One of the hardest things that congregations have had to manage during the COVID-19 pandemic is how to balance the need for church members to fellowship with each other and keeping the virus infection rates down by avoiding large gatherings. One type of gathering that has unfortunately been lost to the pandemic this year is Vacation Bible School (VBS). Some churches chose to live stream the action, but it is not as easy to share the good news of God’s word with visitors this way.
If you, like many others across the country, are already eagerly planning your VBS for 2021, remember that you may need to include some measures to keep kids, VBS volunteers, and parents safe while teaching about God’s love and the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Plan for social distancing strategies.
While we all hope that we can enjoy large gatherings again in 2021, the reality is that many of us will still be dealing with COVID-19 next year. If you want to host your VBS program in-person, then you may need to plan for social distancing strategies. This could mean reducing the number of attendees as well as placing tables around a room to ensure that kids are spaced six feet apart from each other. You will also need to consider your face mask policy. It is not easy to get a room of preschoolers to keep a mask on, but it is the safest thing to do. Try to map out your space according to the safety guidelines and figure out how many kids you’ll be able to have at VBS next year.
Buy pre-packaged items for snacks.
Every kid at Vacation Bible School loves snack time. It usually involves assembling various types of food together to create a culinary masterpiece — at least in their minds. However, it will be necessary to mitigate the spreading of germs which means that this year, you might need to buy pre-packaged items and forego the usual fun, messy treats with frosting, rice crispy treats, pretzels, and other items. Consider age groups as well when buying food for the children. For example, a 5th grader may be thrilled about Cheez-its or Doritos, whereas a preschool child may not be inclined to eat such heavily flavored snacks.
Consider a contingency plan for singing.
Many kids love the part of VBS where everyone comes together in the morning to sing songs such as “Jesus Loves Me” or “The B-I-B-L-E,” but if the coronavirus is still making its way through your area when you host your best VBS, this may not be a good activity to do. Putting that many kids in one room could prove disastrous, especially if they are singing out at the top of their lungs. According to the National Institute of Health, there is still inconclusive data on how singing affects the spread. But if you, as a church, are trying to show God’s love to visitors and non-Christians, then it is best to show them that you are concerned for their health and only have their best interests in mind. Perhaps instead of singing, you and the other event coordinators can plan out skits to keep your attendees entertained and engaged with the content.
Publish your new rules ahead of time.
Your congregation’s members will likely be thrilled to hear that Vacation Bible School is back, but they need to know the new rules well ahead of time so that they can prepare. Publish the rules in the church bulletin so that they can all read them. While there may be some pushback from members, tell them you are working with the surrounding neighborhood’s best interests in mind as you do not want to spread COVID-19 anymore than necessary.