35 VBS Alternatives

2x4x4: This equation stands for “2 days a week, 4 hours a day, for 4 weeks.” First Baptist Church in Pleasant Grove, Alabama, offers this VBS option for grades 1-6.

Advent Adventures (Submitted by Lynne L. Iversen): Instead of a traditional Vacation Bible School during summer months, our church created a Bible School during the advent season. “Advent Adventures” for children aged two years through sixth grade, was offered from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., on the first three Saturdays of Advent.  The leaders divided each session into 20-minute segments that included crafts, a Bible story, singing of Christmas carols, story time, snacks, recreation, and hand bell instruction. Each age group rotated through the various activities. At the end of the morning, the children met in the dining hall for lunch. In addition to providing the kids with worthwhile instruction, the school allowed the parents some “kid-free” Christmas shopping time!

Adventure Week: A.K.A. Vacation Bible School

Backyard Bible Blast: An effort to get outside the church walls and reach children of the community and neighborhoods. Families in the church are invited to host a Backyard Bible Blast which is an hour of exciting activities focusing on God’s love. The purpose is to create memorable events that plant seeds which can easily be watered in the future.

Camp MAD: Camp focuseS on Music And Drama which takes the place of a traditional VBS.

Church Camp for Kids: The purpose is to attract community boys and girls to the church for a week so they can learn Bible lessons plus receive special training, but it isn’t called VBS. Rather, it’s announced, advertised, and presented as “camp.” The program offers everything from soccer and basketball to science and drama, plus lessons from the Bible which are adapted from VBS programs offered by Christian publishers.

Kid’s Crusade: In most cases, the differences between a VBS and a Kids’ Crusade are much like the differences between Sunday school and children’s church. Typically, a VBS program involves multiple VBS workers teaching individual age groups, with a complete offering of activities. The typical Kids’ Crusade utilizes less hands-on workers.

Kids’ Reachout Roundup (KRR): Action-packed week of Bible teaching, singing, activities, and crafts

Kidventure: Summer day camp program which replaces the traditional VBS

Kidz Blast: Incredible week in the summer designed especially for children, Kindergarten to 6th grade, to experience the truth of God’s Word through Bible stories, dramatic adventures, crafts, games, snacks, and more.

Modular VBS: This program runs for 2 hours with a 15-minute combined opening and a 15-minute closing. Children are divided into groups by age and rotate to 3 modules: (l) Bible Adventure – Bible story/study and life application; (2) Singing and Memory Fun – teach songs and verses; and (3) Special Features – beach ball, volleyball, relays, films, videos, crazy contests, hat day, etc. Preschool children follow traditional VBS scheduling.

Monthly VBS: Schedule one month for preschool and kindergarten children; another for primary and middlers; and the final time slot for junior and teens. This alternative plan works great for churches short on space and staff.

Musical Mania: Select a children’s musical with a good message and spend at least two intensive weeks learning it, preparing for presentation. Present the musical on a Friday night or Sunday morning, inviting parents and friends. During practice sessions, you may want to include a brief devotional, activities, crafts, or games.

Neighborhood Bible Club: A Neighborhood Bible Club is similar to VBS but instead of meeting in a church building, it takes the Gospel to where the children live, right into their neighborhood. This 5-day summer ministry meets Monday through Friday for 1 hour, 15 minutes. A clear Gospel message is presented at each meeting, along with a Bible lesson, upbeat musical memory verses with hand motions, a review game, and a hands-on craft activity that the children take home daily.

There are four primary goals for the clubs:

Salvation: The children will hear a clear Gospel message and be encouraged to receive Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.

Growth: The children will seek to love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ with all their heart, soul, and might.

Witness: The children will share their faith in Christ through personal witnessing and by bringing their friends to Bible club where they, too, can hear the Gospel message.

Family Involvement: The families of children attending will become involved in a local church where the Bible is believed and taught.

Parables in the Park (Submitted by Jim Robnolt): The traditional weekday VBS format wasn’t working well at our church, yet we didn’t want to abandon the children in the community. “Parables in the Park” pleased everyone. Once a week throughout the summer, the children assembled on the church lawn in a shaded area. The event consisted of recreation, an adult storyteller who shared a Bible story, and refreshments. We received a positive response from the community including two daycare centers who brought their children to these events.

Praise and Play for Preschoolers: Includes Bible stories, crafts, music, outdoor play, observing nature in God’s great world, and guided indoor play.

