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The 9th Annual VBS Review

Spring is right around the corner, and you know what that's VBS-planning time. So to help make your VBS planning a breeze, here are the three award-winning VBS programs from our 2000 VBS review.

Searching for the perfect VBS program for your children's ministry is often an overwhelming task. So to lighten your load and help you make the best choice for your children, we assembled a team of children's ministry experts to review 16 VBS kits. The kits were evaluated in the areas of overall first impression; theme; content; flexibility and ease of use; and fun, creative activities and ideas. Check out these top three award-winning programs.


Kids will dive into the depths of God's faithfulness in this underwater VBS adventure from the Southern Baptists. This fun theme is well-executed throughout the entire program. Kids will delight in the colorful tropical fish, sea creatures, coral, sand dollars, sea weed, and fanciful fish nets that adorn this sea odyssey. Kids gather daily for praise and worship in the Worship Rally Center, which is a transformed submarine.

While the program seems fairly complex, the multisensory activities are creative and imaginative. Yet the Bible story time is heavily teacher-centered and doesn't offer many open-ended discussion questions. The strong visual appeal is carried throughout the program and into the colorful and visually appealing student books and teacher manuals. Even the kit has a unique packaging concept-a large colorful "oxygen tank" that stores all the materials. There's a large selection of colorful, eye-catching publicity posters with underwater scenes and colorful fish that are included in the Scuba Sampler (starter kit).

Good News Ocean Odyssey has strong evangelistic emphasis, and the missions portion helps kids learn about missionaries around the world in places such as Togo, Africa, as well as Savannah, Georgia. Each day kids watch a short video about a real missionary and participate in activities that reinforce what they've learned. The publisher also offers the Church Prospect Services designed to help churches reach unchurched families in their communities by accessing a customized list of local addresses.

This flexible VBS program offers a variety of schedule options for a five-day, three-day, weekend, or expanded VBS program. Kids can dive in age-graded groups or stay in individual classrooms and S.C.U.B.A. in a "self-contained underwater Bible adventure." There are also options for site-rotation classes. This underwater adventure is great for large churches with multiple centers for multiple ages. And there are many fish in this sea with additional VBS programs available for the entire church with adult, youth, and special education programs.

The extensive director's manual includes detailed instructions, information on the principles of VBS, listings of age-level characteristics, and a section on special needs children including ideas for mainstreaming. The director's manual also includes clip-art, publicity helps, and an impressive selection of 16 overheads. The directions are fun and use catchy terms, but the scuba lingo can get confusing.

Kids will love to submerse themselves in the fun, creative activities. At the Craft Reef, kids get to make Bubble Seascapes out of clear plastic ornaments filled with aquarium gravel and small sea shells to reinforce one of the daily Bible lessons. The imaginative crafts appeal to boys and girls. There are craft options for younger kids and preteens and craft substitutions based on group size or budget. Kids also enjoy the tasty theme-related snacks, such as Crab Cupcakes, Jellyfish Sandwiches, and Squid Legs made out of breadsticks and lunch meat. The snacks aren't time- or supply-intensive, but kids don't get to make the snacks themselves. There are suggestions for simple refreshments such as Goldfish crackers and blue Kool-Aid soft drinks that keep with the ocean theme. At the Recreation Reef, kids are involved in a variety of outdoor and indoor theme-related games that'll keep them moving. Kids also dive into the lively songs and easy-to-learn motions that relate to the theme and the Bible stories.

The creative, theme-related activities help kids experience God's love as they explore his Word in this underwater adventure.



Good News Ocean Odyssey has a fun theme with lots of great decorating possibilities. The creative activities and fun ideas have strong kid-appeal. The director's manual is loaded with information and includes excellent overheads. The program is visually appealing throughout the materials and in the unique packaging concept.


The activities are heavily teacher-centered and sometimes make kids passive participants. There's too much "teacher talk" and it doesn't provide enough open-ended questions for engaging discussions. It requires a lot of volunteers to execute the program, which might not be small-church friendly. Some activities require a lot of preparation.

Bible Lessons: Jesus is born (Matthew 1:18-2:12); Jesus feeds 5,000 (Mark 6:30-44); Jesus calms the storm (Mark 4: 35-41); Jesus teaches Nicodemus (John 3:1-21); and the Holy Spirit comes (Acts 2:1-47).

Starter kit includes: Promotional video, director's guide, teaching guide for each activity, teaching guide for each age level, student book for each age level, promotional poster set, worship cassette and book, and "Dive Into Becoming a Christian" tract.

Cost: Scuba Sampler, $49.95.

Available from: LifeWay Christian Resources, 127 Ninth Ave. N., Nashville, Tennessee 37234; 800-458-2772 or (615) 251-2643;

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