Training Youth to Teach in VBS
Written by Carolyn Priest
This article provided courtesy of in mINistry with kids .
Vacation Bible School was just around the corner. As director I followed the VBS Planning Schedule to the letter. Six to nine months before VBS, I set the date on the church calendar, began praying for the week, and submitted the budget for approval. Four to six months before, I enlisted directors and leaders and involved them in the local associational training. Three to four months before, I enlisted more teachers and leaders, scheduled training meetings, and planned for the VBS kick-off event. Two to three months before, I ordered and distributed the curriculum, finalized the schedule, constructed decorations for the Worship Center, and planned for Family Night. Looking over my “to do” list, I felt pretty good about all I had done, but then I came face to face with a dilemma.
I noticed I had a group of youth who wanted to work, but I didn’t know what to do with them. After all, they were youth. That was not bad, but how mature were they? Could I count on them to remain focused through a long week of tough work? Would VBS to them be nothing more than a fun “playtime” with a bunch of kids? Previous experiences as VBS director told me it was a bad idea to use youth, but my own experience as a youth many years ago (more years than I care to confess) said otherwise. I remember working in VBS as a student. The experience was great. My friends and I did everything from telling Bible stories, to supervising recreation. If my experience as a youth was personally fulfilling and profitable for the church, then why couldn’t the same happen with our youth? I asked myself, “What made the difference when I was a kid? What did my VBS director know then that I didn’t know now? One word came to mind: training! Training was not an option for us. If we did not attend training sessions, then we could not work.
Having had this “ah-ha” moment, I set out to train an army of students prepared to work in VBS. I realized I could not tackle this project alone, so I enlisted other adults to assist in the training process.
Weeks 1 and 2
Once our training team was in place we developed a 7 week training plan and determined the content of each session. Our first course of action was to introduce the youth to the theme and content of VBS. To accomplish this goal we pulled a fast one on them. Since the theme and teaching frameworks for the youth VBS curriculum was the same as for children, we actually conducted youth VBS over the course of seven weeks, but called it Extreme Training. Our youth not only experienced their own Bible School, but they became intimately familiar with the theme and Bible stories for children’s VBS.
Since our community has a moderately strong Mormon influence, we realized our youth needed to be prepared to answer questions raised by children who attend the Mormon temple. As a part of each weekly training session, the youth intern in our church taught a thirty-minute segment on understanding and confronting Mormonism. As a secondary benefit from this training, our youth became more prepared for their summer mission trip to Wyoming, where Mormonism has deep roots.
During the third week of training the youth studied the salvation lesson in the youth VBS curriculum. This was a natural time to include a training session on sharing the gospel. First, we taught the youth to write a clear and concise personal testimony. Next, we trained them to share their testimonies with someone else who was not a “best” friend. Finally, we taught them to share the plan of salvation with a child in a child-appropriate way using a tract that explains the ABCs of Becoming a Christian.
Since children and youth are so different in their approaches to learning, we taught the youth the learning styles and characteristics of children. Using the “Characteristics of Children” page in the VBS Children’s Leader Guide, we helped the youth understand the learning differences in children at different age/grade levels. The youth were divided into small groups and each group assigned a specific age/grade level to study. We asked them to note on tear sheets the learning characteristics of their assigned age/grade level and then explain to the larger group how a child in their category would learn.
Weeks 5 and 6
Knowing that some youth had never worked in VBS, we realized they would need job-specific training. We selected adults who excelled in specific areas and had them to train the youth. Our really good Bible story leader taught how to teach the Bible. Our wild and wooly recreation expert taught how to organize and lead recreation. Our sweet tooth chef taught how to prepare and serve snacks. And our songbird musicians taught how to teach and lead music. As a result, each youth knew his/her assignment and was more than prepared when the kids invaded our building.
During the final session, we “laid down the law” so to speak. In a loving way we explained our expectations regarding promptness, dress, socializing with other youth, public display of affection between youth, manner of speech, and cell phones. While we wanted the youth to have a fun experience, we also wanted them to understand the responsibility they were facing. Because they understood the expectations ahead of time, the youth were great contributors to the overall success of VBS and not a liability.
Since youth are youth, we realized our training time needed a little fun and a whole lot of affirmation. To celebrate seven weeks of successful training and say “job well done,” we rented a climbing wall, put food on a table, and said, “Have a great time!”
Two weeks after our training ended, VBS began. Our army of youth was equipped, present, and active. At the end of a long and tiring week of Bible School, we celebrated record numbers in attendance and conversions, but we also celebrated that a bunch of teenage saints had been equipped for the work of the ministry both at our church and beyond!
Carolyn Priest is VBS Director at Barlett Baptist Church in Barlett, Tennessee
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