Site Rotation VBS: Students rotate to teaching teams, who present the same Bible story to five different groups in five separate sessions. Activities vary by age group. Adult or youth guides accompany students to each team’s area. If you have large numbers of children, you may need multiple teaching teams for each lesson. Preschoolers have separate classes. Specialty teachers may lead select activities.

Key benefits to this option include: learning activities which are age-appropriate; teachers learn and prepare less content since they focus on one story, instead of five; fewer teachers may be needed; students meet and work with many different adults and youth; specialty teachers can lessen the workload. Many VBS curriculums now provide needed resources for implementing site rotation.

Spring Break VBS (Submitted by Steve Irwin): In our community, so many churches were having Bible schools in the summer that our attendance was poor. So we scheduled ours during Spring Break from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., the normal school hours. Attendance doubled. Community outreach was also a winner.

Summerama: Another name for VBS.

Summer Fun Week: The week is packed with games, crafts, music, and creative learning opportunities. Each day, children learn a different truth about God, Jesus, and the Bible.

Summer Kinder Camp: VBS alternative for preschoolers.

Summer Sunday School: VBS curriculum is used both during the regular Sunday School hour and children’s church time for 5 weeks in the summer.

SUMMER VBF (Vacation Bible Fun): Youngstown Baptist Church conducts a VBF each summer, built around a central theme and that includes skits, great kids’ music, fun games, crafts, and a grand finale on Sunday with a Family Fun Fair.

Sum-Time Fun: Plan a series of five field trips to places of interest in your area. Take along a special guest for each day to present the devotional. Work on Bible memory verses as you travel to the places of interest, and have your music time in transit, too. Concentrate on kids bringing friends and making new contacts for your church.

Sunday Morning VBS (Submitted by Teresa Higgins): Because many members of our congregation are employed on weekdays, they are not available to teach a traditional Monday through Friday VBS. So our church conducts VBS every Sunday in July from 9 a.m. to noon. Student attendance has increased and teachers are easier to recruit. In addition, several non-parent church members volunteered to assist because the Sunday timing suited them.

Super Summer Saturdays: All age groups meet on Saturday for a 5-10 week period, using VBS curriculum.

Super Summer Spectacular: Conduct VBS for five weeks during the summer on Sundays, combining Sunday School and morning worship. Encourage church members to bring neighborhood children. Besides the regular program, add videos or special speakers. Option: Give your regular Sunday School teachers a break by recruiting a “Super Summer Spectacular” staff.

Vacation Bible Experience: A traditional VBS, but the negative word “school” has been eliminated.

Vacation Bible Fun: Removing the negative context of “school” from the traditional VBS.

VBS Day Camp: Day camping involves a planned program of experiences for children in an out-of-doors setting during the day. It can be conducted at the church, making use of the parking lot and other available nearby space; at a local park; at a nearby state park or resort area; or anywhere that camp-like activities can be conducted.

The director has overall responsibility for the camp. Duties include: (1) stating the basic objectives of the camp; (2) deciding upon the location of a campsite and becoming familiar with this area; (3) outlining a suggested schedule of activities; (4) reading the curriculum materials which are to be used; (5) organizing the publicity; and (6) correlating the day-camp activities with the total Christian education program of the local church.

VBS Day Camp is an open-ended program, offering many of the opportunities of resident camping (nature study, recreation, crafts, outdoor education, and fellowship) without the extended absence from home.

Program activities include:

Bible Adventure Time: Usually the regular VBS curriculum materials are used. The counselors are responsible for telling the Bible story each day, making maximum use of visual aids. They help the campers learn the suggested Bible memory verses and carry through on other activities as suggested in the teacher’s manual. Classes are informal and are held outdoors to make it more like “camp.”

Worship: The program should include both planned times of worship and spontaneous worship. (The outdoor setting will prompt the latter.) Counselors who are alert will find many opportunities when campers can be led into a genuine experience of recognizing the presence of God.

Singing: Appropriate songs help lead into a worship experience. Singing also helps to bind the campers into a whole unit.

Games and Recreation: These should be well-planned, have a definite purpose, and be supervised carefully.

Crafts: Materials found in an outdoor environment should compose the basis for the craft activities. Possible projects are making a nature collage, a terrarium, spatter leaf-prints, nature boxes, and seed pictures.

Outdoor Fun: Various activities centering around the study of nature/God’s creation give the campers opportunities to use their God-given senses of seeing, hearing, feeling, touching, and smelling. Examples are: following nature trails, flying kites, studying the growth of trees, taking discovery hikes, bird watching, plant observation, and so on.

