Vacation Bible School at Miller Road
by Dr. Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
(Chapter 11 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, How to Boost Your Church Attendance)
By JO STRICKLAND, Pastor's Secretary
During the past two or three years we have had many requests for information regarding our vacation Bible schools. We have tried to help some pastors and churches by conducting short Bible school clinics. After our clinic last year we were requested by a number of pastors and workers to put our ideas and suggestions in print. We have prepared this chapter in the hope that it will be of some help to you in planning your vacation Bible school.
I believe that the key to a successful Bible school, to having one that both the pupils and workers will enjoy and be blessed from, is advance planning. Advance planning makes a great deal of difference in what actually goes on during the week or two weeks that your school is conducted.
1. Set Your Date Early. Early in the year, as the pastor plans his annual program or schedule, the vacation Bible school should be considered and a definite date set for it. Most churches find that June is the most acceptable month for it-but there are some churches which wait until August, just before school starts again. We think that June is a good time; however, we do not prefer the first week after school is out for the summer. True, many children go on vacations as soon as school is out; but usually the children respond much better if the school is not conducted until they have been out of public school for at least a couple of weeks.
Many churches have a two-week school, others prefer ten days, and still others have found it advisable to have school only one week. We have found that the latter works best for us. It seems that with so much time and work involved, the workers give their best for a one week school; but many of them cannot give themselves completely to a two-week schedule. If preparation day and enrollment is held in advance, perhaps on Friday or Saturday before the school is to begin on Monday, then much can be accomplished in a five-day school.
2. Publicize Your Bible School. For several weeks prior to the date that your Bible school is to begin, publicize the school. This may be done in the church bulletin or newspaper, through the Sunday school classes and departments, through the mail, and from the pulpit. Your pastor can do more for you in publicizing your school than anyone else. The response of the children who attend, and the workers who help with the school, largely depends on how interested the pastor becomes in it, and how excited he gets about it himself as he announces it from the pulpit.
3. Enlistment of Workers. As soon as possible after the date has been set for the school, enlist your superintendent of the school. Many times the pastor serves as superintendent of the school, or perhaps the associate pastor or educational director fills this position. If someone other than the pastor is superintendent, then he, of course, will work closely with the pastor in planning the school.
The school superintendent may wish to enlist all of the workers, or he may prefer only to enlist the various departmental superintendents, and then assist them in enlisting the workers for their own departments. It is good to use as many workers as possible with the same age groups that they teach in Sunday school or youth groups. This way they are already acquainted with most of the pupils who will attend, with their problems and abilities. This makes it better not only for the workers, but for the pupils as well. In addition to the teachers and work- in the Sunday school and youth groups, others should also be used. This is a wonderful time to train new workers for the Sunday school and youth groups. Many of the Sunday workers have secular jobs and are unable to help in Bible school while, at the same time, there are many mothers and housewives who are willing to work in Bible school who feel they cannot teach on Sundays. Therefore, Bible school time is a good time for training new workers.
4. Departmental Divisions. The more departments you have, the greater Bible school attendance you will have. If at all possible, have at least one department for each age group-that is, one for those under four years of age, one for those four and five, one for those six, seven and eight, one for the juniors-nine through twelve, and one for those thirteen and up. If your school is a large one, it is our suggestion that you have a department for each year-one for the six-year-olds, one for the seven-year-olds, etc. At any rate, try to keep the preschool age children from those who go to school, because of the difference in their attention span and abilities. You will find it helpful if you can have a department for about every twenty-five or thirty pupils, and a worker for every five pupils.
5. Planning Meetings. Textbooks that are to be used in the school should be given to the superintendents of departments as early as possible, so that they may study them and decide upon the lessons or programs which they are to use. Then, as soon as the superintendents have had the opportunity to study the textbooks, each departmental superintendent should get together with the workers of the department, for a planning meeting.
We have found it helpful to have a general meeting with the school superintendent, pastor, and all workers twice before the school begins-the first time in the beginning of the planning of the Bible school, then again the week before the school is to start. This way general plans may be discussed and questions answered at the first meeting. At the second meeting, a check may be made to see if everything is ready and in order for the beginning of the school. Between these two general meetings, the department heads will probably need to have at least two meetings with their workers to make individual departmental plans.
Textbooks should be given out and planning started five to six weeks before time for the Bible school to begin.
