Family Vacation Bible School

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The Lutheran Resource Center, 641-357-4451

Contributed by:

Zion Lutheran Church, Dysart, IA

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Family Vacation Bible School
Zion Lutheran Church
Dysart, Iowa

We were ready for a change.  The Vacation Bible School program at Zion had been run the same way for many years.  It always met the week after school got out, for one week, in the morning.  We had used Augsburg materials and spent a lot of money on craft items.  The teachers were women, primarily mothers of the children that were coming to VBS.  It had become more and more difficult to find teachers for the VBS program.  We first sat down and decided what we wanted to accomplish during the week of VBS.  Following you will find the ways we went about planning the week and how the week went.  We have added some helpful suggestions for anyone who wants to attempt a cross-generational Bible School.

                                                                                    VBS Coordinators

Recreation Groups
Day One - The Lost Sheep
Day Two - The Good Samaritan
Day Three - The Prodigal Son
Day Four - Zaccheus
Day Five - The Feeding of the 5,000


  1. To get as many people involved in the VBS program as possible, both as teachers and participants.  Because of this we decided to meet in the evening.  This way we could utilize all the men and women, including those who worked during the daytime hours.  An invitation went out to the whole congregation to participate, either as a teacher or as a "student."
  2. We wanted to get a sense of Family in the church.  We are God's family, and we decided we needed to do activities that will build those relationships between people of different ages.
  3. We wanted to get rid of the preprinted materials and the costly crafts.  We decided we were not here to entertain the kids and we were not here to duplicate the school classroom that they just left.  The preprinted materials were always too much and not always what we wanted to teach, so we wrote our own curriculum.
  4. In deciding how to go about writing the curriculum, one member of the congregation mentioned that the kids don't know the stories anymore.  That got us thinking.  A week of telling stories would be a good theme.  We chose five stories that Jesus told as the structure that we would build from.  Our theme became "Tell Me the Stories of Jesus," and we appropriately used this hymn as our theme song for the week.
  5. We wanted to make VBS as little work as possible for the teachers.  We wrote the curriculum, and planned the class time to be a very minimal part of our program.  Most of our time was to be spent in large group or in different age groups.  We also planned for at least two adults or one adult and one junior or senior high assistant in each classroom.  We had most of our teachers volunteer to help, with very few phone calls needed to solicit help.

The following is our schedule and planned events for each night of Bible school. [ TOP ]

Schedule for Evening:

            6:15-6:30         Arrival time (children go to classrooms)
            6:30-7:30         Opening (music, storytelling)
                                    Class work time
            7:30-7:45         Games/recreation
            7:45-8:00         Cookies/Kool-Aid/Coffee
            8:00-8:30         "Craft"/Activity

(Note: The only time the children were in their age group classes was for the class work time.  The rest of the time they were with the whole group, or a small group of people of different ages.)

Dates: We ran from Sunday, June 4th to Thursday, June 8th.  Thursday night was a family potluck event, with a story, showing the videotape that was taken all week, and some games.

Recreation groups: We did divide the kids into groups for recreation as follows.  Each night the adults went with a different group to play games.  (Adults do have fun playing "Duck, duck, goose.")

            Group A:       New 3 year olds and 3-4 year olds
            Group B:        Preschool/kindergarten and 1st grade
            Group C:       2nd and 3rd grades
            Group D:       4th, 5th and 6th grades

We put up a poster for donations of items needed.  We asked for Kool-Aid, coffee, materials for the crafts, and we asked that each participant in VBS bring one dozen cookies (we had plenty).

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Sunday, June 4          (Day One)                  "The Lost Sheep"

Opening: Begin with music.  (We had one person responsible for the music.  It lasted about 20 minutes).  The first night was spent learning many fun songs.

Story:             The Lost Sheep

The story was told by a storyteller.  We had Ruth, a local farmer, bring some baby lambs to the church and put them in a pen.  The story was a great success, because the sheep kept bleating as the story was told.  After the story we all went out to look at the sheep.  Each child had a chance to touch the lambs, and Ruth told about the lambs.

Class Time:    The few minutes we have will be for making nametags.  They are to be pinned on so that everyone can learn each other's names during the week.  The tags include first and last name, a picture of something you like, a color code for a game later in the week, and the letter of your recreational group.

Activity: (before recreation) "Bible School Cheer"

            We had six groups divided by birthday month.  Each group was given about 4 minutes to come up with a cheer for VBS.  We gathered in the sanctuary and shared them.  (It sounds corny, but it was great!)

Recreation:    A: Blind Man's Bluff
                        B: Blind Man's Bluff (with adults)
                        C: Shoe Relay (inside)
                        D: Hat Tag

Coffee/Cookies:      We had about 6 ladies "volunteer" to run the cookies.  They made the Kool-Aid and put out the cookies.  When the kids came in from recreation, the refreshments were on the table waiting for them.

Craft Time:    We made a mural of our VBS "family."  We had a talented artist draw a pastoral background.  Each person was given a cutout of a sheep and asked to draw a face that looked like them.  They could then put their names on them, and tape them to the background.  The caption read, "Jesus is our Shepherd."

