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"Hoop" It Up!

Robb and Jacqui Dunham

For a VBS that sizzles instead of fizzles, stage an attention-getting kickoff event.


So you've gotten everything lined up for your VBS. You've prayerfully chosen the perfect curriculum and purchased your supplies. Your team has enthusiastically taken the reigns. Invitations and announcements, fliers and posters are announcing the big event. The phone tree is activated to contact kids. Your prayer team is praying daily. Looks like it'll be a whopping success...but wait! You're lacking one thing.

Don't dare to let this incredible potentially life-changing event begin with a fizzle! You've got to begin with a BANG!

Stage a BIG event to kick off your VBS. Your big event could be the one thing that distinguishes your program from the other dozen VBSes in your city that same week. It could also set it apart from any mentality your church may have about "Oh, it's just another VBS. Yawn. Wake me up when it's over."

Here are nine tips to help you launch the best VBS Kickoff your church has ever kicked off!

1. Plan with your team. Answer basic questions such as What type of big event does our church respond to? How much of our budget can we set aside for our kickoff event? What people can we involve in the big event who aren't already maxed to the limit with the VBS itself? What event can we hold that incorporates the most elements that our church enjoys, is different enough to excite everyone, involves loads of people who'd normally not be involved in the VBS, and is the most cost effective? How can we make it Fun with a capital F?

2. Pick a prime time to hold your event. Rather than having your big event on the first day of your VBS, stage your kickoff on the Sunday prior to your VBS. That's how you'll get most people's attention, simply because it's when most people are at the church. If you can incorporate your event with the adult and children's services on Sunday morning, all the better. Or perhaps you could hold your kickoff immediately following your morning services.

3. Make your big event strongly thematic. Exploit your VBS theme for all it's worth. For example, let's use an outrageously goofy theme to illustrate what we mean. If your VBS theme is about fish, you could decorate by having fish dangling from your ceiling. Have someone dress up in a fish costume. Create a large fish mouth around your entry doorway. Serve Gummi fish candies in blue gelatin. Play Catch the Fish Tag where the Tagger tries to catch the "fish."
You get the picture!

4. Involve children. Two weeks before your kickoff, give the children a black and white poster of your VBS theme to color. Include information about the days and times-and, of course, also the kickoff. Tell children that you'll display their completed posters in an art gallery at the kickoff. Everyone who turns in a completed poster gets a special prize. Have children give extra posters to their friends at school and in their neighborhoods.

5. Decorate, decorate, decorate! Whether your theme is a jungle, outer space, the wild west, or giant talking vegetables, make the decorations reflect the theme throughout your church. Bulletin boards, hanging mobiles, banners, flags, wall hangings, posters, 3-D trees, western town buildings, space ships, and jungle animals are a good starting place.

6. Dress up. Costumed characters work wonders in promoting a VBS and big event. If your VBS features a special character or two, rent or make character costumes. Have these characters greet people in the parking lot, lobby, and church hallways on the day of your kickoff. Your characters can make a creative announcement in the Sunday morning service, or they can simply carry signs across the platform or perform a quick skit.

7. Roll the tape. Show a short video clip during the Sunday morning service and during your kickoff to increase people's interest. Many VBS curricula come with a video you can use. Even better, though, is video footage of your own VBS from the previous year, showing loads of kids growing in Christ, children coming to Jesus for the first time in life, and all of them having tons of fun. Edit your footage to about five minutes of fast highlights. Dub in the theme song from this year's VBS. (See the "Lights! Camera! Action!" article for tips to create your video.)

8. Where's the chow? Every church event is more successful if there's plenty of food. This is especially important if you hold your kickoff following the Sunday morning service. Again, be true to your theme. Instead of charging a set fee for the food, weigh the plates of food for each person as they go through a buffet style line and charge cents per ounce.

Okay, and at the risk of being redundant, make the chow fit the theme! For a western theme, throw a giant barbecue. Make creepy, crawly bugs out of vegetables for a jungle theme. If nothing else, have a bakery decorate a giant cake to fit your theme! That's the easiest way to accomplish your goal.

9. Games are always a hit. Plan several games around your theme. Pull ideas from your curriculum, and involve people of all ages in the games. Set up the games as stations that people can visit, or designate a special time that everyone will play the games together.

With these nine steps, your 1999 VBS is sure to be the best ever. Kick off your VBS with a big bang, and watch kids' excitement and momentum explode!

Robb and Jacqui Dunham have a nationwide children's and family ministry called SuperKidz 4 Christ Are Winnerz! You can contact them at 800-484-3877, code 6698, or visit them online at http://SuperKidz4Christ.home.ml.org

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