HDYDI: Lead Vacation Bible School (or any church ministry)

I’m either delusional, slighty crazy, totally in love or a bit of all three. For seven of the last eight years I’ve served as the lead or co-lead for Vacation Bible School (VBS) at two different parishes.

I wasn’t perfect and didn’t handle every situation perfectly, but I learned so many life lessons from taking on the ministry lead role. Sometimes a ministry lead can look intimidating or completely out of your skill set. I beg to differ. If you know your gifts and are passionate about the ministry, I’m betting that leading it may come easier than you think. Here’s my best advice on leading VBS (or any church ministry).

Lead VBS

1. Assemble a great team. It really does take an army of people – an army of people who are using their God-given gifts, no doubt. You can plug anyone into the snacks or outdoor games role, but is that where her gifts flourish? Some folks will volunteer themselves the moment they see the call for help in the parish bulletin. For everyone else, don’t be afraid to ask those who will be a great fit. The worst they can say is “no.” But, they usually say “yes!”

2. Meet regularly. I’ve found that meeting regularly makes folks feel like they’re a part of the team and it diffuses many potential problems. Typically, we would begin meeting monthly, beginning in January or February for a June VBS. And, for goodness sakes, keep the meetings to an hour or less. I found that typing an agenda (with times attached to each entry) made the meeting run much more efficiently. During those meetings, make a list of your priorities and work your way down the list. You won’t get to it all, so decide the things that are “must-haves” and “oh, those would be nice.” It reduces the stress level by 1000%. Trust me.

3. Don’t micromanage your team. Give them direction, a budget and some basic parameters and then let them loose on the decisions. Let them use their gifts!

4. Speaking of money, set a budget. This is SO not my forte. I always delegated this task to someone more money-minded than me and all was right with the world.

5. Work with the priest/pastor and your religious education director. One year, we assumed the priest wanted to do Mass a certain way, but after talking to him (thank goodness we did!) we changed it around. He was our biggest advocate, announcing various things at Mass and getting folks excited about the week. His voice brought many people to our ministry. His voice also bailed me out of trouble!

6. Form an alliance with area parishes. You can share t-shirt costs, decorations, ideas and more. You also have the added bonus of someone to call when you’re in a tight spot. Those folks understand what it’s like to be in your shoes. Use their wisdom!

7. Start your meetings, your work time and each day of VBS in prayer.

8. During VBS, take one ten-minute block to just stand there and take in the beauty of God’s handiwork. That was advice given to me long ago and I’ve always remembered it. Yes, you were the instrument, but He did all the heavy lifting. Seeing his love in action is supremely awesome.

9. Keep a notebook full of your notes, important papers, meeting agendas, timetables, budgets, etc. to pass along to the next director. She will thank you later.

10. Saving the best advice for last: A priest at our former parish required that ministry leads change every 3-4 years. It was his effort to keep folks from saying, “Oh, VBS is Kathryn’s baby.” He wanted the leads to change so that other people in the parish could share their gifts. I think that’s wise advise and some I took this year. I stepped down from the leading part and served as a station leader instead. It’s good to pass the torch. There are so many people in your parish who want to serve God. Let them.

Blog ButtonFor more HDYDI posts, visit my How I Do It Page.


  1. Sarah on June 18, 2013 at 10:33 am

    This is great advice for leading any ministry. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Kathryn on June 21, 2013 at 9:14 am

      Thanks, Sarah. It’s been a great run. VBS is such a fun week!

  2. Jenni Oglethorpe on June 18, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    “It really does take an army of people – an army of people who are using their God-given gifts, no doubt” Good words. I’ve also heard it phrased “It takes a village to raise a child” – old saying.

  3. Jean on June 18, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    Well done faithful servant!

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  6. Kacie McDonald on April 22, 2015 at 9:54 am

    I have a question for you but is it possible that you can shoot me an email?

  7. Dale on April 29, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    Hi Kathryn: God bless you for sharing these tips. i serve as our VBS director but have an awesome team of 50+ volunteers. And our church has a small congregation. But we constantly seek ways to enhance VBS each year. We recently held a mini-conference for our local churches and shared many of the same pointers you’ve share; that are designed to keep VBS from becoming stagnant and complacent year after year.

    • Kathryn on April 29, 2015 at 9:16 pm

      How fantastic to hear, Dale! I’m a strong believer that VBS should be collaborative and inclusive. There is so much goodness in that ministry. I admit, it’s my favorite one. Best of luck as you plan yours. Happy to have you here!

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