Field Trips: Opportunities in a local area might include trips to a museum, art gallery, planetarium, newspaper office, zoo, or manufacturing plant.

Special Feature Time: The creativity of the director and counselors may be given full use here. Some ideas which have been used successfully are: Hat Day (everyone wears a hat, and the hats are judged in such categories as funniest, most original, ugliest, prettiest, and campers’ choice); Peanut Hunt (some peanuts are marked with numbers; when time is up – teams count the number of peanuts found and get a bonus for the specially numbered ones); Treasure Chest Day (everyone receives a free gift); videos; and lunch hike.

Lunch: Each camper brings a sack lunch. Drinks are provided.

Group vs. Activity Organization – Most day camps are organized for programming either according to age-grade groups or according to activities.

Group Organization – Major part of program handled by regular counselors:

1. Since the counselors are constantly with the same children, they become well-acquainted with the individual challenges and habits of each camper.

2. Tends to develop well-rounded counselors.

3. Group sizes can vary.

4. Allows a camp to handle a much larger enrollment of children.

5. Easier to set up and administer. Movement to and from each area, supervision during every part of the camp day, and the bulk of the activities are all handled by the person running a group.

Organization by Activities – Children move from place to place and counselors remain at a specific area as specialists:

1. Counselors work in activities for which they are particularly well-qualified and which they enjoy.

2. The children are exposed to many talented teachers, rather than just the one who heads their group.

3. Limits enrollment, as no group can be any larger than can be comfortably accommodated in the smallest specialty area.

Combinations and variations of these two types of programs are often most practical!

VBS Summer Day Camp: Lawrenceville First United Methodist Church offers children an exciting summer full of fun, and nurtures spiritual growth in a loving, Christian environment. They balance arts, crafts, recreation, and sightseeing with nature, reading, relaxing, and devotions each week to ensure variety. VBS Summer Camp is open to children ages 4-13 who are entering grades pre-K through 8th. It runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Extended care hours are available at no additional charge. Children may come as early as 7 a.m. and stay as late as 6:15 pm. Campers are placed in appropriately-sized groups according to age.

The Pre-K / Kindergarten group consists of 4 & 5 year olds who learn to sing, play, and grow together through the summer as they participate in art, recreation, rest time, story time, play time, and an occasional field trip. While VBS Summer Day Camp workers provide plenty of activity for these campers themselves, they also bring puppet shows, storytellers, bubble fun, and a whole lot of laughing to them. Their daily routine is one of comfortable structure and is sensitive to the needs of these younger children.

The Elementary ages (grades 1-5) are always on the go. Each age group participates in arts & crafts, recreation, and devotions on a daily basis, and goes swimming and on one or two field trips each week in conjunction with weekly themes. Each grade’s schedule, trips, and curriculum are unique and tailored to the needs of that particular age group. These groups develop lasting friendships and make great memories as they go through their summer camp adventure together.

Very Big Sports (VBS) Camp (submitted by Justeen Hill): One year, instead of the usual VBS we introduced Very Big Sports Camp. We rented a junior high for one week which offered a large gym, small gym, tennis courts, track field, swimming pool, soccer field, etc. The day began with wacky games in the big gym and then the kids were able to sample a sport of their choosing for one hour. Each sport was staffed with volunteers from the church. Fun was emphasized rather than drills and skills. A snack was served and then campers were off to the gym bleachers for the Bible lesson. We closed the day with a 15-minute message from a well-known Christian athlete highlighting the importance of keeping one’s Christian integrity and attitude while playing sports. The event pulled in kids who normally would never have attended a regular VBS. T-shirts were included in the $25.00 registration fee.

Video Series: A children’s video series could be used as the basis for a VBS.

Weekend VBS: The hours can be on Friday (6 a.m. – 9 p.m.), Saturday (9 a.m.-3 p.m.), and Sunday (9:15 a.m.- noon) or whatever works best for your situation. The VBS refreshment team can prepare a simple lunch on Saturday for the children, with many of the items donated by Sunday School classes or individuals in the church. Adult classes are usually open to relocating and making the necessary adjustments for this once-a-year program. Having the VBS during the Sunday morning service attracts non-Christian parents and those who do not have a church home. To provide enough time for Bible stories, songs, and Scripture memorization, the crafts and recreation periods are shortened. There are two major advantages to this option: (1) the schedule rarely competes with Vacation Bible Schools at other churches since most are held Monday through Friday and (2) more men are usually willing to help on the weekend.

Winter Vacation Bible School: Activities include: mini carnival, crafts, games, Bible stories, music, videos, and snacks.