How to Recruit and Equip VBS Volunteers
12 Tips for Finding and Keeping Vacation Bible School Helpers
From a child’s perspective, vacation Bible school — like all other highly anticipated events — seems to just magically “appear.” But behind the scenes, months of preparation and hours of volunteer work are required to pull off the summer program. The payoff certainly is worthwhile, both in terms of happy faces and changed lives. (And, as we have mentioned, the outreach potential of VBS is enormous, too!)
Finding and training VBS volunteers takes time but isn’t an insurmountable challenge. On the plus side, expanding your pool of potential children’s ministry helpers yields many long-term dividends. Plus, VBS unites the congregation in an exciting team effort.
When your church offers a high-quality VBS program each summer, people will be eager to join in and assist. So get ready to extend open invitations to trustworthy volunteers who love Jesus and cherish children!
Use these tips for finding helpers who are eager to share their time and talents with VBS participants. Then, once your volunteer lineup is in place, discover the best practices for training and safety. Following these suggestions will help your church — and the kids you serve — have the Very Best Summer!
Pro Tips: How to Recruit and Equip VBS Volunteers
First, let’s explore ways to locate the valuable assistants who make vacation Bible school possible. These volunteers help with everything from registration and decorations to classes and games. Then we’ll present important steps for equipping volunteers to excel and for ensuring everyone a safe, positive experience at VBS.
Recruit VBS Volunteers with These 7 Tips
- Start as early as possible. Ideally, you should begin the volunteer recruitment process soon after the new year begins. Include short, creative blurbs in the church newsletter, on the church website, and on its social media platforms. Those “help needed” ads will get people thinking ahead to summer and anticipating how they might contribute to VBS.
- Cast a wide net. Because most VBS programs have so many components, a task and time slot are sure to appeal to almost everyone. People who may not be able to help with children’s ministry activities on weekends or during the school year can be a great fit for summer VBS. A wide variety of age groups can help too, from preteens and teens to senior adults. Consider offering community service hours to youth who need those for school or clubs. Another option is to partner with other local churches, lending volunteers back and forth as needed to pull off effective VBS programs.
- Offer a wide range of volunteer opportunities. Before VBS takes place, people who are skilled at clerical tasks and organizing can handle registrations and gathering supplies. As the program nears, a team of creative volunteers can plan themed decorations. If someone has limited time to help, ask if they’re willing to assist with check-in or the daily opening chapel service. Volunteers with the gift of hospitality may enjoy preparing and serving snacks to hungry VBS students.
- Share the excitement and mission. VBS is high-energy, loads of fun, and full of lasting Christian impact. Reflect that in your recruiting efforts, rather than giving the impression that volunteering for VBS is burdensome. Also offer reminders of past VBS experiences, showing church members video snippets of happy participants and helpers.
- Use a variety of media. VBS publishers often provide promotional materials, including resources that can assist with volunteer recruitment. Social media is a boon for sharing VBS volunteer needs too. Enlist the help of pastors, asking them to make recruitment announcements before or after worship services. Also add blurbs to the church newsletter and bulletin, including attention-grabbing clipart and photos. (Mix up the announcements and blurbs so they don’t get repetitive.) Other options include mass mailings and surveys of previous VBS volunteers.
- Hold informal info meetings. As the date for VBS nears, schedule several informational meetings about volunteer opportunities. Share all the different openings still available, as well as good faith estimates of time commitments involved with each role. (Bonus tip: Also collect the names of several people who are willing to serve as substitutes or last-minute backup helpers during VBS.)
- Pray! Do not overlook this vital component of recruiting VBS volunteers. Ask God to guide your search for suitable helpers. Also ask congregants to pray for the recruitment process — and to prayerfully consider how they might contribute or serve.
Equip VBS Volunteers with These 6 Tips
After all your VBS volunteers are in place, you will need to train and prepare them to fulfill their roles successfully and safely. Follow these proven “next steps” to help volunteers shine — and to make them eager to serve again:
- Safety first! To protect children, every VBS volunteer (including youth) must act appropriately with and around kids. Background checks are necessary for anyone 18 or older, and they provide a layer of accountability too. Emphasize that misbehavior will not be tolerated. Other tips for safeguarding children: On registration forms, ask the parent or caregiver to provide clear pickup instructions and to list any known allergies or health concerns. In every classroom, maintain adequate ratios between adults and children.
- Publicize your policies. Set and share policies for taking and sharing photos of kids, helping younger children with bathroom breaks, handling misbehavior and discipline, and so on. The VBS director or leader should set policies and make final decisions, referring to church leadership and children’s ministry staff members when necessary.
- Provide appropriate training. Before VBS, meet with volunteers to review general guidelines as well as topics specifically related to each task. For example, be clear about how to handle everything from parents’ special requests and upset children to technology glitches and daily dismissal procedures.
- In case of emergency … Make sure all VBS volunteers know what to do and whom to contact in case of emergency — medical or otherwise. Some churches use walkie-talkies for internal communication among VBS helpers, while others use a cell-phone tree. Even if church staff members aren’t specifically helping with VBS, ask them to be on standby if needed. (The same goes for anyone in the congregation with medical training!)
- Identify and acknowledge volunteers. At some churches, VBS volunteers all wear the same color shirts for a particular day. Others wear T-shirts designed especially for VBS volunteers. No matter the attire, name tags are a must — for volunteers as well as kids. Make volunteering as easy as possible by building breaks into people’s schedules and providing onsite care for volunteers’ children who are too young for VBS.
- Extend gratitude. Volunteer appreciation can be simple yet always goes far. In fact, saying thanks is a great way to start recruiting for next year’s VBS! Ideas to thank volunteers include a handwritten note, a gift card, and a thank-you lunch. Also take a few minutes to acknowledge VBS volunteers during worship, possibly at a Celebration Sunday when kids regroup to sing a favorite VBS tune. If possible, also list every volunteer by name in the next edition of the church newsletter or bulletin.
With the time and effort they can share, VBS volunteers make a tremendous impact on young lives, in the church body, and in the larger community. Make the most of this year’s vacation Bible school experiences by finding and equipping helpers with heart!
Children's Bulletins Team
Over the years of publication Children’s Worship Bulletins has had many contributing authors and editors. This team has worked diligently to thoughtfully craft material to assist in creating meaningful children’s worship materials.