How To Plan A VBS | What To Do Before VBS

Planning for VBS Vacation Bible School can be a snap! Follow these tips to keep your planning on track.

3 to 6 Months Before
2 to 3 Months Before
8 Weeks Before
4 Weeks Before
2 Weeks Before
1 Week Before
During VBS
After its Over (whew!)
3-6 Months Before VBS
3-6 Months Before VBS

3 to 6 Months Before VBS

Begin praying for your church’s VBS. Ask God to prepare the hearts of church members, workers, and children who will attend VBS.

Choose a format for your VBS

  • Will you meet in the morning, afternoon, or evening?
  • Will you meet every day for a week or once a week for several weeks?
  • Will your program be for children only, or will entire families be invited to attend?
  • Will you meet at your church or another location?

Set VBS dates

As you’re considering dates, you may want to find out about other summer programs offered by your church or your community so you can avoid conflicts.

Choose a Director

If you’re reading this , that’s probably you! The Director is responsible for planning, recruiting staff, and overseeing all details to ensure that VBS flows smoothly. For an even easier adventure, consider recruiting a Crew Leader director who will train, encourage, and check in on other Leaders throughout VBS . (Remember, your new favorite word is delegate!)

Set a budget

Look through the entire VBS Guide to get an idea of what you’ll need for your program. Write down the cost of each item you’ll need, and then tally the total cost to set your budget. Your church may already include VBS in its budget. If so, find out what funds are available. If your church doesn’t have a VBS budget in place, don’t worry! Money for a quality VBS program shouldn’t be a stumbling block. There are countless ways that you can easily (and painlessly) raise the funds you need.

Consider the following ideas:

  • Collect an offering to cover expenses.
  • Charge a per-child registration fee for VBS . Give discounts to families that register more than one child.
  • Invite congregation members to “sponsor” children by contributing a per-child amount.
  • Hold a creative fundraiser! Have a hammy volunteer walk around before and after church wearing a VBS T-shirt and holding a stuffed panda bear in a basket Ask members of the congregation to fill the basket with change. Your volunteer will get a workout walking with a bucket full of all those jingly coins!
  • Start collecting decorations. Look for stuffed toy panda bears, bamboo, green paper or cellophane, silk leaves, green material, paper lanterns, and paper umbrellas. You might even let members of your congregation know what you’re looking for so they can keep their eyes and ears open for potential decorations.
2-3 Months Before VBS
2-3 Months Before VBS

2 to 3 Months Before VBS

Order a Starter Kit - This makes all the subsequent planning much easier. The kit will continue everythign you need to get started.

Plan VBS Publicity

Decide how you’ll promote VBS in your church and community. Refer to pages the Publicity section of the Director Guide for publicity ideas and resources.

Set up a VBS website

Encourage preregistration

Begin Recruiting Leaders

Use the recruiting helps detailed in the Recruiting section of the Director Guide to swing through volunteer recruitment. The Recruiting section also includes bonus ideas that will captivate people’s hearts and minds while allowing you to flex those creative muscles (in an easy way—with great results). And the photocopiable job descriptions, handouts, and bulletin inserts make your job a breeze.


Networking will stretch your time and dollars. Find other churches in your community that are doing VBS . Get together and brainstorm decorating, fundraising, and publicity ideas that will get your whole community excited about VBS.

Estimate your VBS enrollment

Use figures from your church’s Sunday school or figures from last year’s VBS program. Once you’ve estimated how many children will attend, figure out how many Crew Leaders you’ll need. You’ll need one adult or teenage Crew Leader for every five children, including preschoolers. Be sure to have extra Crew Leaders ready when you need to form Crews for last-minute registrants.

Order VBS Materials

If you purchased a VBS Starter Kit, you already have a leader pack for every station and all the multimedia components you need. You may want to order additional leader packs for team teaching — and a copy of each leader pack for yourself, if you’d like. This year the Starter Kit also includes the VBS Clip Art & Resources CD set, which includes over 200 pieces of clip art, customizable forms, and.much more.

Even if you’re planning a late-summer program, it’s not too early to order materials. As you update your registration count, you can order additional student supplies as needed.

Explore Your Church Facilities

You’ll want to be deliberate in selecting your station areas. If your plans involve more than 150 children, run two or more simultaneous stations. For more information on how to do this, see the Director Guide. You’ll need to set up a separate room or area for each station. Check in the Ultiamte Director Go-To Guide for specific guidelines for each section.

