Tips for an inclusive Vacation Bible School program

Churches across the country are preparing for Vacation Bible School! The typical week-long event for elementary-aged kids mixes fun and fellowship while growing their belief in God. 

All children are different and should have the opportunity to participate in VBS. Church leaders can help ensure everyone feels included and empowered by following a few simple steps:

"Get to know you" questionnaire: Have all families fill out a questionnaire with helpful information so you better know the child and their unique needs before the event starts. Include positive questions about what the child enjoys and their biggest strength, as well as other inquiries about allergies, learning difficulties, etc.

Offer a preview: Some kids may benefit from seeing the setting before VBS starts. If possible, set up pictures online that parents can access to show children with worries or special needs. Another option is to offer a brief tour to those interested the day prior or an hour before VBS starts.

Modified activities: Think about planned activities and how they can be modified for all needs. For example, nonverbal children can't sing during worship times, but might enjoy participating by playing small instruments. For craft time, consider using glue sticks instead of glue bottles to reduce messes and enable all small-muscle abilities.

Communication: Use of pictures can be beneficial for special needs kids as well as the many children who can't or are still learning to read. Pictures can be useful in a variety of ways, including creating the daily schedule, noting steps for a project, or explaining directions for common tasks such as washing hands.

Buddies: Some kids will come to VBS with friends and immediately have a vibrant social circle. Others may come alone or be more shy, so you can encourage new friendships by assigning buddies for the week. Buddy teams offer a fun and useful organization method for tackling projects and checking in as groups move through the program.

Age-appropriate responsibilities: Elementary teachers know that giving kids jobs to do in the classroom not only helps get important tasks done, but also empowers children and teaches responsibility. At VBS you can do this too by giving kids simple age-appropriate tasks each day, such as passing out snacks or line leader.

One-on-one assistance: Finally, some kids will need more help than others. Make one-on-one assistance an option for parents who express the need. When kids have a trusted volunteer by their side, they're sure to thrive at VBS and make memories to last a lifetime.

Posted July 2, 2018