Vacation Bible School (VBS) Tips¶
Most churches have Vacation Bible School. Or at least, they have some version of what we typically call VBS. This article is designed to give you some ideas, pointers, shortcuts - things that might make your life easier from enlisting volunteers/workers to registering children online to notifying parents - and more. We want you to be free to focus on ministering to the children and to their families.
Online Enlistment of Teachers / Workers / Volunteers¶
We have a companion article with suggestions for using TouchPoint and online registration to help enlist VBS workers. It contains a couple of sample registrations as well.
Online Registration for Children¶
Our suggestion is to use a Master Org and Compute Org by Birthdate type of online registration.
For this type of registration, you create one organization that will be the Master Org, and you create one organization for each grade or age level. Each of those grade or age-level organizations would have a Start and End Birthdate. Using Compute Org by Birthdate instead of User Selects ensures that children are placed in the classroom that best fits their age, instead of the grade where the parent wants to place them.
You may want to include a statement in your email confirmation telling parents that children are placed in classes based on their date of birth. If their child should be placed in a lower grade, they should call the church.
- Multiple Classrooms per Grade
If you have more than one classroom per grade / age, you will probably still want to use only one organization per grade for the registration. However, you will also need to create all the individual organizations for each of the actual classrooms. Some larger churches may have anywhere from 2 to 20 classes per grade or age.
If that is the case for your church, as children begin to register, you can use Manage Org Members to move children into the organization for their specific classroom. Manage Org Members has a feature that allows you to send an email room notice to the parents telling them that their child has been placed in a classroom, and giving the Location and the Leader’s name. In order for that information to display in these notices, make sure you have your Leader Type set on the Organization and that you have enrolled the leader, and that you have a Location on the organization settings.
The email confirmation the parents receive at the time they register could be in the Settings > Messages tab of the Master Org, instead of on each grade-level organization. This confirmation could contain information letting the parent know that the child will be placed in an individual classroom later, and that they will receive an email with the room number and teacher’s name (the one sent from Manage Org Members) prior to the start of VBS.
We recommend closing online registration a day or two before VBS begins, so you have time to make sure every child is placed in an individual classroom.
- One Classroom per Grade
- If you have just one classroom per grade, you might prefer to create the Confirmation on each of the grade-level orgs instead of on the Master Org. This allows you to put specific information regarding the location of the classroom and any other details relating specifically to that age group right in the initial confirmation email.
Recording Attendance: Rollsheets or Self-Checkin?¶
Most churches have more children attending their VBS than they normally have on a Sunday morning. Therefore, using self-check-in for everyone may not be practical, due to the number of checkin stations that would be required to check in an abnormally high number of people.
We have 2 suggestions regarding this:
- Print rollsheets for recording daily attendance.
- Use your check-in stations to register (as guests) those children who have not pre-registered.
- Print a Roster or Roster Extended Report to keep in each classroom, as these list all the children and any allergies or medical conditions.
See Registration on Day One below for more info regarding registration once VBS has started.
Schedules - Rollsheets - Meetings¶
- Do not give your VBS organizations a Schedule. For normal weekly classes, schedules are helpful for printing rollsheets and using check-in. However, you will not want these classes to display for check-in except for the week of VBS.
- You can print the rollsheets by filtering for your VBS classes (Program and Division) and entering the correct date and time (without a schedule, it defaults to Sun 8:00 AM).
Without a schedule, you have to create the meetings ahead of time in order to use check-in. However, you can create these meetings without having to go to each organization to do so. Remember, even if you are not using check-in for your members, you may want to use it for those that have not pre-registered, in order to easily add them as guests. So, you will want to create the meetings ahead of time in order to do that.
You can create these meetings any time prior to the start of VBS. Because there is not a schedule, these meetings will not display for check-in until the actual start date of VBS, which will be the date of the first meeting you created.
Registration on Day One of VBS¶
Despite your best efforts, there will still be children who come to VBS on the first day and have not pre-registered. Praise God for each little soul who attends. However, this can present a special challenge on Monday.
Here are our suggestions:
- Close online registration before the start of VBS.
- Use your check-in kiosks (or mobile devices) to register children who come and have not pre-registered.
- Treat each child just as you would a Sunday morning guest, adding them as a guest to a specific VBS classroom.
- Be sure all of your available classes are flagged to Allow Self-Check-in, and that they each have a Start and End Birthdate. This will help insure that children who do not pre-register are placed in the correct class for their age.
- If you have classes that are full or some for which you do not want to add children, either remove the Allow Self-Check-in flag or check Suspend Check-in on the Attendance tab of the organization.
If Suspend Check-in is checked, the org will not display unless you use the Magic Button, which will display all classes that allow self-check-in.
Why add the children as guests and not enroll them as members?
- The parent will get a Location Label so they know where to take their child.
- The child has a Label to Wear and one to give the teacher to place on the rollsheet.
- Adding Guests as Members
When recording attendance, there is a very quick way to enroll all the guests for that meeting as members of the class. While on the Meeting page, select the blue Toolbar > Gear and then Add All Guests to Meeting.
Once you’ve done that for each class, you can print roll sheets to have in each classroom the next day.
At our church, we enlist our staff to man the check-in stations on Monday and Tuesday, as that is when the most new children arrive unregistered. It tapers off toward the end of the week, so it takes fewer to get them registered. However, we continue to register children at the check-in kiosks throughout the week.
- Registration Questions
These are a few questions you may want to include in your online VBS registration.
- Allergies - so that you have a record of any medical conditions.
- Parents - for those who do not attend your church, this will be very helpful.
- Request - if you want to allow the child to specify a friend or a teacher.
- Emergency Contact - this will give you a phone number to call in case of a problem.
- Enrollment Control Report
This is a very handy report to print and have in a notebook, so that a volunteer or staff member can help parents who have forgotten which room their child is assigned to. It is an alphabetical listing of everyone and their room assignment. There is an iPad version as well, which is great because it is always up-to-date and you do not have to print anything.
- Roster Extended Report
We recommend you print this for each classroom. It has the child’s medical information as well as information about the parents and contact information. The Roster Report is a pared-down version that does not have the parent information. Remember, if you get a lot of new enrollees after the first day, you will want to re-print this.
Once VBS has ended, what then? The follow-up begins! Don’t miss this perfect opportunity to contact the parents of those children who attended VBS and who are not involved in another church.