Plan and Schedule

Plan and schedule a staff training meeting using the “Staff Training Meeting” guidelines in the Director Guide. This outline incorporates the Ultimate Go-To Recruiting & Training DVD, which contains clips from the VBS field test. Your Station Leaders will enjoy seeing VBS in action. Be sure to include Crew Leaders in your training so they can better understand their role. The DVD is filled with helpful, practical tips to make Station Leaders and Crew Leaders the best staff around. Plan to meet for at least two hours.

8 Weeks Before VBS
8 Weeks Before VBS

8 Weeks Before VBS


Begin recruiting Crew Leaders (Group Leaders). Crew Leaders are like older brothers and sisters in the Crew family. They aren’t responsible for teaching, and they don’t have to prepare anything. Crew Leaders can be teenagers, college students, parents, or grandparents. They need only to love the Lord and love children. For more information on recruiting, see the Recruiting section in the Director Guide.

Crew Leaders should plan to participate in VBS for the entire adventure. If they need to be absent one or more days, encourage them to find their own substitutes.

Publicize Your VBS

Begin publicity. Fill in your program’s dates and times on a Outdoor VBS Banner and display it in a prominent outdoor location. Hang VBS publicity posters in your church and community.

Show any commercials from the DVD that comes with your VBS during a worship service or other church gathering. These short segments give people a glimpse of how VBS works and what kids will learn at this awesome VBS. You’ll find that the videos help build enthusiasm, recruit volunteers, and promote attendance for your program. Be sure to follow up each video by telling the congregation how excited you are about the program!

Gather Supplies

Refer to a VBS Daily Supplies supply list beginning in the Director Guide. (Note: Some stations may not require all the supplies listed, since Station Leaders can choose which activities they would like to do.) Consult with Station Leaders to inform them of how you’ll handle supply collection. Will you gather all supplies, or will each leader gather his or her own supplies? You may want to ask church members to help with food supplies (such as making cupcakes or purchasing frozen blueberries and yogurt) and to donate or lend items, such as decorations.

Plan a Schedule

The average VBS program runs for up to three hours each day. Most VBS materials have been developed with these parameters in mind. For a three-hour program, most station should last about 20-25 minutes each. See the daily schedules on pages in the Director Guide to see exactly how this works for your program. If your program will meet for more or less time than three hours each day, you’ll need to adapt these times accordingly.

4 Weeks Before VBS
4 Weeks Before VBS

4 Weeks Before VBS

Recruit additional volunteers. In addition to Leaders, you may want to recruit volunteers to help with registration, transportation, and child care for the staff. Refer to the Recruiting section for more ideas.

Choose a Mission Project

Get your congregation excited about a Mission Project that you can tie to your VBS like Water for Tanzania. Director Guide should have easy ways to get everyone involved with the mission project. Or come up with your own.

Continue Pre-Registration

Photocopy the VBS registration form in the Director Guide. Insert copies in your church bulletins, distribute copies in Sunday school classes, and keep a supply in your church office. Encourage parents from your church to preregister their children and their children’s friends. Pregistration makes your first day more manageable.

To get more kids preregistered, you might offer incentives. For example, provide a VBS T-shirt or a Music CD for each child who registers early. Or fill a large jar with black and white jelly beans. Children who preregister can submit a “guess” as to how many candies are in the jar. (The winner gets to keep the entire jar of candy! Yum!) These incentives will build enthusiasm for your VBS, too.

Hold Planning Meeting

Hold the scheduled staff training meeting in a large room where you’ll be able to try out some VBS snacks and activities. Before the meeting, set up a TV and DVD player, and decorate the room. Bring the Leader packs, Leader Guides, and photocopies of handouts.

Meet With Leaders

Meet with each Leader. It’s a good idea to touch base with each Leader on a one-on-one basis. Take each person to lunch or out for ice cream or simply go for a walk together as you discuss what supplies the leader needs, what concerns he or she may have, or any aspects of the program that are not clear. This will not only prevent miscommunication but also help your volunteers know how much you appreciate them.

Important Training Info/Advice - Although Leaders may want to add their flair or creativity to an activity, drama, or craft, encourage them to stick as closely as possible to the written material. Remind your staff members that each element of the VBS program has been designed to fit with the others—sort of like a jigsaw puzzle. Remember, we want to make VBS easy for your staff. There’s no need to re create or reinvent the wheel!

Provide Information to Church Office

Fill in your church’s information on the community flyer of the Director Guide, and photocopy a stack of completed flyers on bright-colored paper to put in your church office. Someone in the office can refer to the flyers if people call with questions about your program and can distribute flyers to people who stop by the office.

If your church has a phone answering machine, you may also want to include VBS information in your recorded message. If your church has its own website, be sure to add VBS information there, too.

