A simple way to accomplish multiple goals
Christmas for Kids one-day Vacation Bible School (VBS) programs have become quite common among our WELS congregations, for multiple reasons.
First, a Christmas for Kids VBS is very simple to operate. A traditional VBS can run for an entire week. A Christmas for Kids VBS typically runs over a few hours on one Saturday. That makes it easier to recruit volunteers. It can take four months to prepare for a week long VBS. You can prepare a Christmas for Kids program in four weeks.
Second, a Christmas for Kids VBS allows you to help your member children focus on the true meaning of Christmas. Each year, the secularization of Christmas pushes the celebration earlier and earlier. “The Christmas Season” begins before Thanksgiving! A Christmas for Kids can be a great way of helping our children to focus on Christ, instead of the presents and decorations.
Third, a Christmas for Kids VBS lets us train our children to do outreach. We want outreach to become a part of WELS culture, where members are constantly looking for opportunities to invite unchurched friends and neighbors to church events. Start that training when they’re young! By encouraging your children to invite their unchurched friends to your Christmas for Kids, it allows them to practice sharing their faith in a simple way.
Fourth, Christmas for Kids VBS allows you to tell the true meaning of Christmas to unchurched children. You can help them learn about the best Gift one can get at Christmas. You can send materials home with the children so their parents hear the Christmas gospel as well.
Fifth, Christmas for Kids VBS enables you to serve your community. You promote this VBS as a chance for parents to go Christmas shopping—away from prying eyes—while their children are cared for in a safe, loving environment.
Sixth, Christmas for Kids VBS can serve as a way to connect unchurched families to Sunday morning activities. If you hold the VBS on a Saturday, have the children sing a song they learned in worship the next day. Or invite the unchurched children to continue learning about Jesus by coming back to Sunday school. When a child starts asking his parents to bring him or her to your church, you have a great opportunity!
If your congregation has never conducted a Christmas for Kids VBS, why not try one this year? It is easy, costs very little, and can accomplish multiple good things, as illustrated above.
Putting together a Christmas for Kids program
Here are five steps you need to take to run a successful Christmas for Kids VBS. Some of these (steps 1 through 3) can be done concurrently.
Step 1 – Set your date.
We recommend a Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon. Either work well if what you are promoting is the opportunity for parents to go Christmas shopping. However, a Saturday VBS has the added benefit of letting you teach the children a song that they can sing in Sunday’s worship service.
The ideal time is the second week in December, Saturday the 8th or Sunday the 9th. However, Christmas for Kids can work well very close to Christmas. This year, Saturday, December 22nd or Sunday, December 23rd would be fine. It lets you tie the VBS to Christmas Eve. Some churches have had their VBS kids sing a carol on Christmas Eve.
Step 2 – Plan your program.
A Christmas for Kids VBS program typically consists of five things.
- Bible story time – Sharing the “good news of great joy” is job one of any Christmas VBS. There are many ways you can do this.Use the lesson plan from your Sunday school materials. Christ Light has fabulous lessons plans about the Christmas story. There are different ones geared toward a variety of ages. There is no concern about repeating them in Sunday school as well. Children are happy to talk about the story of Jesus’ birth.Present the nativity as a play for the children, or put on a nativity-themed skit. You could ask your teen group to act it out.Set up the nativity. If you have access to a nativity set (the bigger the better!) set it up piece by piece, having different people telling the story of each character. Have each person ask questions when their portion of the story is done.Write your own lesson plan. It could be as simple as you (or someone who is a gifted reader and/or storyteller) walking through Luke 2 and using props to illustrate the story. Then have some discussion questions for the kids.
- Music time – You will want the children to spend some time in song. Pick Christmas hymns that are well-known to your congregation’s children so that they might serve as leaders in the singing: Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Away in the Manger, etc.
- Craft time – Simply google “children’s Christmas crafts,” and you will find countless ideas of age-appropriate projects the children could do.
- Game time – Google “children’s Christmas games.” You will have many options.
- Snack time – Over the course of three hours, the children will probably need a snack. This too could be turned into an activity. For example, children could decorate Christmas cookies and take some home to give to their parents.
