One way churches may choose to offer Vacation Bible School (VBS) this summer is as a backyard or neighborhood experience.
Given the current environment with COVID-19, the advantages to this approach are many: reduced number of children in attendance at one location, outside event, less materials needed for decorating and crafts, reduced budget and the chance to spend time with your neighbors. There is an added benefit of reaching several neighborhoods if your church has a strategy to provide multiple locations in your community.
Consideration for the locations of a network of neighborhood VBS sites is crucial. Are there children in the surrounding area that can come to a neighborhood VBS? Can this be a walk-in event, or will parents need to drive to the location? If so, will parking be a problem?
If your church is considering offering sites throughout your area or county, are there other churches that may be interested in partnering with your church to provide leadership or resources in lieu of not offering VBS to their children?
If you choose to use this neighborhood VBS strategy, there are unique safety and security concerns you need to address and plan for:
- Be sure to have at least two adults over the age of 18 who are not related by marriage to act as leaders of your VBS. Married couples can serve together, but there should be a third unrelated adult present.
- Screen any volunteers who are not already approved church workers by conducting a background check and following up with reference checks.
- Create nametags for volunteers so parents know who is authorized to have access to their children.
- Check the local sex offender registry near sites where you may choose to hold your VBS. Make volunteers aware of any you identify.
- Have a plan for securely dropping off and picking up children. This method can be as simple as using matching carnival tickets or creating matching number cards on your computer.
- Have a registration form with name and contact information for each child. Provide a place for the names of other adults who are authorized to pick up the child, along with a place for permission to photograph children if that is part of your plan. Consider adding a place for medical information that you may need to know.
- Have an alternative plan in the event of inclement weather. If possible, host the VBS at a home with a garage, covered patio or tent.
- Consider scheduling your VBS to last two hours or less to minimize the need for children to use the site’s bathroom.
- Ask parents to make sure their children use the bathroom before coming to your VBS. If you need to take a child to a bathroom in your home, have a plan to do this securely.
- Post signs with any snacks you may provide so parents are alerted to the possibility of any allergens.
- Have hand sanitizer or water, soap and paper towels available for handwashing.
- Provide spray bottles of cleaner for sanitizing surfaces before and after each use by the children.
We pray you have a wonderful summer of VBS. It may look different, but with thoughtful consideration, children throughout your neighborhood will have the opportunity to hear the good news of Jesus when you say yes to VBS!
EDITOR’S NOTE: A neighborhood approach to VBS is one of four possible strategies suggested by LifeWay. The others are an at-home approach, an alternative approach and a traditional approach. These approaches are summarized in a free e-book titled “4 VBS Strategies for This Summer” that is available for download by clicking here.