You’re walking down the hallway before VBS carrying a couple of carefully balanced boxes of supplies and props when you’re nearly mown down by a crowd of children trying to play tag in the church hallway. You try to gently reprimand them and send them somewhere else, all the while trying not to lose your temper or send them somewhere without adult supervision.
You’ve been hit by early arriver fever.
Early arrivers come in lots of forms, from VBS teachers’ kids, to working parents’ kids who have an unwieldy schedule to keep, to, at my home church, the first group of kids who ride the bus, since the bus often needs to make two trips. And the same reasons kids arrive early may also make them need to stay late after VBS is over.
So what do you do with these kids to keep them from causing chaos or being bored at VBS before it’s even started?
Don’t get me wrong. As a teacher, I’ve had some great chances to bond with my kids who arrived early since there was more time to get to know them and let them ask me questions.
But it also pays to be prepared for those empty times. The adage is true, if you don’t have a plan, your kids will.
Your teachers will certainly thank you for an extra few undistracted minutes preparing rooms and getting hearts ready for VBS.
So here are some ideas you can keep in your back pocket in case you have extra time to fill:
- Enlist volunteers who love kids but aren’t comfortable in a formal teaching role. Make sure there are always at least two adults with kids. Provide them with details about the Bible study material so that they can be prepared to reinforce concepts in casual conversation. Consider suggesting some silly and serious ice breaker questions, from "if you could be a ice cream flavor what would you be?" To "what did you learn at VBS this week?" and everything in between that will help kids feel loved and known.
- Designate space- whether it’s in your church sanctuary, in an unused Sunday School room, or on your church playground, choose a spot where all your VBS workers know to send early arrivers after they’ve been registered for VBS. That way, if a straggler runs into you in the hallway, you have a safe place to send him.
- Music- Kids I’ve seen never seem to get enough of the VBS music. They always want a little more time with their favorite song. This could be extra time for teaching motions to a new song on any day. After the first day, let kids compete to say the memory verse to you. Those who do it correctly get to choose what song you replay for them.
- Games- Provide volunteers with some easy games from the Recreation Rotation Leader Cards that won’t take much setup, are adaptable, indoor/outdoor and will allow for repetition and multiple age groups. A few in Colossal Coaster World that fit this description include Quick Pass, Screaming Scrambler, Ferris Wheel Relay, Tilt-A-Whirl, Frozen Fun House Tag, and the games on the Family Connections card for families to play when they’re waiting in line somewhere.
- Take pictures and video of kids throughout the week and have these playing as a slideshow where kids can watch and pick themselves out.
- Provide an extra craft or activity that relates to the day's Bible content.
- Encourage teachers to arrive as early as possible to finish their preparations for the night and then be ready to spend time with their kids. Time spent developing relationships is never wasted at VBS.