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Friday, April 28, 2017

You CAN write your own VBS - here are themes, ideas and suggestions to get you started

I have really enjoyed writing my own VBS's.  It's not as hard as you think - especially if you have helpers.  I planned it all on my own this year and it was a little harder.  Next year I will have some help :)  This year was my 9th year leading VBS and my 8th year writing it.  I have worked at four churches so I have repeated some of the themes, but now I am ready to look for new ones!  This is what I look for in a theme...

1. The most important thing is that it is Biblically based.  Cowboy themes, NYC, jungle themes, deep sea diving, etc. are cute and fun but not at all Biblical.  What I've found is that these themes really have to stretch to connect the stories to the theme and half the time they don't connect at all.  If they do connect, I guarantee you the kids don't get it - especially the younger ones.  VBS themes CAN be Biblical and still FUN!!

2.  Another thing I think of is decoration ideas.  In the small church I worked in, this wasn't a big deal, but at the church where I am now I have a lot more freedom and help to create some amazing sets.

3.  Obviously, one of the things I look for is FUN!!  Yes, there are lots of stories in the Bible that talk about people dying...but that's not exactly fun is it? lol  Pick a theme that you think the kids will find interesting, fun and exciting!

4.  Lastly, I look at the stories that relate to the theme.  Are there enough stories to go with the theme?  Are they child friendly and fun stories?  Are there stories from both Testaments?  One example of this is what I did this year.  About 5 years ago there was a VBS kit being sold called Let's Get Cooking or Shake it up (something like that).  The theme was cooking and I thought it was a really neat idea!  When I looked at the stories not only were they obscure (which is ok...although I wouldn't want all of them to be that way) they were not very interesting!  Since the theme had intrigued me, I made up my own cooking one this year with my own stories :)

So, here are some theme ideas, some stories to go along with them; and, if I've done the VBS, I may have a few resources (including songs, print outs, etc) you could buy on my teachers pay teachers page.

Here we go!!

1.  WATER!  
You don't have to go nuts and do scuba diving or tropical paradise, etc.  Just make the theme WATER!  Call it what you want :)  There are tons of fun stories with this theme.  I did this about 5 years ago and we had a great time.  I lost a lot of my documents but I do have my skeletal outline with all my activities and songs.  You can find it for sale here.
Moses - in the basket and parting the red sea,
Jonah and the whale (not my fave but still has water),
Jesus walking on water and calming the sea,
Noah (also not my favorite, but well-known),
Jesus changing water into wine,

this really goes with the Bible in general.  you can pick any story you want to promote reading.  But you could concentrate on the Books of the Bible and how it is made up.  Also, using the Scripture from Deuteronomy 9 about writing the Scripture above your doorposts, etc would be good.

OT suggestions - Queen Esther, David, Daniel, Joseph
NT suggestions - Paul, Silas, Disciples, and of course, Jesus


I've done this one 3 times - at three of the four churches where I worked :)  I am passionate about missions so it's special to me.  I've got a lot of resources for it so feel free to pop over to teachers pay teachers and you can look at what I have to offer.  Basically, I picked 4 continents for the kids to study, one for each day of VBS (the last day we did something different).  Each day, when they went to their rotations (art, games, etc) they traveled to different countries.  They learned how the kids in that country ate, sang, played, created, etc.  The decorations were so much fun :)  Because you have different connections at different churches, every year I did this it was very different.  One church has a couple from Thailand so they came in, talked to the kids and made Thai treats for them.  Another church had someone who had gone to a few countries in Europe and brought back some clothing from different countries - the kids got to try them on and take pictures :)  I could do this every year and make it different every time!  The Bible verses focused on making Disciples of all Nations, how every part of the body is important and how God made us all different but loves us just the same.  You can buy all my materials here for $45.

5.  COOKING - 
Like I said, this one we did this year.  It was tons of fun!  Instead of t-shirts each child got and decorated an apron :) The stories we used (but certainly aren't limited to) were:
Moses and Manna
Elijah fed by ravens and widow
Jesus feeding the 5000
The Last Supper
We also contemplated Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego when they were at the palace and ate the healthy food instead of the unhealthy food - but decided on Elijah (a longer story and pretty interesting).  Plus, the Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego story isn't really about that...
There are other parables as well that have food/seeds in them but I really liked the Feeding of the 5000 and Last Supper for the New Testament.  To purchase all the files I used and generated for this VBS you can go here.  It's $35.

