VBS Alternatives: Take Back Summer for Kids’ Ministry!

VBS is awesome. VBS alternatives are awesome too. Which one works best for your church?
5 min read

Summer is one of those times when church attendance dwindles, and families are busy. It can sometimes feel like the church is dying or you are failing. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. With some fun sprinkled in, your ministry can thrive through the summer—and give LIFE to the community around you!

Your ministry can thrive through the summer—and give LIFE to the community around you!

VBS is fun, awesome, and exciting for your summer programming. It gathers kids together from your church and community to discover more about Jesus. And we love gathering kids together! Long story short, even though VBS is awesome—there are other just-as-awesome-as VBS alternatives out there for you to discover.

Sometimes we get into patterns of behavior and begin to do things with less intentionality. We encourage you to reflect on the programming at your church and then decide to keep doing it (awesome work!) or shift your approach.

Reflect on the programming at your church and then decide to keep doing it (awesome work!) or shift your approach.

For some, VBS will be exactly what you need, while for others it won’t. Let’s take a look at some VBS alternatives that may help you fill your summer with purposeful programming!

welcome sign neighbors
Image credit: Hero Images/Hero Images/Getty Images

Less doing, more families connecting

Let’s be honest. As leaders there are many times we want to tackle all the work ourselves. We don’t even think about it, we just go-go-go. This VBS alternative will push you to lean into your families and equip them to reach out to the community around them. It’s called Zipped To-Gather. How fun is that?

Try this family-based VBS alternative

Zipped To-Gather

Brought to you by the Children’s Ministry at Christ Community Church in Leawood, Kansas, Zipped To-Gather is an outreach program that the families in your church can manage themselves. You will simply provide the supplies, and they will take it from there! Here’s how it works.

Zipped To-Gather is an opportunity to invite and encourage parents to get involved in ministry to your community. These small events are simple ways for children’s ministries to break outside the walls of their churches. This summer, offer your families a chance to host 3 super-sized theme nights: Wacky Water World, Retro Field Day, and Carnival of Fun. Each of these nights includes enough activities to keep families engaged for an hour and a half.

Invite and encourage parents to get involved in ministry to your community.

Families can create a guest list they are comfortable with and team up with other families as necessary—inviting as many people as they want (although we recommend staying under 36). And, they can host wherever they want—whether in their home or a neighborhood park. Food isn’t required (especially since the events are relatively short), but if your church has the means to provide meals or snacks for the events or families want to contribute food and drinks, that’s awesome too!

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Each family decides on the guest list.
  • Each family picks the dates and location(s).
  • Each family invites families from the community with invitations provided here.
  • Your ministry provides all the game fun (lists also included here)! Place the supplies and instructions in a box for the host families—and as easy as that—they are ready to host Zipped To-Gather!

Ready. Set. Come and play the Zipped To-Gather way!

Zipped To-Gather cover

Zipped To-Gather: A Summer Programming Guide

Zipped To-Gather is an outreach program that invites and encourages parents to get involved in ministry to your community. You will simply provide the easy-to-find supplies (listed in this guide), and the parents will take it from there. Check it out!
Free Guide
Zipped To-Gather cover

Zipped To-Gather: A Summer Programming Guide

Zipped To-Gather is an outreach program that invites and encourages parents to get involved in ministry to your community. You will simply provide the easy-to-find supplies (listed in this guide), and the parents will take it from there. Check it out!
Free Guide
Zipped To-Gather cover

Zipped To-Gather: A Summer Programming Guide

Zipped To-Gather is an outreach program that invites and encourages parents to get involved in ministry to your community. You will simply provide the easy-to-find supplies (listed in this guide), and the parents will take it from there. Check it out!
Free Guide

More VBS Alternatives

Of course there are many other things you can do as VBS alternatives. Some require minimal work and budget, while others may require more. Do what works for your church.

Simple & Sweet

Switch up your weekly classes with themed rooms for the summer. Go all out, decorate, and even have volunteers dress as characters! Your curriculum won’t need to change—you just make learning all the more fun by introducing new personalities and scenery. Keep the characters the same every week and rotate rooms! Kids will be excited to discover what’s in each room.

Remember, use volunteers from throughout your church for this one! Just because someone doesn’t volunteer in children’s ministry, doesn’t mean they aren’t good at decorating! Tap into the talent within your church, and it will keep things moving in an exciting direction. You can start with these simple ideas for updating your kids’ ministry space.

Let’s Make it a Week!

Another VBS alternative is to have a day camp, instead of an evening event. Some churches do a 5-day summer camp where they have kids 5–12 from 9am to 3pm. WOW. It takes a troop of volunteers. But when it’s done right, it can be a huge hit for the kids in your church and community.

Day camp can be whatever you want it to be, but it might look like this.

  • Morning Group Time—all the kids are together for a lesson and for worship
  • Rotations—have stations set up, maybe water games outside, crafts, a shop with snacks and candy (maybe with games and video set-up), maze rooms, music time, individual group time to work on a commercial or skit for Sunday, and more!
  • Break for lunch
  • Rotations again!
  • At the end of the day, have kids come together for a daily send off.
teacher with guitar school
Image credit: Hero Images/Hero Images/Getty Images

Then on Sunday, your kids can sing the songs for your adult congregation and share their skits or commercials. You might even show a highlight reel. This is fun for kids and parents. And, this gives your church an opportunity on Sunday to speak to and share with families that would otherwise not be there.

These VBS alternatives are meant to help your church’s families engage with their neighbors. The goal is to help them build relationships right where they are through fun and play—without pressure to share the Gospel. That will come in time!

VBS is awesome. VBS alternatives are awesome too. Do what works for your church and have fun while sharing the Gospel!

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  Updated on June 4, 2020

About the Author

  • Courtney has a deep passion to share the beautiful grace of Jesus with others. She serves in her local church as a worship leader and youth ministry volunteer. With a degree in public relations, and a minor in biblical studies, she currently works at David C Cook as the marketing manager for curriculum resources and the lead strategist for Ministry Spark. Her favorite part of life is being the wife of her husband, Andrew, and mama of her sweet son, Case. Through it all, Courtney loves to walk alongside others on their individual life journeys!

  • Your Ministry Spark Team is made of ministry volunteers, leaders, and experts who work with David C Cook. We’re passionate about helping others know, love, and follow Jesus. And, we have a big heart for those who serve the kingdom—that’s you. Together, we can do this!

© 2020 David C Cook. All rights reserved.
© 2019 David C Cook. All rights reserved.
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