8 Tips for Thriving in your First Year Directing VBS

When I was ten, my mom started her first year directing VBS at a large church.  And I loved it.  I would live to be able to help her with some aspect of VBS.  If I could help sort nametags – great!  I can help get supplies out?  Awesome!  Put crayons back in boxes after VBS was over? YES – count me in!  I was that nerdy about VBS.

As I grew older, I was able to join my mom in larger roles for VBS.  I served on the leadership team for VBS.  I was the children’s ministry intern at our church and spent the first month of that internship getting ready for VBS.

And later, I even was privileged to write the curriculum for several VBS programs.  I really thought I had this VBS thing in the bag.

Until we moved.  And I stepped into my first director’s position.  And then, I realized, I totally didn’t have a clue.

Not. A. Clue. 

Can I get an amen?  Anyone just starting off with their first VBS directing role?  You can relate to the fear, you got it actual fear that can consume you as you lie awake at night.  Six months before VBS is actually scheduled.  If you can’t sleep now, you are going to be a walking Zombie by the time VBS rolls around.

You won’t.  It does get better.  You will start to sleep again.  See, here’s the thing.

We serve a faithful God – especially in your first year directing VBS.

So before you go all freak-out mode, comfort yourself with this thought.  God is faithful.  He will see you through this challenging opportunity.  And because God desires His glory and our good, He will do it in a way to achieve both.  And that should encourage you.

Paul instructs the believers at Corinth in the book of Second Corinthians with the following

So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

2 Corinthians 5:9

Paul is referring to being at home in your earthly body or being away from it by being with Christ in heaven.  Either way, we should make it our goal to please Him.  If you keep that as your focus through the craziness of planning your first VBS, you can be confident that God is working out all the details of your VBS for His glory.

Rest in that truth.  Revel in the beauty of a God who is active and working in your life and the life of your church.  And embrace some practical advice from someone who has survived her first year of VBS directing.  And if you are in your first year of directing at a new church…just consider yourself a newbie.  I am walking that road right alongside you this year.

Here are eight things to remember:

You will be exhausted.

And it isn’t just because you are not sleeping at night right now.  It is because Vacation Bible School is an emotionally exhausting and exhilarating experience.  It is because you will go-go-go for weeks.  You will become so invested in the program that you will eat and sleep details of VBS.

Oh, and you have a life outside of VBS.  Be it a spouse.  A couple of kids.  Parents.  Siblings.  A pet.  A job.  A full-time job.  Other commitments.  And like it or not, those don’t just disappear during VBS.  I mean, you don’t want your family to just disappear.  You need them.  And they need you.  But help them understand that you are under extra stress these weeks.

Then, recognize that after you have put your church back together after the last of the VBS kids have left, you are going to crash.  Hard.  Really hard.  Don’t book your calendar for the days after VBS.  Keep those days for your family and for rest.  You will be exhausted, just know that.

Don’t let VBS take over your family (you can consider this a bonus tip).  Have honest discussions with your spouse or other important people.  Explain what you expect the weeks leading up to VBS and the week of VBS to look like.  Be honest about what kind of extra help you will need.  Communicate more details than you think necessary.  Make extra plans for your kids.  Make sure they are well taken care of.  You must remember that you are first a spouse and a parent and then a VBS director.  Need some ideas for surviving VBS directing with young kids?  Check out these 5 practical tips for parenting young kids during VBS.

Staffing VBS is Hard.

first year directing VBS

Ideas for thriving as in your first year directing VBS

You can’t do VBS by yourself.  Obviously.  But fully staffing a program as large and detailed as VBS is really difficult.  And every director struggles with this, those in their first year directing VBS and those with much more experience.  Every single one.  (If you are a director and don’t consistently struggle with staffing…please let us in on your secret).  Don’t take the “no, I have to trim my toenails during that week,” excuses personally.   Take those “no’s” as a reminder to pray.  God is faithful.  Remember?  He will provide the help that you need.

It is not impossible.  It is just hard.

Get help NOW.

Don’t try to direct VBS without a support person for you.  Whether it is your first year directing VBS or your 20th.  You need a co-director, an assistant director, a friend who you can bounce ideas, someone.  You may be able to survive VBS alone, but you won’t thrive through VBS.  God has created us to be in community.

so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:17-19

So often we look at these verses and are encouraged to grasp the unfathomable love of God.  And so often we glaze over the little phrase, “with all the saints.”  Who is that but fellow believers?  We are the community that shows others “the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ.”  VBS is an awesome opportunity for you to show someone else “the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge,” as you work through the details.  And to allow someone else to do the same for you.

And because we have been created in this way, we have been created to share the load, to share the decisions, to share the stress, and to share the joys.

Turn your mic off before you go to the bathroom.

Really.  Just do it.  I used the bathroom with my mic turned on.  As in everyone in the sanctuary heard me.

And I’ve done this not once.  But twice.

Just turn it off.

You will cry…at the most inopportune times.

This may or may not be related to the suggestion above.  Depending on your emotional state, using the bathroom in such a public manner may just draw the tears.

But it may be something else that triggers an unexpected emotional response.  Maybe a volunteer quits.  Or is unkind to you.  Or is kind to you.

And it is okay to cry.  Often that kneejerk response rocks you to your core.  You didn’t know you were on the verge of crying.

You do know that it is uncharacteristic of you.  It will be okay.  Grab some chocolate.  Or coffee.  Or both.  And some tissues.  Thank God for creating us with emotions.  And then preach the truth of God’s faithfulness to yourself.  You were saved to a glorious hope through Jesus’ work on the cross.  And just keep preaching.

It takes more time than you think.  And money too.

Everything takes more time and more money than you think.  And VBS is no different.  Just plan on it.  And plan early.

It doesn’t have to be perfect.

The only person that expects you to be perfect is you.  And perfect programs aren’t going to happen.  Give yourself the freedom to get it done.  Even if it isn’t perfect.  This goes for decorations.  Videos.  Promotional materials.  But do strive to do VBS well.  Just not perfect.

And don’t expect perfection from your volunteers.  Be willing to show them grace.  Over and over.

You will be blessed beyond measure.

The reward of seeing kids grow in their faith, place their faith in Christ, seeing volunteers bloom in their role, is incredible.  Each blessing is well worth the work, stress, tears, embarrassment (hopefully not from mics and bathrooms), and more work.  You will make new friends and deepen old friendships.  Your work will be furthering the kingdom of God.  You will laugh until your sides hurt.  It will become easier to love your volunteers as you learn more about them.

You will be given the privilege of praying for others because intensive ministry has the tendency of lowering walls between people.  This will bless you.  VBS is full of blessings like this.  Watch for them.

Bottom line – VBS is hard.  But worth it.  So worth it.

Want an easy way to remember these tips?  No form found  Or on your bathroom mirror…whichever applies to your stress level!

What do you wish you had known your first year of VBS?  Share with us by commenting!

2 thoughts on “8 Tips for Thriving in your First Year Directing VBS

  1. As I go into my first year as a Christian camp director, I want to say thank you for the encouragement! My role looks a little different, but the purpose is the same – telling kids about Jesus – and many of the directing challenges are the same.

  2. Yes! I love camp ministry. And you are right about the directing challenges! And definitely DON’T go in the bathroom with your mic on!

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