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The VBS Winners' Circle

Race across the finish line with one of these winning VBS programs in 1998!

You're probably already revving up your engines for vacation Bible school this year. To ensure that your VBS experience will put you and your kids in the winner's circle, here are Children's Ministry Magazine's top picks for 1998.

To determine the best choices, we brought in four consultants who determined the VBS Evaluation Filters and then used them to evaluate all the VBS kits. Their top four choices were the clear winners.

Our evaluators established these factors as the most important for an effective VBS program.

1. Educational philosophy-Is it teacher- or student-focused? Does it use active learning? interactive learning? Does it emphasize intrinsic motivation?

2. Content-Is it Bible-based? relevant to children? focused on life application? Is the content organized? Does the sequence of lessons make sense? Is the pacing correct? Is it multisensory? What's the age span? Are there service opportunities?

3. Director materials-Are there preplanning tips? recruiting tips? teacher-training tips and meeting plans? helpful overviews of each class? Is there an overall supply chart? an overview schedule? a planning time line? a suggested organizational chart? Are materials easily outlined and/or categorized?

4. Teacher materials-Are they easy to understand? helpful? complete? Are there age-level insights? Are there optional activities? Is it easy/not labor-intensive? Is the guide durable, usable, and reusable? Are there discipline helps that are age-appropriate?

5. Student materials-Are they age-appropriate? appealing? experiential? Do they assume a churched background? Do they take into account safety and ability issues? Are they merely paper busywork, or are they compelling and engaging? Can the tasks be completed within the time frame?

6. User friendliness-Is it organized? easy to understand? easy to use? Are there tapes or papers to reproduce?

7. Publicity helps-Are materials up-to-date, appealing, varied, and easy to use? Are they durable, usable, and easy to read from a distance? Is there a schedule for publicity? Are there innovative ideas or suggestions for publicity?

8. Teacher aids-Are they creative? helpful? easy to use? convenient and readily available?

9. Theme-Is it child-oriented? captivating for kids? well-executed throughout? kid-friendly? Is it unique and appealing to unchurched kids?

10. Art-Is it up-to-date? colorful? appealing? inclusive of people with disabilities? representative of all cultures? Is the packaging appealing and inclusive?

11. Crafts-Are they new? creative? relevant? neither supply- nor preparation-intensive? Is the creative process valued? Do they connect to the theme or Scripture, or are they simply add-ons? Are the final crafts usable, purposeful, or lasting? Are the crafts good for boys and girls? Are they age-appropriate?

12. Music-Are the tunes catchy? Do the songs have easy, understandable words? Are children singing the songs on any cassettes? Are they '90s songs? Are they fun? Do the songs appeal to all ages? Do they appeal to boys and girls? Are the songs too wordy?

13. Games-Are they competitive or noncompetitive? tied to the theme? fun? active? Do they require few and/or easy supplies? Do they have well-written instructions? Are there flexible game alternatives for indoor/outdoor and large/small groups?

14. Snacks-Are they connected to the theme or Bible story? Are the ingredients cost-effective for large groups of children? Are they new/fresh? Will they be easy to make with children? Are the snacks kid-built? Are they kid-friendly? Appealing/nutritious?

15. Adaptability-Is it adaptable to a back yard or nontraditional setting? Can you use the material for other programs in your church?

16. Opening/Closing-Are they age-appropriate? Are they appealing to kids (i.e., not dorky)? Are there ideas for a closing event with parents?

17. Drama-Are there ideas for child-oriented skits and role-plays?

18. Format-Are there relational connections-kid to adult? Are there ideas for five- or 10-day options?

19. Follow-up-Are there church tie-ins? Are there helps to plug in kids to ongoing Sunday school programs? Are there tools to get information on kids?

20. Registration-Are there registration supplies? ideas for preregistration? sample forms?

All our VBS evaluators are uniquely qualified to evaluate and recommend the very best VBS curricula to you.

*Keith Johnson is the pastor to children at Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. With a staff of four, Keith oversees a ministry to over 900 children. With a staff of 14, Keith oversees the largest preschool in the state of Minnesota. He earned his M.A. in Christian education from Dallas Theological Seminary. Keith is a prolific author and workshop leader.

*Robbie Joshua is children's pastor at Faith Community Church in West Covina, California. She oversees nine departments and a volunteer staff of 300. Prior to full-time ministry, Robbie served as an educator and administrator for more than 20 years in the Los Angeles schools. She was a training teacher for the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Southern California. She was also a key player in the development of a curriculum for inner city gifted and talented students.

*Carmen Kamrath is the director of children's ministries at Community Church of Joy in Glendale, Arizona. She has served in children's ministry for more than seven years and has written several articles for Children's Ministry Magazine. Carmen has a B.A. in psychology and is working on her M.A. in education. She has developed a large summer camp program that reaches more than 1,500 children in her community.

*Debbie Neufeld has been interested in vacation Bible school since childhood. One of her first and greatest joys in ministry was planning and organizing her church VBS program. "Good, creative VBS material was the key to success!" Debbie says. For 20 years, Debbie has been involved in various aspects of children's ministries. She is currently the children's coordinator at Grant Memorial Baptist Church in Winnipeg, Canada.

Check out our reviewers' comments on the following pages to select and tune-up your VBS program this year.

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