We rely heavily on youth leaders (Jr. and Sr. high students) to run our church’s annual Vacation Bible School. As a team, this is our third attempt at putting together the best program possible… and we’ve made some pretty serious changes over these last years.
Here’s our basic training schedule for the week before our event:
Monday: Adult leader training.
2 hours of walking adults through their roles for the week. Mostly Preschool Leaders (our preschool VBS program has an adult lead for every group) attend this event. We want the adults on our campus to have a consistant voice as they interact with student leaders, children, and parents during the week. This training session helps us all get on the same page.
Tuesday: 2 training events.
We split up our Jr. High and Sr. High leaders for training on this day.
For three hours each, we go over procedures with our students and drill into their heads their responsibilities for the next week. Every leader should know what we’re doing in the event of an emergency. Every leader should know the system we use to color code our campus during VBS. Jr. Highers should know that they’re primary responsibility at VBS is making sure that the campers are engaged and enjoying themselves. Sr. High leaders are primarily in charge of directing their group and coaching their Jr. High team. Our Pastor of Family Life gives a talk at each of these events to encourage the students as they get ready for the week ahead.
Wednesday: Worship team training
We use live music to engage our elementary aged kids at the beginning and end of each VBS day. The band that provides the music is made up of a handful of student leaders, some of whom are Jr. and Sr. High leaders, all of whom are actively involved in our church and our youth groups. They spend 4 hours tightening up the music they’ve been practicing during the weeks leading up to VBS. Our church’s Worship Director leads this team and is in charge of this training event.
Thursday: Full team training
We kick into high gear from 9am-5pm on Thursday. This is the day we assign groups, rotations, and space on campus for the following week. Our teams begin to tackle decorating our sanctuary, our church’s lobby and their classrooms. Teams develop a mission statement for the next week – something that they’ll be able to point to during VBS to evaluate if they’re doing what they want to be doing. Students hear a message from our Director of Student Ministries on this day and a BBQ lunch is provided. The Swamp Staff 09 Blog is also launched on this day to provide a community space where students can share their thoughts over the next week and a half.
Friday: Full team training
This year, Friday is the last day we have to makeover the church’s worship spaces before the weekend worship services. Students arrive at 10am and leave at 4pm on this day. We are clearly presenting the gospel message in order to provide student leaders a chance to make a recommitment of faith or decide to follow Jesus for the first time in thier lives. Though we do ask if student leaders have a relationship with Christ on their applications, our leadership positions are open to any and all who want to serve. This is one of our chances to intentionally minister to students who have yet to decide to follow Jesus. Also on the agenda for Friday is a giant pizza party and some fun activities to faciliate team building.
Sunday: Full team training
After church services on Sunday, students spend the afternoon putting finishing touches on the campus. We answer FAQ’s that have arrisen during the week and provide some encouraging words before the students leave for the night. This is the calm before the storm.
And there it is! One of the changes I’m most proud of this year, as I read back through our schedule, is the choice we made to intentionally have a the gospel clearly presented during Friday’s training. In the past, we’ve had students make faith commitments during VBS, when the children are asked to do so… but, how much greater will this year be if those students know Jesus before the week gets under way? I guess we’ll see.
Talking to leaders of other VBS programs around town, I’ve noticed that we’re one of the few programs that takes training our youth leaders this seriously. After this week, our student leaders will have put in more than 20 hours of training time – and that’s before the 20+ hours they’ll be spending on campus next week during camp.
We’d love to hear what others around the country who run programs like this are doing to train their leaders.
Thoughts? Suggestions? Add yours to the comments section!