Being the leader in the Bible Storytelling room at VBS brings three of my favorite things together-Jesus, kids, and teaching! I love having the opportunity to create a space that immerses the kids into the story and collaboratively with my actors, bring the Bible story to life. Using my experience as a classroom teacher in school, I can take the curriculum and have a good idea of what is going to work best for the space, age and size of the groups of kids and plan accordingly.
I try to get my hands on the curriculum as soon as possible in order to:
- Start dreaming about the set-up.
- Discover what I will need from the church in the way of decorations and supplies.
- How I can arrange the room to fit the Bible stories and be ready for the week.
Even though there is an overall theme for the week for VBS, decorating the Bible story room takes on a unique plan and has different needs than the other VBS teaching spaces. Some of the stories take place inside and others have outside locations. Some stories have a lot of action and actors, so they need room to perform. Some stories need a river, a boat, a tree, a king’s throne, or a table for a dinner scene. When reading through the stories for the first time, take note of the different scenes that are going to be involved. Think of ways to easily transform the room for each session in order to prepare for the next story.
- Start with a blank slate when decorating the room. Clear out furniture and equipment. Decide how to cover the walls to best fit the story scenes. Typically, I can use a combination of large backdrops that have biblical settings on them, plain colored paper, large pieces of fabric, and room dividers to create the drama performance area or areas.
- When thinking about the room’s layout, allot a space for the performance and a specific place for the kids to sit as well. Keep your learners in mind so use risers, carpet squares, and just have kids sit on the floor. No matter how your area is allocated, it’s important to have a designated space for your kids that is large enough for them to sit and talk before and after the drama. Having plenty of space also allows them to be able to see the actors and be the audience during the drama, and maybe even move around for a song, game or activity during the lesson! Every inch of the room will be used!
Once the general layout is established, backdrops in place, it’s time to gather the props and decorations that will make the stories come to life. Need a character to climb a tree? Position a step ladder behind one of the backdrops. Need the king to sit on a throne? Drape shiny fabric over a chair. Need an outdoor scene? Use artificial plants and trees from around the church to add dimension and structure to the space. Since the Bible stories change each from day to day or session to session, have kids face one direction in the room to watch the drama, then for the next day’s session, have them face a different direction. Offering options gives more flexibility with setting the scene. Maybe one end of the room is for indoor settings and the other end is for outdoor scenes! It’s fun to switch up the room setting so that the kids are excited to come back for the next day’s session to see the new set up.
The excitement of your learners is what drives the action in the Bible Storytelling room. Kids love coming in the room and being a part of a live-action Bible story, but the learning doesn’t stop there.
- When looking at the Bible Storytelling curriculum guide, there are a lot of great suggested activities that supplement the story, but typically not enough time for all of them! During the planning stage, gauge how much time each of these ideas will take and designate them as “must do’s” or “extras”. Use those designations to prioritize the activities and organize the time that each group will be with me.
- Sometimes, there are activities that are more appropriate for the younger groups or the older groups, so take note of that too. There are some days that I will do different activities for the younger groups and older groups.
- Be ready to adapt! Sometimes after teaching the first rotation of the Bible lesson you discover that something just didn’t work. Make adjustments to change the activities at the last minute for the next group…that’s why having some back up options is always a good idea!
- As plans are made for the overall room decor, I want to make sure that I am reinforcing the weekly Bible verse and the daily key learning phrases. That might be with sign language, a song or chants and cheering. Kids will remember the story because that’s the fun and exciting part, but I want them to remember the message and Bible verse too!
All of this preparation leads up to the week of VBS!
- Prior to the start of VBS, I gather our actors be the start of VBS and run through the script, pick out costumes and make sure all the props are in place.
- Since I love being part of the overall teaching experience, I take on the role of the narrator of the Bible lesson during the drama. Being the narrator of the lessons enhances the connection between me and the story for the students.
- As we move through our VBS time, each lesson gets easier, and the actors get more comfortable with their roles, and the time flies by. As each session comes to an end, when the last group leaves, I immediately get started on changing the scene for the next day or session. I put away unneeded props and get everything ready for the next story and lesson.
No matter how you think the session has gone, remember you are sharing your love of Jesus with these children. Even if the lesson doesn’t go well or the actors miss a line, this isn’t a Broadway production; this is God speaking through you to reach the hearts of his youngest followers. Kids don’t care about the perfection of the overall lesson, they care about the love they felt and the excitement and words you shared with them. While there’s a little extra preparation needed to make sessions run as smoothly as possible in the Bible Story Room, it is all worth your extra time when you see the smiles and energy the kids generate from your efforts.
VBS Volunteer Leader
Heritage Presbyterian Church