2 Weeks Before VBS
2 Weeks Before VBS

2 Weeks Before VBS

Check Registration

Make sure you have enough VBS student materials for each child. Order extras, just in case — many churches experience last-minute additions, first-day surprises, and unexpected increases as kids bring their friends throughout the week. You can always return them if not used. Also double-check that you have enough Crew Leaders/Teachers.

Check Supplies

Check your supply collection. Make a final announcement, or put a final supply list in your church bulletin. Gather or purchase additional supplies as necessary.

Continue Publicity

Send copies of a news release to your local newspapers, radio stations, and TV stations (see the template on the VBS Clip Art & Resources CD.) Use the snazzy clip art found on the VBS Clip Art & Resources CD set to create flyers, posters, newspaper ads, and more.

Announce VBS in worship services and other church gatherings. Put bulletin inserts in your church’s worship bulletins. Print your own bulletin inserts from the VBS Clip Art & Resources CD.

Before your worship service, have a few volunteers perform a fun VBS publicity skit. Show the announcement videos found on the DVD's in the VBS Starter Kit

Mail additional VBS invitation postcards, as necessary.

Emergency & Backup Plans

What if it rains during your program? Plan in advance how you’ll handle bad weather. You may also want to line up backup Crew Leaders in case some drop out. Inform Station Leaders and Crew Leaders of procedures to follow if there’s a fire or other emergency.

1 Week Before VBS
1 Week Before VBS

1 Week Before VBS

Dedicate VBS staff. Introduce Station Leaders, Crew Leaders, and other volunteers during your church service. Then have your pastor or other church members pray that God will use these workers to touch kids’ lives with his love during VBS.

Assign Crews/Groups

If you're using crews, assign each student. Using the pre-registration forms you’ve received, assign children to elementary and preschool Crews. Each Crew should have no more than five children and one adult or teenage Crew Leader. Be sure that each preschool Crew has a mix of 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old boys and girls.

  • Fill in Crew rosters in pencil — you’ll probably make changes as you work.
  • Whenever possible, place a child from each age level in each Crew. If the age distribution at your program is uneven, include as wide an age range as you can. Guarantee success for everyone involved by not forming single-age Crews.
  • Include a good mix of boys and girls in each Crew.
  • If a child is bringing a friend, assign the two children to the same Crew, if possible. If a child is bringing several friends, assign pairs of kids to different Crews.
  • In general, it works best to assign siblings to different Crews. However, you know the children in your church. Use your judgment as to whether siblings should be together.
  • If you anticipate behavior problems with certain children or have children with special needs, assign them to Crews that have more experienced adult Crew Leaders.
  • If you have children who are particularly helpful or cooperative, assign them to Crews that have teenage Crew Leaders.
  • If you want your program to have a strong outreach emphasis, limit each Crew to three children and encourage kids to fill their Crews by bringing their friends.
  • Remember to leave open spaces in a few Crews for kids who haven’t preregistered. Your goal is to make sure each Crew contains only five children.
  • Once you’ve finished assigning Crews, double-check that you haven’t forgotten anyone or double-booked anyone.

After you’ve assigned elementary-age children to Crews, assign each Crew to one of four larger groups (remember, one-fourth of the kids at VBS travel together at a time.) Label these four groups A, B, C, and D—or use your creativity to name them something that fits the VBS theme. Crews travel with their larger groups as they visit the stations each day. For more information about assigning Crews to groups, see the Director Guide.

Meet With Station Leaders

Meet with Station Leaders again. Check with leaders to make sure they have all the required supplies, and answer any questions they may have. Work together to smooth out any last-minute details.

Decide when and where Leaders will meet each day. It’s a good idea to have your staff arrive early on Day 1 to greet children and assist with registration. Be sure each Leader has a large sign with his or her Group number or written on it.

Help Station Leaders decorate their rooms. Use the decorating ideas found in our colorful VBS Guide or leader packs.

During VBS
During VBS

During VBS

Make sure you have plenty of workers on hand the first day for kids who did not pre-register (this is an excellent way to use volunteers who aren’t available to help the entire week.) Set up separate registration sites for preregistration check-in and walk-in registration. Follow the Day 1 registration procedures outlined in the Director Guide. After Day 1, maintain a registration table to register kids who join your program midweek.

Meet with Leaders

Meet with Leaders each day. This is a great time to ask Crew Leaders if they have any needs or concerns, to make last-minute announcements or schedule changes, and to encourage your Leaders. Lead a prayer, asking God to bless your day, protect everyone, and give all leaders wisdom as they work with each child.