If the work for each day is carefully planned, all mimeographing done, supplies bought, and the work for the entire week presented to the workers in advance, the Bible school will run smoothly, the workers will enjoy it and be blessed by it and the pupils will greatly benefit from the school.
More about individual lesson planning will be said later in this chapter.
6. Preparation Day and Parade. On Friday or Saturday morning before the school is to begin on Monday, it is helpful to have Preparation day, and if possible, a parade.
The children may come at the time that Bible school will begin each day-line up and march into the auditorium, where they will be given brief instructions about the procedure for the school, to be followed each day the following week. They may be told where each department will meet, and leave the auditorium by department. Each group may go to its department for pre-enrollment.
As much of the enrolling as possible should be done on preparation day. This will save much valuable time, and cause less confusion on the first day of the school.
We have found it helpful to do some pre-enrollment through the Sunday school departments prior to the first day of Bible school. This is especially helpful and saves much time in the preschool age departments where the children cannot write and many do not know their birthdays or addresses.
After pre-enrollment is completed in the departments -then it is time for the parade! This is always exciting and fun for the children, and the publicity helps the Bible school attendance. Each car in the parade may be decorated with posters or banners, giving the time and place of the Bible school. You may also wish to have circulars printed to be thrown from the cars as they travel. Some kind of public address or loudspeaker system is helpful for announcements about the Bible school as the parade progresses. Plans for this should be taken into consideration well in advance.
7. Daily Time Schedule for the School. A daily time schedule is important if the school is to operate smoothly. Each departmental superintendent should have a tentative time schedule worked out in advance, with a copy for each worker in the department. Some schools meet for three hours each day; some for two and one-half hours each day. For a one-week school, I think it is good if the school lasts for three hours each day; for a ten-day or two-week school, I believe that two and one-half hours daily is ample time.
Following is a suggested time schedule designed for one of our beginner groups, which might be helpful in working out one of your own. Of course, each age group would vary, since the older groups would have longer Bible study, mission activity, and more extensive notebook work.
SUGGESTED TIME SCHEDULE FOR BEGINNERS
Monday through Friday: 9:00 - 11:30 a.m.
(Preparation day-pre-enrollment and parade on Friday, June 8th)
9:00 a.m.-Line up by departments and march into auditorium
9:00-9:20 a.m.-General assembly in auditorium
In YOUR Department:
First 5 Minutes-(If you have a piano in your department, have pianist there playing as the children come to the department. This will aid in getting the children settled.)
Explain about the mission offering that will be taken each day and tell where it will go. Then take the offering first so children will not lose their money.
10 Minutes-Go to tables (assign children to same teacher and same table for each day of the school). Workers at tables assist department secretary in checking records, filling out enrollment cards on new members each day.
Mark attendance charts. Stick on stars, seals (if you use individual attendance charts, be sure each child has one with his name on it).
15 Minutes-Come back to large group (all departments together).
Have songs selected and planned in advance to go with lesson.
Fingerplays or relaxation exercises.
Bible story for the day. Prayer. (Use flannelgraph, or other interest center with Bible story.)
20 Minutes-After the Bible story, go back to tables. Memory verse for the day to be used or taught by teachers (may have poster for this). Then, begin notebook work (one page each day) until time for refreshments.
10 Minutes-Refreshments. Have thanks in your department before going outside. Instruct children to return to department promptly after refreshments.
10 Minutes-If notebook work was not completed before refreshments, come back to tables and finish work. Be sure each child's name is on his notebook cover, and on each page, if a page is added each day of the school.
10 Minutes-The whole department meets together for a child life or conduct story. If you do not have a conduct story for each day, you may use action songs here, not above with your Bible story time. Also fingerplays relaxation exercises may be used here.
20 Minutes-Return to auditorium for fun time with "Silly Billy," "Ole Timer" and "Phooidini." (If necessary, one or two workers may remain in the department to straighten up and get ready for the next work.)
20 Minutes-Handwork. Let the children make something each day. Plan handwork that has teaching value, to help accomplish purpose for the day.
Let the children do as much of the work as possible. Don't do it for them. Plan your handwork to be simple enough that they may enjoy doing it. Don't plan so much that they will have to be rushed to finish what they are supposed to do for the day.
5 Minutes-Clean up time and announcements. Try to finish your work in time for the children to help clean tables. Superintendent should give the teachers about five minutes "warning" before clean-up time so that they may complete their work for the day. Avoid rush and confusion these last few minutes. Keep the children orderly.
