It’s almost time for your church to open its doors to children from a variety of backgrounds for Vacation Bible School. Whether you’re expecting five or five hundred children this year, I hope you realize how important your ministry is—you’re impacting hearts and minds for Christ!
Working with children is a joy, it’s rewarding, but it can also be a challenge (all those with experience working with children say “amen” to that!). But there are specific, practical tips you can follow when working with kids that will ensure your week goes as smoothly as possible. Here are our top 5:
- Learn names. Being able to call out a child’s name works wonders in your ability to manage the classroom and keep children’s attention. Study your class list beforehand, so you are already familiar with the names, then you just have to put faces to the kids’ names. All children should have name tags, but make sure they are visible, especially on day one as you are learning their names. If you have trouble remembering names, consider trying one of these tips to help you:
- Say their name several times (in a natural, conversational way). When the child walks into your room, check their name tag (let’s use Henry as an example), and say, “Hi, Henry. I’m so-and-so, it’s so nice to have you here today!” Then, if time allows, ask them a question using their name, “How did you hear about VBS, Henry?” or “Are you excited for your first day at VBS, Henry?” Repeating their name several times, while you are looking at their face, will help you associate their face with their name.
- Spell out their name. Looking at the child’s name tag to see how their name is spelled may help cement that name in your mind, especially if it’s an unusual name.
- Associate their name with someone or something. Perhaps you had an uncle named Henry. Associating little Henry with your Uncle Henry will help you recall the name.
Eliminate downtime. You know what happens with children and downtime? Things go downhill! Avoid chaos by having a plan and sticking with it as much as possible.
But what happens if you’re headed for craft rotation and the group ahead of you is still finishing their craft? All of a sudden, you’ve got three or four minutes of downtime you weren’t expecting. Have a plan for these times. Practice memory verses, have some fun conversation starters, play a review game, or share some Terrific Trivia Tidbits or Global Giggles (pages 10–12 of the Director’s Guide) with the kids. Ensure that all volunteers know that their phones belong in their pockets and not in their hands during VBS hours. You are there to focus on the children, so make sure you’re focusing on them and not on your device.
- Use active learning. Kids remember more if they’re involved and if they are interacting. We’ve written the curriculum to be interactive to help the kids get as much as possible out of this week. Be sure to engage students as much as possible throughout the lesson, using their name to get their attention when you ask them a question.
- Think about safety. This is very important. Here are some practical tips:
- Ensure two unrelated adults are always present with children. Make sure you know any and all policies your church has in place regarding child safety such as restroom policies (e.g., only female workers take children to restrooms) and appropriate touching (e.g., no hugging children, unless they hug you first). Follow their policies! This ensures parents can feel at ease entrusting their children to you. If your church doesn’t have any policies, speak with your VBS director about creating some for VBS volunteers.
- Count children every time you move to a different station—you don’t want to all of a sudden realize you had ten children and somewhere along the way you lost one!
- Ensure you know which volunteers have first aid, CPR, or medical training and how to quickly contact them in the event of a minor emergency. Always know where first aid kits are located for small bumps or scrapes. Anything serious should prompt a 911 call.
- Remember the restroom! Be sure to take restroom breaks, especially if you’re working with younger children. I’m sure you can understand why this one is important!
These tips will help you have a smooth VBS week but, most importantly, remember to pray and love on those kids. No amount of effort or preparation can replace or compare with a genuine love for kids and a ministry that seeks God’s blessing. And have fun! If you’re enjoying this time, the children will too!
Learn more about Answers VBS at AnswersVBS.com.