Yesterday I re-posted an article I wrote three years ago about VBS. As I re-read and edited it, I realized we have made significant strides in making VBS a little less work and a lot more fun. To be sure, it’s still a ton of work, and it can be frustrating at times. And even though I’m recovering from my VBS hangover, I feel a lot better about this year than I did three years ago. These are some of the reasons why.

Build Friendly Systems

Back then, we had yet to embark on our complete system overhaul. Then, our systems were not adaptable, or easy for the uninitiated to use. Everything was in “make it work” mode, and it was often hard to do just that. 

Today, we have a very flexible, yet easy to use system. Because we’ve standardized so much, it’s easy for our volunteers to walk in and be successful even though the entire stage layout looks different. This is very important for us because unlike three years ago when I had seasoned veterans on the crew, this year, my oldest tech was 17. I had a Jr. High student running ProPresenter, and our lighting guy was training one of his friends how to run lights. My stage camera ops just entered Jr. High. 

And the best part of all this: By Tuesday, they were pretty much running the show with minimal input from me or Jon (my ATD). 

Better Up Front Communication

After that rough experience three years ago, we revamped our entire VBS production process. The team held weekly production meetings for a month leading up to VBS. That made sure we were all (mostly) on the same page. A few things still got missed, but it was pretty smooth over all. And the items that were missed were not major issues, and we all recovered quickly.

Team Development

We’ve spent the last year or so building up our student ministries tech teams. My ATD Jon has been doing a great job with that, and it showed this week. For set up the Friday before VBS, we had a small army of students on stage building sets, hanging lights, setting audio and painting props. It was amazing to watch. 

As I mentioned, our entire tech team was students. Because we’ve spent the time to build into them, they were able to run the entire show with minimal help. In fact, I was home mixing a CD Thursday morning while Jon and the team handled the entire day. This is hard work building teams, but it pays off big time. Especially on Friday when almost all of them stuck around to help put the stage back. We were done before 5 PM—a full 3-4 hours earlier than I predicted. 

Simplify, But Do It Well

In past years, we’ve tried to do massive productions for VBS. And I’m not saying those are a bad thing, but for us, we’ve found making things a little simpler is more effective. Rather than trying to pull off something we don’t have manpower for, we programmed a week that our team could really do a great job at. 

There was still a lot going on—the band was 9 people, and we still had a drama—but it was dialed back a bit. Instead of everyone being frustrated at not being able to hit too high a bar, everyone was excited that it came off so well. That built the team’s confidence, and we can aim a little higher next year. 

All in all, it was a great week. Hundreds of kids learned more about Jesus’ love for them, we raised over $12,000 for a children’s home in the Philippines, and our team did a great job. Though I’m not going to lie, I’m glad I have 51 weeks off before the next one…

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