Workers should be sure to keep younger children inside the rooms until they are called for. Be careful that none of the pupils get lost or upset.
Each day right after refreshments, you may let the children get drinks and go to the restroom. This will avoid children running in and out during the sessions each day.
After school each day teachers should remain for five minutes to review the schedule for the following day with the superintendent, to check to see that each worker has enough supplies, etc. Be sure that each worker understands what the plans are for each day.
At least one worker from each department should be assigned to come early each day (a different one each day) to help the children who come first know where to line up. This will avoid confusion among the younger children before school ever begins, and is helpful through-out the day.
This schedule is merely a guide to help you in adjusting to your own schedule. Do not try to pack too much into one day. If you find that you have too much work planned for any one day, leave some of it off. If on other days you find that you have some extra time, you should have some games, puzzles, modeling clay and other activities planned in advance for "fill-in" activity.
After your time schedule is worked out, it is easier to plan your program for each day, since you will then know approximately how much time you may use for each activity. Each worker in your department should be given a copy of this schedule.
Now, it is time for the department superintendent, along with the "right-hand man" or associate superintendent, to get together with all of the workers to plan the lesson and activities for each day. The following planning sheet might be helpful to you in working out your Bible school programs:
DAILY LESSON PLANS FOR BEGINNERS
Unit for the Week: "Learning about Homes"
(You may also wish to insert your aim or purpose for the week, or you may wish to include a purpose or aim for each day).
Lesson Title: "What Makes a Happy Home?"
Aim: Lead the children to work out the answer to the above question-through their work, through their play, conversation, the Bible story, the handwork, etc.
Bible Story: Exodus 1:7; 2:10-"How Miriam Helped to Make Her Home Happy" (Use Baby Moses Flannel-graph)
Conduct or Child Life Story: Page 26 of textbook-"Mary Finds out What Makes a Happy Home"
Bible Verse for Today: "Let us love one another." (I John 4:7. (To be on feather of colored construction paper-pasted on "chief" on memory verse poster-one poster for each table.)
Notebook: Start notebook today. The back is mimeo-graphed on green construction paper, in shape of a home. Put the child's name on page 1 in place indicated. Use page 2 to stick on flag seals, pledges, Bible, etc. (This may be done on Tuesday, or when-ever you have time.)
Page for notebook for today is picture of a home (this may be child's own home, or picture of a home from magazine-teachers will have these.)
Handwork: House-mimeographed on white construction paper. Teachers will have them cut out in advance.
Children may put them together, so that they stand up. (They may take these home.)
Other Suggestions for Monday:
Supplies That I Will Need for Monday:
___________ (Name of worker) is to come early on Monday to greet children who come early, and assist them in lining up.
Lesson Title: "I Can Talk to God in My Home"
Aim: To let the children know that they can talk to God any time, anywhere, as they would talk to a friend. Try to make prayer a happy experience for them.
Conduct or Child Life Story: "How Bobby Learned to Talk to God in His Own Home" (Page 31 of textbook)
Bible Verse for Today: "God will hear me." Micah 7:7. (Mimeographed on colored paper-cut out and paste on poster.)
Notebook: Put in page with picture of family praying children may color picture. The Family Fingers' Good Morning finger play may be pasted on back of page 1. Also, paste the pledges, flags and Bible seals on today if this was not done yesterday.
Handwork: Plaque of boy and girl praying, on black construction paper, spatter painted, with gummed hanger on back. (You will need cigar box, screen wire, white shoe polish, old toothbrushs for spatter painting.)
Other Suggestions and Materials for Tuesday:
___________ (Name of worker) is to come early on Tuesday to greet children who come early, and assist them in lining up.
Lesson Title: "God Teaches Birds and Animals to Make Homes"
Bible Story: Part of the creation story-Genesis 1. (Use flannelgraph.) Other Scripture references: Matthew 6:26, 8:20; Luke 12:6; Deuteronomy 32:11; Job 37:8; Psalm 84:3; 104:10-12, 16-18. Conduct or Child Life Story: "How the Birds Made a Home"
Bible Verse for Today: "Your heavenly Father feedeth them." Matthew 6:26.
"The birds . . . have nests." Matthew 8:20.
Notebook: Teachers should have the bird's nests (on brown construction paper) cut out. Also, have the eggs cut out of white or light blue. Let the children paste the bird nests on their notebook pages, then paste eggs in nests and stick on bird seals.