Meet with Station Leaders and Crew Leaders after each day’s program. Check in with all VBS staff to see what went smoothly and what could be improved for future days. Be prepared to change schedules, rooms, or procedures. You may even need to reassign some Crews. Work together to make any necessary changes to ensure that everything runs smoothly.


Give announcements during Wrap-Up. During the course of the program, you may need to change schedules, stations, or assignments. You also may have personal messages or lost-and-found items to deliver to participants. Each day check with the Wrap-Up Leader to schedule any announcements you would like everyone to hear.

Attend Wrap-Up

Attend Wrap-Up each day. These opening and closing activities will give you a good indication of how your adventure is proceeding. They also provide opportunities for children to see you and to identify you as the Director. Each day, the Leader may call on you to pray before dismissing kids to their stations. Besides, you’ll have fun!

Visit Stations

Peek into as many stations as you can. Know what’s happening in the stations. While you don’t need to hover over the kids or make your Station Leaders nervous, it’s important to know that leaders are following your guidelines.

Help your staff be the best it can be. Your helpful presence will let staff members know that they’re not alone. This is also a good time to make sure they’re following the program so it will be powerful. Remember, Station Leaders need to follow the leader guides, because each station plays an important role in children’s overall learning experience.

Make sure all Leaders are present each day. Arrange for substitutes and help with discipline problems, if necessary. If you’re in a pinch for Crew Leaders, ask the Wrap-Up Leader to fill in or appoint yourself Crew Leader for a day.

Make sure Leaders have the supplies they need each day. Have a runner available to collect or purchase additional supplies, if necessary.

Stock & Maintain First-Aid

Keep a good supply of adhesive bandages and first-aid ointment on hand, along with phone numbers for local clinics and hospitals. You may also want to keep photocopies of kids’ registration forms near your first-aid site. You can use the forms to check for allergies or other health concerns. Be sure to tell your Crew Leaders of any allergies or special needs, too.

Keep an Eye on Crews

You may notice that some Crew Leaders just aren’t tuning in to their Crew members and you need to reassign a few volunteers to more suitable jobs. Or if a Crew Leader is struggling with a group that suddenly grew, split the Crew into two more manageable groups. A “heads up” attitude will make this VBS experience the best for each child involved.

Prepare VBS Completion Certificates

Fill out a certificate for each child. A sample VBS completion certificate is in the Starter Kit, and additional certificates are available from Group Publishing or your Group VBS supplier.

Send Memories Home!

We’ve heard it again and again: “My kids can’t stop singing those songs!” Plan to provide (or sell) Music CDs for the kids at your program. Set up a table with information on how to obtain media items outside your Wrap-Up area (one church we visited already had them available at the registration table on the first day — great idea!)

After VBS
After VBS

After VBS

Leave rooms decorated for your next church service. If outreach was an emphasis during VBS, you’ll be pleased when visitors from your VBS program come for church. They’ll feel more comfortable returning to a familiar environment. Also, church members will enjoy getting a glimpse of VBS.

Collect Reusable Leftover Supplies

Store the supplies in your church’s supply closet or resource room for use in future VBS programs or other children’s ministry events. If you borrowed supplies, such as pool noodles, buckets, or CD players, return them to their owners.

Follow-Up With Visitors

Send fun mailable Follow-Up Foto Frames. Encourage Crew Leaders to make personal contact with the members of their Crews within two weeks after VBS. Use the additional follow-up ideas in the Director Guide.

Report on the Program

During your next worship service, invite Station Leaders, Crew Leaders, and kids who attended VBS to share their favorite VBS experiences. Encourage kids to display their crafts. You may even want to invite the Music Leader to lead everyone in singing one or two favorite VBS songs. When others see how much fun VBS can be, your recruiting will be a breeze next year. In fact, they may even sign up for next year’s VBS on the spot!

Present a slide show or video or post photos from your program. Just show all the Spotlight VBS presentations back-to-back (the work is already done!) Kids love seeing themselves on the “big screen”—and parents will love it, too! Colorful photos will bring back memories of a terrific time at VBS . You may even want to burn a CD of all the Spotlight VBS presentations to give to families.


Meet with your entire VBS staff to evaluate your program. Celebrate the best VBS ever! Make written notes of good ideas that could be used for next year’s program. Note any problems that came up and how they were solved. Brainstorm ways to avoid similar problems in the future. Include notes of how you adapted the VBS materials to fit your church.

Record the Names of Leaders

Record the names of Leaders who are interested in helping again next year. Post the “Join the Team!” handout from the Director Guide, and allow interested volunteers to sign up for next year’s program. (You’ll be surprised at the number who will!) Bring the VBS evaluation forms included in the Director Guide, and have staff members fill them out.

Whew! Now take a nap!