6.  ANIMALS - 
this could be a barnyard type theme where you only use stories with farm animals or you could extend it to every animal and just call it God's Animal Kingdom :)
 - Noah's ark
 - Balaam's donkey
 - Jesus' birth (stable and wise men/camels)
 - Jonah and the whale
 - some of the plagues of Moses
 - Palm Sunday
 - Creation/Adam and Eve
 - Jesus' baptism (dove)
 - Disciples catching the fish
 - Elijah fed by ravens
 - David as a shepherd
 - Daniel and the Lions
 - Matthew 6 talking about the birds in the air
 I could go on but I'll stop there :)

7.  BOATS - 
instead of just a water theme you could go more specific and make it a Cruise ship theme!  lots of stories with boats in them!  Let the kids each build a raft :)
 - Noah's ark
 - Jesus calms the storm
 - Jesus walks on water
 - Fisher's of men
 - Moses in the basket (sort of a boat :)
 - Jonah
 - Jesus fills Peter's boat
 - Paul traveling in boat or "prison ship" (acts 27)
 - Jesus preaching from the boat

8.  LOVE - 
for a shorter VBS I have done this one.
 - Love the Lord your God with all your heart (greatest commandment)
 - Love your neighbor as yourself (Good Samaritan)
 - Love yourself - I am fearfully and wonderfully made!

9.  GO GREEN - 
take care of our earth; which embodies taking care of ourselves, our land and our animals
 - creation - you could just go with this the whole week
 - ezekiel 47
 - romans 8
 - many psalms - 19 is good

10.  Pick a Location
pick a popular/well known city in the Bible and teach stories from that city.  Dress from that time, decorate from that time period, etc.  You could also make it a DESERT theme and do stories from cities in the desert.

11.  CAMPING - 
this would be a neat theme as far as decorations.  I would pick stories like Moses wandering in the desert, Jesus traveling from town to town, Paul and Silas and Abraham.


Building things!  I'm at a church where we do a lot of missions which include building/rebuilding houses.  What great decoration and craft ideas this would be!  You could do literal building stories (see below) or you could do "build your faith", "build your friendships", "build yourself", "build your family", "build your nation" or  "build your church"...or try and do both.
We did this one in 2017.  Here are my materials!

 - Parable of the wise and foolish builders
 - Solomon building the temple
 - Noah building the ark (not my favorite story for kids)
 - Exodus 25-30 Building of the Tabernacle offering
 - Jesus' father as a carpenter
 - the building of the first church in Acts (metaphorical)
 - Joash repairing the temple
 - you could go the opposite route and do the story of Jericho and how obedience is important...and how sometimes you have to tear things down before they can be built back up

13.  Jobs in the Bible - 
working in Biblical times - focus on some stories that talk about some of the important jobs people had back then
 - teacher
 - healer
 - preacher
 - and how Jesus was all 3!
 - you could also throw in carpenter/builder...which Jesus most likely was also because his father was one!
 - fisherman

14.  Focus on a person - 
I've sometimes felt that some of the people in the Bible get shortchanged because their stories are so long and the kids don't get to hear all of it.  We just pick out bits and pieces.  You could take the time to focus on the life of one person all week.  If you do multiple weeks of VBS this would be a really cool idea.  Here are some people in the Bible that have a story too long to learn in just one sitting!
 - Joseph (OT)
 - David
 - Moses
 - Jesus
 - Paul

15.  Kids in the Bible - 
little kids can do big things, too :)  Isn't that a Veggietales song? :)  Give the kids a boost of self-confidence by telling them stories of kids in the Bible that have done amazing things!
 - David
 - Joash
 - Samuel
 - Moses
 - Josiah
 - Jesus
 - little children brought to Jesus
 - Naaman's captive maid
 - Timothy

16.  Giving/Stewardship - 
Widow's Mite, Parable of the Talents, 1 Peter 4, 2 Corinthians 9, parable of the rich fool, Jesus

17.  Mission/Service - 
Paul, Disciples being commissioned, Romans 12 (we all have different gifts that we use to serve the Lord), Matthew 20:26-28, Jesus/Jesus washing the disciples' feet, Abraham, Moses, Philip, Daniel

18.  Prayer - 
You could talk about ACTS - adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication.  Use examples from the Bible:
Adoration - Hannah's prayer in 1 Samuel 2 would be great for this as well as many psalms
Confession - Psalm 32:5-7; psalm 51 David's confession
Thanksgiving - pick a psalm, any psalm :)  phillipians 4; Psalm 100
Supplication - paul praying for the people in Ephesus (eph 1); jonah
and of course, the Lord's prayer which pretty much encompasses all the above!

19.  STEAM Bible? 
would love to do this one...still working on it though...
 - God telling Abraham his descendents would be as numerous as the stars (astronomy)

20.  Praise God with Song and music!  
If you've got a musical church, consider learning about stories that have people singing to God with thanksgiving and praise or the Psalms that talk about praising God with the lyre and trumpet!  Bring in different bands, let the kids make instruments and play different instruments.

21.  Creation Story!  there are materials for purchase here.

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