Yesterday I attended one of those wonderful meetings at my local Christian bookstore where vendors promote their publishing company’s VBS package for the current year. I thought about comparing the curricula on this blog, but I realize that each church is different and that you need to choose the curriculum that best fits your church’s needs. Besides, since I write curriculum for one of the companies, I could so easily be accused of being biased! I do have a favorite curriculum this year so instead of doing a comparison, I asked myself what is it about this curriculum that I like? What should a church look for when selecting a VBS curriculum?
Vendors quite often will try to first sell you on the catchy theme, the environment in which their curriculum is set. But there’s a whole lot more to a VBS program than the theme. Here are some things to look for:
1) Bible content: To me, this is of first importance. After all, why are we doing VBS? Is it just to give kids a good time? Hopefully we are directing a VBS where children learn about Jesus. Consider: Do the stories center around a common theme or character?
How do the stories connect with what we call the environment theme? Are the stories concrete enough for children to be able to understand?
2) Focus Statements: Every company will list a focus statement for each day. These tell you what life lesson the material wants the children to learn. Scrutinize these carefully. Some statements are geared more for the unchurched child who needs to know the basics of God’s love. Others are tailored more for the children who have been coming to VBS for years. Some statements state a fact about God then give a goal of how children should respond to that fact. What do you want your VBS material to teach your kids about God?
3) Theme: Can your group of children relate to the theme? Do you have the personnel and resources to make that particular theme work for you? How is the theme connected to the Bible stories? Is the theme carried through every aspect of the VBS program? Is so much emphasis put on the theme that the bible stories become a dim afterthought?
4) Music: Are the songs relevant? Are they teachable? Are they abstract and full of Christian jargon? What helps are provided so you can teach the songs?
5) Price: Does this material fit your budget? Does the starter kit provide all you need or are there hidden costs? Some companies provide great audio video helps such as power point presentations, drama videos and theme posters, but all of this costs money. If your church is on a shoestring budget, can you still use the material without these more expensive extras? One company had a really neat interactive Bible story power point but the curriculum seemed built around the power point. The church who can’t afford this or doesn’t have the equipment to use this would have to make some major alterations.
Why didn’t I mention crafts or snacks? While material that coordinates the snacks and crafts is really cool, it isn’t a deal buster. Don’t discount a curriculum just because the crafts seem too difficult, costly or irrelevant. I’ve been a part of many VBS programs that make up their own crafts out of what we call “junk art.” A talented craft director should have no problem creating crafts. Also, look through the lesson for additional craft ideas beyond the suggested craft packages.
What are extras I like to see? I love the dramatic skits that can be used to open each session. If you have the people to carry this off, they can be so effective. Evaluate these as well for their relevancy, extra cost and length. Do you have the time in your program for the dramas? I also like to same suggestions for outdoor fun. Kinesthetic learners don’t always have the chance to move around in Sunday School classes. VBS offers this chance and well chosen games that fit the theme and message can be so effective. I especially like well written devotions for the teachers. This is a growing time for them and curriculum that uses devotions shows me the company’s commitment to discipleship.
Finally, I like material that gives directors and teachers well thought out tips and directions on how to plan a VBS. For new directors, VBS can be scary and a good curriculum can be such an encouragement and teaching tool for the newbie director.
So, choose your director, select your curriculum and get to work. Summer 2007 isn’t that far away!