With those five different things in play, you can see how easy it would be to fill 3 hours.
A mistake that churches can make is in “overdoing” this. Your Bible lesson need not be an elaborate play with great production value! Your craft need not be something expensive and complicated. You will easily fill the time even with simple activities. So just keep it simple, share the gospel, and let your children have some fun.
Step 3 – Promote & register.
There are many ways to promote your Christmas for Kids VBS.
- Another C18 post talked about doing doorhanger canvassing in your community. A promotional flyer about your VBS could be one of the things you insert into the bags.
- We have stressed FRAN outreach throughout C18, that is, teaching your members to think about inviting unchurched friends, relatives, associates and neighbors to church activities. Have your congregation’s parents mention your Christmas to Kids VBS to the parents in the neighborhood. You could provide promotional material.
- Temporary signage is a great way to promote VBS. You can order a 4’ by 8’ full color banner from USPress.com for less than $100. Put it in front of your church for the two weeks before the VBS.
- Radio stations and even TV stations will often promote children’s activities for free. The fact that “for kids” is in your title might give you free airtime. Have someone in your church call up all the stations in your area and inquire about that.
You will want to have a registration form where parents can provide you not only with the names of their children, but also emergency contact information as well as information about potential food allergies. You could put this form online as a PDF file so that people could print it from your website. Or you could set up an e-mail address just for registration and ask people to provide the information you need that way. If you have someone tech savvy in your congregation (talk to your teens) you could have someone set up a Google Forms VBS registration.
Step 4 – Recruit and staff.
Undoubtedly, when you planned your VBS, you had some people in mind to run it: teachers, teen helpers, skit performers, a piano player, etc. As registrations come in, determine if you have enough. If you have 20 kids sign up, you can easily handle the group with three or four people. If you have 60, you will need more.
If you have a large registration, you might consider structuring your staff in a way to have “stations.” Rather than have all the kids do the same thing at the same time, divide them into groups, by age, and have them rotate from station to station: the story station, the craft station, the music station, etc.
Step 5 – Rejoice and follow up!
So your VBS is over. Rejoice that you have had the opportunity to serve those children with the gospel. However, you are not quite done yet. You want to follow up in three ways.
First, follow up by sending a thank-you to every parent for putting their child in your VBS. It could be a simple thank you card with a hand-written note. Time permitting, a member of your congregational evangelism team could also follow up, face-to-face, and drop off the same gift your congregation shares with worship visitors.
Secondly, follow up by having other events that children and their parents might come to. Christmas Eve is a natural choice. Might there be others? What about a family movie night at church with pizza and popcorn? Or perhaps a Saturday evening VBS around Valentine’s Day that is “sold” as an opportunity for parents go out on a date? Or simply tell them about Easter for Kids, held in a few months. The point is you want to let the parents and children know you hope their visit was not a one-time thing.
Thirdly, there needs to be a leader—some key player—who thanks the VBS volunteers personally. They volunteered to serve Jesus, not to receive thanks. Thank them anyway!
Make this extra easy with a Christmas for Kids resource pack from Northwestern Publishing House
Nothing described here is overly difficult. However, if you want to make this extra easy, you can purchase a Christmas for Kids resource pack from Northwestern Publishing House. They sell three different versions. You can find them HERE.
These resource packs are geared towards ages 3 through 10. They are very thorough, containing things like:
- three levels of student lessons in PDF
- full-color Bible story pictures in JPG and PDF
- directions for planning, scheduling and conducting Christmas for Kids
- complete instructions for teaching at the various stations
- advertising pieces and clip art
- craft ideas, patterns, and photos
- snack and game suggestions
- an opening devotion
- a Bible story skit.
Most materials come in both English and Spanish.
The Christmas for Kids resource pack not only contains everything you need, it lays out how to use them step by step. It contains enough materials to give you Christmas for Kids ideas for multiple years.
If you have any questions or want to order by phone, call Northwestern Publishing House at 800-662-6022.
Blessings on your Christmas for Kids VBS efforts!
You can make a difference. Your prayers and gifts can help WELS ministries carry out their missions.