Being one of the greatest evangelistic outreaches from the local church, vacation Bible school takes a lot of planning, promotion, and preparation. There are cooks, counselors, decorators, teachers, and many other positions to fill to make vacation Bible school a success. I have a passion for teaching and for training teachers, and below I share a few things that I believe will help you teach this year. I have used them in my own teaching ministry, and have found great success from them.
1. Pray for God’s guidance, strength, and direction. Praying for God’s intervention is one of the most important ways to prepare. The Bible tells us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Prov. 3:5-6). When you pray for His guidance, strength, and direction, it is likely He will reveal things to you that you otherwise wouldn’t have seen. He will give you the courage and strength you need to lead. And He will give you the wisdom and direction to make the right decisions moment by moment. When we try to serve the Lord out of our own strength, we only accomplish human-size results. But when we serve through His strength, we accomplish God-sized results. That sounds better to me. I encourage you to depend on God as you teach during VBS. Without dependence and reliance on God, nothing fruitful can be accomplished.
2. Know how to lead a child to Christ. Every church’s main goal during VBS every year should not be great numbers or even to simply have a “good VBS.” Our main goal is the salvation of souls. Through your Bible teaching and prayers, it is our hope that many children will come to Christ. Essential to this is knowing how to lead a child to Christ. This should be elementary for the Christian – every believer should know how to lead someone to Jesus. You need to know how to lead a child to Christ if they were to ask you. Chances are, you will have one or two in each class (depending on the size) who want to be saved but don’t know how. In your leader material, usually it is always emphasized that you remind your kids each day how to be saved. Speak with the child on their level and simply present the gospel. There are many helpful ways to present the gospel of Christ. The classic ABC’s of salvation are fine (Admit, Believe, and Confess). The Romans Road is a favorite (Rom. 3:23; 5:8; 6:23). I typically follow this acronym in explaining salvation to anyone of any age: R. R. R. or the 3 R’s. 1) Realize. Realize you are a sinner in need of a Savior (Rom. 3:23). Make sure the child understands they are a sinner. If they don’t understand that they are sinners, they won’t recognize their need for a Savior. 2) Repent. Repentance involves a turning away from sin towards God. The child must understand this concept of turning away from all the wrong we have done and towards God. 3) Receive. Finally, we must receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. It’s not enough to realize we are sinners and repent of our sins—we must also put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ to be saved. If you feel inadequate for this task, but a child requests to be saved, see your pastor, youth pastor, elders or deacons, but never say no.
3. Set the atmosphere. VBS is a time for kids. The usual white wall class rooms you might use for your classes are not inviting. Decorate like crazy, and make sure it follows your VBS theme. Get on Pinterest for project ideas so you don’t spend much money. Most VBS material comes with a decorating guide as well. Go as far perhaps, as dressing up to match up with the theme. Think of ideas and ways to decorate your room to look to fit the theme.
4. Study the Bible. This is perhaps the most important tip for effective teaching. In fact, teaching effectively is impossible without it. You cannot teach the Bible rightly without studying it. Studying the Bible can be compared to mining for gold. If we make little effort and merely “sift through the pebbles in a stream,” we will only find a little gold dust. But the more we make an effort to really dig into it, the more reward we will gain for our effort. “I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word” (Psalm 119:16). Study the passages of Scripture that you are to teach (should be outlined in your leader material). Teaching the Bible is a great privilege, but it does take a lot of preparation and time.
5. Review your leader book. Your leader book will tell you just about everything you need to know. It will show you how to teach the children and some helpful tips on what to say and do. Remember, you don’t have to follow the strict schedule listed in your leader book. You don’t have to do or say everything that is included in it, but only use what is best fitting for the time and atmosphere. Another thing too is the crafts. There are many crafts incorporated into the leader book that it asks you to do. If you have a craft department, as we do this year, you don’t have to do the craft in the booklet unless you feel like it would be helpful to illustrate the lesson. Use your time wisely. Review your leader book as often as you can.
6. Pray for your children. In your prayer time alone with God, pray for your children. Pray for their salvation and that they would grow in their relationship with God. Pray for them by name. If the child mentions a need to you personally, pray for that need. Pray with your children during appropriate class times as well.
7. Get to know your children. Don’t distance yourself from your children. You need to get to know them. The best thing you can learn about them is their name. But also, learn what they enjoy doing. Learn who their parents are. Learn what grade they’re in or what sport they play. Eat with them during our meal times. Play outside with them during recreation times and get involved with them during craft time. Now, it takes time for some children to warm up to you, so expect this sometimes. Even some children will not warm up to you at all. Many of them come from backgrounds where they cannot trust an adult figure. But it shows a sincere concern for the child when you speak to them on their level and attempt to get to know them. Be intentionally friendly with them, but don’t overdo it to the point where they feel awkward.
8. Use classroom discipline when necessary. There is a need in every classroom for discipline. Maybe the children are too loud and your teaching can’t be heard. Maybe one child is acting up, or maybe there is another problem. Use patience with this, for there will always be some noise—you just have to deal with it. At other times when it is inappropriate, get your other teacher to help.
9. Keep a check on registration. All churches want to follow up with the kids they have at VBS. There should be an easy-to-find registration place for the kids that attend your VBS. At registration, we learn their emergency contact info, who brought them, who their parents are, and other important information. Take note of every new child you have each day, and get them registered as well.