Clear skies, full Bible studies, can’t lose.
The heat index has shot upward and schools have let out. Suddenly, kids are stuck at home and bored. What better way to entertain kids for a week than five days of singing, playing, and fellowshipping -- Vacation Bible School 2k15!
As a past volunteer for VBS, I recognize the communication and planning issues that come with trying to organize a large group of adults and kids. It can be a nightmare. There are many ways I would have improved communication or organized things differently to make the week even more fun for everyone.
I had never seen that many children in one place in my life. With children ranging from five to ten years old and three groups of each age division, I was overwhelmed. All I could think about was how we were going to keep track of every single one of these kids. How were we going to keep everyone involved in this VBS informed? The answer was, we couldn’t.
During my week of volunteering, there was road construction going on which made drop-off and pick-up a difficult task. The only way we could communicate this to the parents was by asking the kids to tell them. But that wouldn’t help if the kids forgot or if the construction situation changed suddenly. No, we needed a way to tell parents about complications in real-time. An automated calling or texting solution would have been perfect here. The staff could have easily gotten the word out to the parents nearly immediately in a more noticeable way than email . Prepared parents means happier parents and happier parents means happier staff.
When the Clock Stood Still
Like lots of bible school or kid day camps, the day often consists of time blocks and a number of activity stations. The children are divided into groups and each group performs an activity for one time block before moving on to another. By the end of the day each group has visited every station.
However, because things rarely go exactly to plan, it helps to have a back-up plan or be able to relay plan changes when things do start to fall apart. For example, I was supervising one group activity which involved walking in buckets of water. It took much longer than we had thought. The kids weren’t even close to being finished when the next group, who finished early, came to our station. Not only was I struggling to get the first group through, I now had to deal with a second group of 4th-graders that were becoming antsier by the minute. Because of the bottleneck at the bucket-walking station, all of the events were running late for the remainder of that day and some kids couldn’t even complete the activity due to the lack of time.
Two things could have helped us that day. First, if the volunteers had had a way of communicating over a long range (walkie-talkies or some sort of two-way communication device), we could have checked on how the group activities were progressing before moving the kids around from one station to another. The other helpful item would have been for us to be prepared to have groups by-pass slow stations like the water bucket one. Sure, some of the children would have missed out on some activities, but we would have kept things moving and the children engaged. When plans don’t go the way they should, a back-up plan is exceedingly important. Always have a game or activity to pull out should there be a lag in time.
Almost everybody at vacation bible school looks forward to lunch. Hungry kids are looking to refuel and enjoy some unstructured time. The adults are also wanting to eat and to maybe get a break from the kids.
While lunch can be a much needed break, it can also be a disaster. You need to think as much about lunch as any other part of the day so organization is key.
We realized only after the fact that we couldn’t all arrive to the cafeteria at the same time. The lunch line became unbearably long and the swarms of kids made keeping your group together next to impossible. The elementary school mosh pit also stressed the kitchen staff who couldn’t keep up. And to top it off, we didn’t have enough space in the dining area.
What we needed was a staggered dining schedule. We would have had fewer kids in one spot, shorter lines, been able to keep up with demand, and plenty of places to sit and eat. Everyone would have been happier and certainly less stressed.
So, while I was more than blessed to work at VBS that one hot June, there obviously was room for improvement in the communications department. That issue, thankfully, is not a difficult one to solve. Let’s make this the best, the most organized, and the most fun summer of VBS we can!