Monday, March 12, 2007

Tips for VBS Crafts

Many of you are already busy looking for craft ideas for this year’s VBS. As you plan what crafts you will offer, consider these tips:

Fit the craft to your purpose: Your purpose is to teach children the truths of God’s Word, not to teach art skills. Choose crafts that reinforce the Bible story or reflect that day’s application. With the theme oriented VBS curriculum currently available, it’s easy for craft directors to merely choose crafts that emulate the theme such as making maracas for a Fiesta theme. Go beyond the environment theme. Try to catch the Bible theme as well. Remember my guiding principle in Christian education: make every activity you do reflect your purpose.

Fit the craft to your time: Do whatever you can to make the craft flow easily for the children. Be organized. Have everything arranged and on the table before the children arrive. Have the supplies each child will need setting at each table. Write out directions on card stock and place several copies in the middle of the table. Give verbal directions too; some children learn best by hearing the directions. Have a sample craft made so children can see the finished result. Have something else to do for those children who finish their craft early.

Fit the craft to your students: Choose crafts that are appropriate to the age and skill levels of your children. Just as some kids have difficulty learning to read, other children have difficulty with their fine motor skills. If you find yourself doing most of the craft, then perhaps you have chosen too difficult a craft. I know some teachers who want every craft to look exactly the same; perfection is their goal. Other teachers value allowing the child to make the craft by themselves regardless how messy and imperfect it becomes because they want to build the child’s self esteem. Children want to be able to say, “I did it myself.” Whatever your style of teaching crafts, remember my guiding principle of Christian education: make every activity you do reflect your purpose. Your purpose is not to help children make beautiful keepsake crafts. Nor is it to promote artistic self expression. Your purpose is to teach God’s way and to show God’s love.

Fit the craft time to divine opportunities. As a craft director or teacher, it’s important for you to have a sense of the broader picture of what is happening that week in VBS. Teachers, storytellers and music leaders don’t have the time to have conversations with individual kids. You do.

A year ago, a five year old girl from an unchurched family had just left my storytelling session. She came down to crafts where my 18 year old daughter was in charge. The little girl said to Katherine, “That story was so sad about that friend dying.” Katherine, knowing the story was about Lazarus, said, “But Jesus brought him back to life.” The little girl said, “I wish God would do that for my grandpa.” Katherine said, “If you and your grandpa believe in Jesus, you’ll get to see him in Heaven.” The child went on to her seat, now smiling.

If Katherine had not known what my story was that day, she would have probably given a perfunctory, “Uh Hah,” to the child’s first comment. If she had focused only on helping children make crafts, she would have hurried the child on to the daily project. But, because Katherine had a sense of the purpose for VBS, she took the time to talk with a child who needed to know the hope we have behind our faith.

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