Vacation Bible School
How do I choose my curriculum?
As people from the United Methodist faith tradition, there are certain basic beliefs we uphold and therefore look for in any curriculum we write or purchase. Click here for a 1 page overview of United Methodist beliefs.
Help! I'm the director of our VBS this summer. What do I need to do?
Breathe! Being a director is a big responsibility but there are lots of resources out there to help. If you have borrowed or purchased a starter’s kit from a commercially produced curriculum, there will be a director’s manual included. This often will provide a step by step to-do list of what to do when. Here‘s a brief online article to get you started, here‘s a sample planning guide and timeline for you to download and use, and here‘s a copy of the VBS Director’s Workshop outline we use for VBS trainings around the state that will give you some ideas of questions you and your VBS team will need to address as you plan.
Those giant sets that are on all the VBS Videos are cool but there's no way we could afford to do all that in our tiny church. What can we do?
One of the easiest ways to capture the imagination of children is through decorating the church and creating a themed environment. It doesn’t need to be expensive. Here are two handouts from one of our our conference VBS workshops about inexpensive alternatives for crafts and decorating.
You can also use Pinterest. Click here to see our Arkansas Conference Pinterest page. It has LOTS of decorating ideas for the different publisher’s VBS themes. Finally, you can share with another church in your area that is using the same VBS theme that you are.
We have tons of volunteers for Vacation Bible School every year. Do we really have to do background checks and that whole Safe Sanctuary process on every single one of them?
Yes! This may seem as though it’s a bunch of extra work for just a one week event, but our children and volunteers both need and deserve the protection that Safe Sanctuaries provides year ’round; not just part of the year.
Social Justice Themed VBS Curriculum
* denotes a United Methodist resource or resource with United Methodist origins.
The following low-cost Vacation Bible School curriculum sets do not offer all-inclusive kits with prepackaged crafts and ready to hang background sets. Instead, they encourage local churches to use the gifts and talents of local congregation members to provide the backdrop for their Biblicaly based social awareness curriculum.
Abundance Orchard: Where Faith Grows and Hungry People Are Fed
Society of St. Andrew
Starter Kit cost: Free download
The theme of food is beautifully woven through the stories, activities, snacks and mission components of the Abundance Orchard VBS. Theological themes that run through the curriculum illustrate the abundance of God’s love and presence in our lives. The curriculum encourages the development of empathy, and invites the children not only into the Bible stories, but also to reflect on the meaning of the stories in their own lives.
The program’s strength is in its theological content, its detailed instructions, and its flexibility. With creative leadership, this program could be modified to fit a wide variety of situations, numbers, ages, and local circumstances and mission projects. For example, organizers could plant a few garden beds that would be ready to harvest at the time of the VBS, and children could harvest the food for the food bank, or take a field trip to a community garden or food bank.
Abundance Orchard contains two full sets of material, one Old Testament-based, the other New Testament-based. Since each day is self contained, sessions could be selected from either set.
Little in the resource is ready-made,but comprehensive instructions invite adult organizers to use their imagination and skills to build a fantastic learning environment. Although all children will enjoy the program, it especially speaks to visual and kinesthetic learners.This curriculum encourages sustainable practices by enlisting the help of a variety of people and using re-purposed materials. The program could be simplified, but it would lose some of its appeal.
Ages Levels: Preschool and Elementary age
- Two full VBS curriculums
- Music list with links
- Detailed instructions, checklists, and activities.
- Ten day curriculum is a free download.
- Sustainable in its theme and its practices.
- Very detailed leader instructions, including check lists, and links to music files.
- Leader preparation for storytelling invites leaders to engage deeply with the material.
- Reflection questions could be modified to create a program for an older audience.
- Variety of fun activities are engaging and instructive.
- Food themes are cleverly inserted throughout the program.
Children are introduced to the programs of the Society of St. Andrew to reduce food waste and hunger, and also encouraged to connect with local food organizations.
- Requires creative leaders who are committed to the program. Detailed description of set up is provided, but few pictures or drawings are included
- Is not designed for large numbers, but could be modified into rotating station
Clean Water for All God's Children
Living Waters for the World (Presbyterian Church USA)
Who is this curriculum intended to serve?
