a brand new role in your church. Either way, we know it can be a little intimidating when you first receive your Starter Kit in the mail. But remember, when life is scary and when life changes, God is good!

To help make this transition to your new role easy and stress free, we asked seasoned VBS Directors, “What do you wish someone had told you when you first became the VBS Director?” Below is a list of their best tips, tricks and must-knows to help ensure this year is the best that it can be!

“Don’t forget to talk to the senior generation. They love being involved with the kids and it encourages the children to build a relationship with them. Get organized early. The VBS themes for the nect summer are usually released in June. This gives you lots of time to shop clearance aisles and plan decorations.” – Jacquelyn Jackson

“Teamwork makes the dream work. And delegate, delegate, delegate.” – Laura Kycek

“Find a Funshop in your area and attend! 1-2 hours drive is worth the time. You will meet like-minded friends who have great ideas. The leader has great advice and info and weaves in time for everyone to get to know each other so you all leave with a great support system and hopefully a plan for sharing the load of decorations and resources.” – Jessica Brown Van Lehn

“Change is good! Don’t be afraid to try something different, shake it up, recruit different leaders, brainstorm new ideas! Fresh eyes can see things differently and find small details that could help improve what’s already established.” – Elizabeth Marshall

“That you need to start reading the director’s manual first! Then don’t be shy about asking people for help. Retired people have lots of talent, and often time, to help build, paint, engineer what you need and it builds a whole new ministry!” – Gaye Thorpe Solano

“Spread the work. Both over time (start early!) and over people (delegate!). Be organized. Join this Facebook group (Roar VBS  2019)  for lots of ideas.” – Mindy Dwyer

“Get a planning group together to help you delegate the work.. my fist year I tried doing all the work myself and would go home crying a lot because of stress.. having a team to help carry the load is SO important.” – Rachel Borcherding

“Don’t be afraid to use teenager helpers! Some of my best helpers have been Boy Scouts” – Hannah Harwood

“Start EARLY! We started in January for our full day July VBS. Plan the year before for the next year. Start saving the usual decorations, re-use decorations, and stock up on needed everyday snacks months in advance. Share decorations with another church. Offer your help to other churches. Build those relationships. Utilize your youth. There will be long days and just when you have it figured out, it’s over.” – Christina Lynn Fisher Naugle

“Remember the spirit is the most important thing – things can and will go wrong but if you’re focused on God all is Good.” – Lisa Busch

“Get a good core team.” – Chrissy Haring

“Don’t be afraid to tweak things to your churches needs. Do what works for your church, your kids & your volunteers. And don’t sweat the small stuff — kids are going to remember the people, not the “stuff”. Enlist your congregation to pray for VBS and those that attend & volunteer….it’s a must!” – Kathy Larson Crook

“Remember not to measure the success of the VBS week by numbers, or by if anyone gets saved that week but measure by the seed that’s been planted.” – Angie Brendle

“Day 1 is hard.” – Rachel Bradley

“1) A good team is key. Put people in charge in areas they are passionate about and you trust giving them creative control. When you do this, it’s a huge weight off your shoulder.
2) The program as written does not work for a lot of churches, change to suit your church needs.
3) Tap into previous director(s) perspectives on what worked and what didn’t.
4) Remember, if you teach one child the love of Jesus and God’s goodness, the whole thing is a success!!” – Rachel Jorgensen

” Make sure to have a First Aid station set up with a nurse or other medical professional whose only job is to help the kids who get sick or get hurt. I learned that lesson after 2 years of trying to be the director and taking care of all the kids who needed help!” – Vanessa Thomas Myers

“If you allow walk ins, have tons of people helping there the first day! Make it an All Church event: Boy Scout leaders run Games; Teens are leaders; Craft Group helps with decorations; Older people sit and greet; Missions Team handles the outreach program.” – Cynthia Henisey

“Year 26 VBS Vet… Your attitude at VBS means so much more than all the decorations and other things. Don’t wear yourself out creating an amazing experience and then be to exhausted to enjoy it with the kids! Your witness, your enjoyment in the experience are what the kids will connect to. Some times when things fall apart and we have to just hang out in a certain station, that is when the real ministry happens. 😊” – Kelley Finch Ahlers

“Remember to breathe. Focus on why you are doing what you do. It is all about building relationships with your church family, community, and kids and equipping all involved to either build or strengthen a relationship with Christ. Take time during the week of VBS to talk to the kids and parents. Don’t worry about all the things you had planned that didn’t get done because chances are they won’t be missed because no one but you knew about them in the first place. And, last but not least, HAVE FUN!” – Heather Prince

“For a big VBS- bandanas!! They are cheap. You can order them in sets of 12 (1 you attach PVC pipe to made portable crew color sign, each kid gets one in welcome bag, cut up another to color code all sorts of stuff from crew tables and tiny ones to color code the check in bags), crew leader (HS student or adult) and Jr. crew assistant (middle school student). We would use solid colors for elementary crews and paisley colors for preschool. For example our “Green group rotation” would be lime, hunter, kelly green, mint crews. Really help us organize crews and check in families fast.” – Hilary Kinitz

“Be flexible. Things will go differently than you expect and you need to just roll with it.