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Monday, June 5        (Day Two)     "The Good Samaritan"

Opening:        Music

Story: The Good Samaritan

Activity: (before class) Paper Bag Greetings, another silly mixer.  We will be lending a "helping hand" to those in VBS.  Each person is given a paper bag (lunch size) and when someone says "go" you try to shake hands with as many people as you can.  (Counting out loud, of course).  Be sure to have plenty of paper bags, because it is fun to do.

Class Activities:       

            A: We will have puzzles available.  Also color sheets with the themes of the days of VBS.  This class can also look for "The Lost Sheep" - a stuffed lamb that has been hidden in the church.

            B and 2nd Graders:  Make BIG helping pictures.  How can we help others?  We had big paper and markers.  These are displayed under two of our "bags" from the greeting activity with the words "Helping Hands" written on them.

            C and D:   Bible Name Search and Crosswords.  These activities should help the kids get ready for Recreation time.  Bibles are available if you want to look up the verses.  Extra adults could help the classes with this activity.

            Adults:           Will be working on a "skit" for the story Tuesday night.

Recreation:    A: Touch "blue" (color game)
                        B: Shoe Relay (inside)
                        C: Blind Man's Bluff
                        D: Spelling Relay (with adults).  (Cards with letters are placed on the floor.  Two people work together.  A word/name from the Bible is given, and the first team to spell it correctly gets a point.)

Craft: Quilt (coordinated by Jackie and some other quilters).  Our goal was to make a quilt for the EWALU auction.  The necessary part was the quilters.  We had six groups, led by a quilter.  The picked out the material they needed for their blocks (16-block pattern).  Each group made six blocks.  Be sure to have enough tracing patterns, sharp scissors, pens or pencils for tracing, and have it set up ahead.  We did all the tracing and cutting in 45 minutes.  Volunteers took the blocks and had them sewed by the next night.  Then on Tuesday night we put the blocks together, two sewers.  Then it was sewed on the backing and tied on Wednesday night by everyone.  It only came off because of the efforts of the grand coordinator and the fantastic volunteer seamstresses.

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Tuesday, June 6        (Day Three)               "The Prodigal Son"

Opening:       Music
Story: The Prodigal Son (Skit by adults)

Class Activity:

            A:  Puzzles, sandboxes, and making colored chalk on the sidewalk up to the church.

            B and C:  Finished BIG pictures and did color sheet.  Third grade finished their crossword puzzles.  One class, with much teacher effort, made instruments for music on Wednesday night.  They even had band hats to wear.

            D:   Bible Pictionary.  The group was mixed up in different age groups.  Teacher made the game.

            Adults:   Forum-type discussion led by the pastor.

Recreation:    A: Shoe relay (inside) (with adults)
                        B: Duck, duck, goose
                        C: Hat Tag
                        D: Blind Man's Bluff

Craft:  Since the quilt was taking longer than we anticipated, we gave them a few minutes longer in recreation.  We then displayed the finished quilt top before everyone went home that evening.

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Wednesday, June 7  (Day Four)    "Zaccheus"

Opening:        Music

Story: Zaccheus

Activity: Find someone.  (Everyone must find someone with e.g. white shoes, taller than them, with glasses, etc.)

Class Activities:  Everyone will be making an invitation for someone, inviting them to the potluck.  The invitations were already run off on paper. Each person will be making a sandpaper print to iron on the invitations.  You need a piece of sandpaper and crayons.  Be sure that you color very hard so that the wax will melt onto the paper.  We had three adults iron the invitations as the kids got done.

Recreation:    A:        Duck, duck, goose
                        B:         Balloon races/spoon races (inside)
                        C:        "Silly Relays" (with adults)
                        D:        Shoe relay (inside)

(We ran out of time, because the class activity took too long.  We had the adults make the refreshments while everyone went out for a game.  We then did our refreshments and the videotape at the same time.)

Craft:   The last half hour of this evening combined refreshments, the watching of the videotape and the tying of the quilt.  We had four ladies that had spent the evening putting the yarn through the quilt, then the kids came up in small groups and tied a square or two.

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Thursday, June 8      (Day Five)                 "The Feeding of the 5,000"

Potluck:          Gather at 6:15

Story:             "The Feeding of the 5,000" (4th /5th grade class did a skit)

Prayer:           Eat about 6:30

Recreation followed the meal.  The videotape was shown for those who did not want to participate in the games.

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This was a very successful week in our church.  It did meet the goals we had in mind at the very beginning.  We have taken our quilt to EWALU for the auction.  We have made connections between many people of all ages in our congregation.  (On Sunday, we sat as a group, and the kids were astonished when the reader was one of the adults who had participated in the skit.  The boy turned to me and said, "I know him.  He was in that play!")  We have seen the lines of communication open up in the congregation.  We have also seen a more willing congregation in volunteering to teach Sunday School this fall.  And for that one week in the summer, we were the talk of the Coffee Shop.  Everyone was wishing they went to the Lutheran Church.

This VBS experience has helped bring a new spirit to our church.  I think it has given us confidence to be the church in ways we never dreamed possible.  Most importantly we have realized how important we are to one another.  We are a family together.  We need each other.  And we have found out we can have fun together.  The people are already talking about next year.

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