I was honored enough last week to help out with games at our week long vacation bible school at my church. While my job was a far cry from the those inside sharing stories from the Bible and leading kids to Christ (go God!), I had a blast keeping the kids entertained, and hopefully keeping them wanting to come back for more. That said, I learned some practical lessons that I thought I would share. In case your interested, our church used SonRock VBS from Group publishing, and it rocked (pun intended)! Even though some of these thoughts are very basic, I think they are still worth sharing:
- Kids just love to have fun. Come on now, you can admit it! Upon reading that sentence, slightly modified Cindi Lauper songs are stuck in your head for the rest of the day! Seriously though, kids like to have fun, and I think it’s great that we get to have fun with them in the context of teaching them about God. We were after all created by an awesome God who gave of this capacity for fun it the first place.
- Kids, most kids anyhow, like water! And, we used a lot of it. We threw sponges at one another. We played dodge ball bowling through a sprinkler hose. We shot super soakers at one another. We passed sopping wet sponges to one another on the tops of our hears, and we even threw one of our high school helpers in to a pool full of water. And…they loved it. The first question I got every night was “Are we getting wet tonight?”
- Some kids (and some parents) don’t like water. There were some complaints from a couple of kids, some of the other leaders, and a few parents, but as far as I can tell, most of the kids had a blast. I probably could have done better job of letting them know ahead of time that they would be getting wet and planning alternatives (note for next year if they invite me back), but all-in-all, the water was still a hit!
- It’s easy to get distracted by the one kids in every group who wants to cause trouble. You know the kids, he’s the one who only aims for the head in dodge ball or picks up the buckets of water to dump on his best friend instead of playing the game. It’s easy to get distracted by this kid, but important not to. Especially in large groups of kids, it is easy to lose focus when you spend too much time dealing with the one kids who’s causing all the trouble.
- Megaphones are fun! I’d never used one before, and I had a great time with it. My wife will tell you that I’m loud enough without it, but it was fun being able to talk to kids on the other side of the parking lot (well, at least to talk at them!)
- You can bond with kids even in a group of 50 of them. It’s easy to bond with kids when you’re in a small group of six to eight of them. It’s harder to do it in groups of 50-60 kids, but it’s definitely still worth the effort. I tried to meet a new kid every day. I tried to call them by name (which got harder as the days went on and their name tags got wetter and wetter). When I didn’t know names, I always tried to find something to call them other than just “hey you!” I also found that dumping buckets of water on their heads was a good bonding technique.
- Middle School helpers plus super soakers = trouble! :) I don’t know that there is much more I need to say here!
- Pool Noodles should be a staple for any game planner. We played a game the involved pool noodles cut in half and a beach ball. In our game, the noodles were for hitting the ball. That said, I quickly discovered the hundreds of uses for pool noodles. They were used as baseball bats, swords, hockey sticks, noise makers, javelins, switches, belts, tongs, a claw, and I’m sure a lot of other things that I never even noticed. They really made the one night that we stayed dry the entire week a lot of fun!
- Kids like to make noise. Any time we had a minute or two to fill I fell back on an old staple – “Let me hear how loud you can be!” It hooked them in every single time!
- Keep it Simple. We played one game where the rules took to long to explain, were hard to remember and were just a little bit to complicated. Of all the games we played, this was the only one I was disappointed with. Even for those kids willing to pay attention that long and try to pick up the game, they were drowned out by the kids who just didn’t get it from the beginning. That said, they still managed to have a good time (see #1 above).
- Planning is the key. We had everything ready to go and in one place before the week ever started, and I’m glad we did. Things were hectic enough without having to run around and find things every night! As the week went on, I was even more grateful for the planning we put in ahead of time (see #14 below).
- Kids are trusting. No matter what miniature lake had formed in plain sight in the parking lot before they came out, every night when the kids asked if they were getting wet, I told them they weren’t and they believed it! It reminded me that they are inherently trusting, and it’s important that we not violate that trust. It’s OK to mess with them a little bit, but we should never lie to them or mislead them intentionally.
- If want the kids to respect you, you have to be willing to take a wet sponge to the back. If you’re going to bond with the kids, you have to jump right in there with them. I took a sponge to the head, a dodge ball to the back and whack or two with a pool noodle as the week wore on. Without fail, when I saw those kids in church this weekend, they came up to say “Hi!”
- Vacation Bible School is exhausting. This was the one thing I really wasn’t ready for. I hadn’t planned to be that worn out at the end of every night and totally exhausted by the end of the week. That said, I would do it again in a heartbeat!
- Finally, air sirens rock! Especially air sirens blown into a megaphone!
There you have it. That’s my recap of Vacation Bible School this year. Only one thing left to say – I can’t wait for next year!