- Congregations with an interest in fostering mission awareness among their children
- Churches who want to educate their members about the world’s water crisis and what can be done Designed for children K-5, with special section for pre-school inclusion
What does this curriculum teach?
- What scripture teaches us about water and about our responsibility for the goodness of Creation and for the care of the physical health of others
- How children in other countries live, and how they deal with limited access to clean water
How does this curriculum work?
- Children move among 5 stations: Bible Story, Mission Stories, Crafts, Music, and Recreation (preschoolers, however, have a slightly different schedule)
- Station leaders teach the same lesson each day to multiple groups
- Group guides stay with the same group of children for the entire VBS to build relationships Children begin and end each day’s time together in assembly
- Includes a CD with all music in the VBS and a flash drive containing the entire VBS in electronic form, as well as several PowerPoints with photos and maps for enhancement, should you choose to use projection equipment
Why is this curriculum a good choice?
- It is flexible and user-friendly for various sizes of congregations
- It is a thoughtful curriculum, encouraging children to use their imaginations and to reflect upon the Bible stories and the mission activities
- It is portable – curriculum can be used from year to year in a variety of settings – VBS, Sunday School, retreats, Wednesday night programs
- It is inexpensive and invites creativity of the planners and teachers
Note: This curriculum promotes involvement in the Living Waters for the World water project sponsored by the Presbyterian Church USA. This is not a requirement for using the curriculum and can be easily adaptable for other denominations.
*Heifer Project International
Feeding 5,000 provides engaging hour-long workshops in Art, Drama, Geography, Make Your Own Photography, Storytelling and many others. The lessons can be used in a variety of venues, including a Workshop Rotation-Model Sunday School, a Traditional Sunday School, a Mid-Week Program, an All-Church Half-Day Event and a Church Camp Retreat. Each of these venues has its own planning guide, so you can organize it to best fit your congregation’s needs and Sunday School curriculum.
Note: This can easily be adapted to a VBS format.
Kids Care Social Justice Vacation Bible School
##Westwood United Methodist Church
Contact: Helga Mortensen
This is not a curriculum link but rather an outline of a social justice VBS conducted in 2015 in Kalamazoo, MI. It was a joint venture with an Episcopal and United Methodist church. Contact the above listed person for more information.
9am – 2pm: 2nd grade through High School
9am – Noon: 4 year olds through 1st grade
- Monday – Access to Clean Water (St. Martin)
- Tuesday – Access to Safe and Affordable Housing (WUMC)
- Wednesday – Access to Adequate Food (St. Martin)
- Thursday – Community Buildings and Peace Making (WUMC)
- Friday – Earth Care and a Celebration of the Week (St. Martin)
Under Construction: A Habitat for Humanity Vacation Bible School
“Under Construction” is a vacation Bible school curriculum developed by NextSunday Resources in consultation with Habitat for Humanity International.
About the Curriculum
The curriculum uses construction metaphors to teach children about community and the need for decent shelter for all people. “Under Construction” shows children how to help others in their neighborhood through Christian service by introducing them to the ministry of Habitat for Humanity.
Children learn Biblical scripture, and churches gain vital witnesses for Christ. In the process, Habitat for Humanity gains potential advocates and builders.
Most importantly, families in the community immediately benefit from the teachings of “Under Construction.” Some vacation Bible school children have made and presented crafts to Habitat homeowners. Others have raised hundreds of dollars to help local Habitat affiliates build houses
The “Under Construction” kit contains:
- 1 Administrative Guide
- 1 Preschool Teaching Guide
- 5 “Job Site” Teaching Guides
- High Quality Music CD
- Music & More Songbook
Forget VBS. These Summer Camps Teach Kids to Be Community Activists
Excellent article about social justice themed summer curriculum by Religious News Service. Many resource links are included.
Children and Social Justice Resources
* Click here for a list of resources/links from Discipleship Ministries. (PDF document)
7 Books that Teach Kids about Social Justice and Activism
Click here for a list of recommended children’s books that teach children about social activism.