“Embrace your teenagers. I would be LOST without my teenage sidekicks. Aside from the actual VBS work they do, seeing a bunch of goofy teenagers band together to tell younger kids about Jesus is just a huge blessing. Plus they have lots of energy. Take a deep breath and remember that as long as the kids all hear about Jesus everything else is just icing on the cake.” – Rachel Holaway

“Don’t procrastinate. I begin in January as soon as I get my kit and my VBS is 3rd week in June. Get awesome core team, lots of teen volunteers, and open registration early for your volunteers and their children/siblings. We open a month before we open public registration. Good luck!” – Linda Dorton Watso

“We have a director team with tasks split. Volunteers, decorating, purchasing, curriculum and class lists/registration. We also consider VBS a ministry to kids, teens and adults and are very mindful of that. Lastly, a great volunteer food area that is stocked throughout the day. A volunteer that’s well cared for returns for the next year!” – Holly Vanderhoof

Have a fresh team come in to clean up -we are tired from the week so a new team for clean up is my best advice!” – Christie Hudson Brown

“Take time early on for prayer and to sit with the Bible lessons and truths. It’s hard to point others to God when we haven’t let him work in our hearts first. Remind your volunteers to do the same. Also, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the needs especially the need for volunteers. Take that to prayer too, pray specifically for needs and for volunteers to feel called to serve the Lord, not you. Ask a trusted friend or mentor to be praying for you. Equip and support your volunteers but don’t micromanage them, trust that God will equip them just as he does you. However, pray for discernment to know when a volunteer needs you just to cheer them on or to give more guidance. God will supply what you need and with each VBS you will get better. Celebrate with key volunteers afterward…the best friendships can come from serving together, celebrating and then dreaming of what to do next time. God bless new directors! If God has called you, he will equip you and teach you. ❤️” – Brenda Fukuda

Don’t take it on all on your own. Get a team of directors. And we love VBS Pro. We divide ours: nursery (volunteers kiddos), Preschool team, Grade school team, Decor team. Visit other churches and meet with their VBS team. This is year 12 for me and I learn new things every year” – Jeanine Roberts Matlock

“Stay focused on the reason you’re there. Managing humans (volunteers and campers, etc.) can have its moments of tedium, but persevere. You are serving the Lord. And representing your church. Oh, also, remember to have fun. Don’t sweat the small stuff. The kids won’t notice if you didn’t get to build a 10ft giraffe. Or create a full Savanna in your sanctuary. Or any of those lofty aspirations you have. It’s ok. Breathe.” – Angela Lamendola

“Remember to put God first and remember vbs is for His glory!” – Cathy Wyant

“How you handle obstacles, adversity and challenges will model how your volunteers handle them as well. Remember to roll with it as best you can, with laughter and joy, setting the example of TRUST in our Lord, the ultimate Director of all things!” – Marie Avon Engleman

“Order from group. They let you return unopened packages. Breathe. And inhale the gratitude when it comes with all your heart. God is there. Look for Him in all the crazy and chaos and fun!!!” – Jessica Michaels Overocker

“You have to be able to go with the flow. No matter how much you plan some things will go awry. Roll with it and remember the big picture. The important thing is sharing God’s love. When you find yourself getting down or too stressed stop and watch the kids’ faces as they smile and soak up what’s happening. it will keep you grounded.” – Tania Kallish

“Doesn’t have to be perfect, the kids are going to love whatever you do. They just want to be loved and have fun.” – Jennifer Lemons Houghenou

“Don’t do anything, but pray and be the Director, the week of VBS! – If your personal schedule is full, or you have committed to leading a station or crew, you are even more exhausted and not able to be present, flexible and thankful for the crazy.” – Audrey Hansen

“Don’t feel afraid to change up what group has designed. Every VBS is different. Make yours work for your church situation.” – Melanie Turner Corbett

“Build relationships! It’s easy to put up a list of items you need or for volunteers to sign up, but nothing is more successful than personal conversations. Spend time with your church members; get to know them, and you’ll be surprised what they have to offer. Not to mention, people will feel appreciated if you go to them one on one.” – Michelle Scott

“Delegate! I can’t emphasize that enough. This leaves the directors free to deal with bigger issues and to check in with the volunteers and make sure they’re each feeling supported in their roles. Just as important, it provides new leadership opportunities for volunteers, allowing them to lean into and share their gifts and their time with the whole community and real inter-generational connection. At our church, we have: decor team, stage team, snack team, registration team, supplies purchaser, station leader team, photographer, elem & pre-k team leads to support crew leaders, someone to manage the facilities.” – Danielle Cannon

“Don’t worry about making a perfect VBS set. Whatever you are able to pull off will be exciting to the kids.” – Barbara Olszewski Zepernick

“Don’t think you have to do everything in the manuals, adapt it to your Church and budget. Find free advertising for your areas around the Church, radio stations, newsletters, book stores, etc. Remember to breathe!! It’s all to glorify God and lead others to Christ. :-)” – Marsha Cooper

“Start really early and do as much as possible beforehand (says the one procrastinating!!). In the past I also would have said to make yourself a backup copy of the leader manuals – for when the leaders lose or misplace them at the last minute. Now, with digital downloads available, or the starter kit PLUS that has the digital files, you are safe! Thank you Group for that!!” – Becky Burns

“One thing we did last year was had a donation supply tree. It had slips of paper with items needed. Plastic table cloths…. it helped out so much!” Sarah Hale Stephens

Pray. Breathe. And remember that God has called you, and he’ll be with you throughout the whole process. You’ve got this! Now… Ready. Set. VBS!

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