Handwork: Teachers should have fish cut out of white construction paper. Let children cover with glitter or Christmas snow. Tie string through mouth. Wheel of "Animal Friends." Let children stick animal seals on lower circle. Have hole cut in top circle, brad in center. As they turn top circle, animals will show through hole.
Other Suggestions for Wednesday: For special interest centers, have one teacher bring bowl of goldfish, someone else a real bird's nest, a real bird or other animal.
___________ (Name of worker) is to come early on Wednesday to greet children who come early, and assist them in lining up.
Lesson Title: "We Think and Talk about Church Homes" Aim: Teach the children the name of their church and of their pastor. Lead them to feel that it is "their" church home; also, let them know that it is God's house.
Bible Story: Use flannelgraph of Samuel.
Conduct or Child Life Story: "How Some Children Helped in God's House"
Bible Verse for Today: "I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord." Psalm 122:1.
Notebook: Let the children paste a picture of a church (or of their own church) on the notebook page for today. Perhaps they will want to stick on seals of boys and girls going to church.
Handwork: Teachers will have church cut out of white construction paper, with windows cut out. Let children paste colored cellophane paper across the back to look like light shining through the windows. They may also paste artificial "grass" around the church, and stick flower seals on.
Other Suggestions for Today: Plan some kind of note or reminder to send home to parents, inviting them to visit the school on Friday, if that is the last day of the school. Also, tell them about the picnic plans, if there is to be one .
___________ (Name of worker) is to come early on Friday to greet children who come early, and assist them in lining up.
Lesson Title: "We Talk about Jesus and the Heavenly Home"
Bible Story: The Heavenly Home
Bible Verse for Today: "I go to prepare a place for you." John 14:2b.
Notebook: Finish notebook today so that children may take it home. The page for today is: Church window that opens; let children paste Sallman's head of Christ seal inside window. Look through the notebook with the children, reviewing each lesson briefly, and the Bible verses that have been used.
Let the children take home any work that they have not taken during the week; also, let them take their attendance charts. (This plan is based on a five day school.) Suggestion for attendance: You may have crowns with five points cut out of blue (or any color) construction paper. Let child paste a gold or silver star on one point each day he is present. Have child's name printed on crown in white or gold ink. Punch hole in each side and run rubber band through it. The children may wear these crowns at commencement, if you have one. If not, let them wear them home on the last day of the school.
If there is to be a commencement program, keep a sample of the notebook and of each piece of work that you have made during Bible school for display.
The ideas for handwork, mission projects and interest centers for the various age groups are unlimited. We try to plan handwork with teaching value, or try to make something which may be useful either at home or around the church-for example, some of the older students make pulpit stands for the classrooms, coat racks, hat trees, planters for the windows or tables, curtains, aprons for the nursery and beginner children to wear while pasting, etc.
With some study and planning, some interesting note-books, maps and other items may be made in mission study with the older pupils.
We trust that the foregoing sample daily lesson plans will help you in making your plans for your own group.
SOME GENERAL SUGGESTIONS FOR BIBLE SCHOOL
The Pastor's Part in Bible School. Vacation Bible school time is a wonderful time for the children to get to know the pastor, and for the pastor, in turn, to become acquainted with the children. Many of the children who come to Sunday school, whose parents do not attend the church, never get to stay for the preaching services, and do not even know the pastor. Our pastor takes an active part in our Bible schools. He and the children look forward to this time each year, when the pastor will spend some time with the children. He usually dresses informally during the days of Bible school and drops by several departments each day, just to "stick his head in" for a moment to visit. Then, as the department comes out for refreshments, he goes out and visits with them during refreshment time. Later in this chapter we will mention the pastor's part in the general assembly of the Bible school in the auditorium.
We have special Bible school "characters" each year, which we shall discuss later in this chapter. The pastor publicizes these characters from the pulpit each service for several weeks before the school begins. It seems that the pastor's interest and excitement about the school, and the way he creates enthusiasm about it from the pulpit, do more than anything else in helping us have the large numbers that we do have in our school each year. For the past few years we have had an enrollment of near 1,000 with an average attendance of nearly 700!
Special Events in Our Bible School. Many schools only have one general assembly of the school in the auditorium, which is the first fifteen or twenty minutes each morning. However, we have two sessions in the auditorium for the entire school-the first one as soon as the children arrive in the morning, as they line up and march into the auditorium, and then again later in the morning, usually about forty-five minutes before the close of school each day.
At this first session in the auditorium we have the usual procedure, with pledges to the flags and the Bible; then, we use the second assembly for our special events. This is the highlight of our school, and we perhaps reach more boys and girls for our Bible school through promotion of these characters and events than by any other method.
Each year we have "Silly Billy," the ugliest boy in the world; "Phooidini," the gospel magician; and "The Ole Timer," who is Silly Billy's grandfather. The pastor presents each of these characters when we are in the auditorium the second time. "Silly Billy" and "Ole Timer" is an ad-lib affair with the pastor. It is difficult to put into words just how effective this skit is each day. Then Phooidini, the magician, presents a gospel "trick," which the children all look forward to each day. Each of these "characters" wears some kind of costume, which may be rented for a nominal price at any costume shop, or you may make one of your own which will be just as effective. The "magician" may get various games or tricks, from a hobby or novelty shop.
Crowning the "King and Queen." Another thing that all of the children, as well as the workers, look forward to each day, is the crowning of the king and queen. It is announced in advance, and each morning of the school, that each girl who brings the most visitors to Bible school who do not attend our Sunday school, will be crowned "queen for the day." The boy who brings the most visitors that do not attend our Sunday school will be crowned "king for the day." The king and queen for the day are determined as we come into the auditorium the second time, after the records have been completed, and they are crowned at the beginning of this second assembly, and sit on the platform with their crowns on during this second session. Each day the king and queen get to keep their crown to take home with them. (These crowns are made by some of the workers from white poster paper and silver glitter.) At the close of the school we find out which boy and girl have brought the most visitors for the entire school, and they are crowned king and queen of the Bible school. Their pictures are taken, and usually used in our church newspaper.
The Mission Offering. Before the Bible school begins, we decide where our mission offering will go. The children get more joy from bringing their money each day if they know exactly where it is going. It also helps the departmental superintendents in planning their mission activities and interest centers. We send our mission offering each year to some of our own missionaries who have gone out from our church, and whom the children and the workers know.
This mission offering is taken in the departments each morning. A report of approximately how much money is received in each department is turned in with the records each day. Then, when we are in the auditorium the second time, the pastor gives a report of the offering. We have a large balloon, usually in the shape of some animal. The pastor has to put a big "puff" into the balloon for each dollar received in the mission offering. As the offering increases each day, the balloon gets larger and larger. There is much fun and excitement as the children wait for the balloon to burst in the pastor's face.
Many times the offering increases so rapidly that two or three balloons are burst before the end of Bible school.
Commencement. We have found it advisable in recent years not to have a commencement program at the close of Bible school because of the size of our school. By the time each department had just a few minutes on the pro-gram, it would run in to quite a lengthy program, and the children, as well as the parents, become restless. Also, when there is such a large number of pupils, it is difficult to have "open house" in the departments following the commencement because of limited space.
However, if your school is small, it is good to have commencement. Members of each department may be given a few moments to present some of their work and the things they have learned, at a general assembly in the auditorium. Diplomas may be presented by the pastor or the school superintendent as each department finishes its part in the program.
One year we had our commencement on Sunday morning following the close of Bible school on Friday. This was publicized as Bible School Sunday. At the beginning of the Sunday school hour, everyone assembled in the auditorium. The children went through the regular Bible school procedure, repeating the pledges, etc. Then the various "characters" are presented and the king and queen crowned. The Bible school workers are introduced, and each department has a display on the platform, or some place in the auditorium, showing some of the work done during the week.
We have also found it advisable to invite the parents to visit the various departments sometime during the school, perhaps on the last day of the school.
Vacation Bible school can mean much to your Sunday school and to your church, and can be a time of enjoyment rather than a drudgery if it is well planned. Although we do not have a decision service each day in which the children are pressed to make a decision for Christ we do have a time during our school when the pastor speaks to the juniors in a special service, presents the plan of salvation and gives them an opportunity to be saved. Each child who comes forward to accept Christ is dealt with separately by the pastor and associate pastor, and the Lord has blessed us each year with a number of genuine conversion experiences in our Bible schools. As a result of these experiences, many of the parents have been reached for Christ.
We believe it well worth your efforts to have a vacation Bible school in your church each summer, and we trust that some of the foregoing outlines and suggestions will be of help to you in planning your school.
More Life Changing Sermons by Dr. Jack Hyles:
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