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Years ago, I worked in children’s ministry at a large church in Atlanta. I came to know the Lord through their youth ministry. I fell in love with the Lord and with his people. I love church. I’ve loved church since I was a teeny little thing… long before I even knew the Lord. Though it wasn’t my family’s church, I spent as much time as I possibly could at this new one. I soaked in all the things. Any chance I got to help, I was there! The youth ministry ran the VBS when I was in high school. It wasn’t a VBS though… it was a summer sports spectacular. Children earned letters (like a letter jacket) throughout the week as they accomplished different tasks of physical strength. We would travel to the pool a few miles down the road a couple of times during the week. The girls did a sleepover in the church gym one night and the boys did it another night. I remember discovering during one of those times that I actually like s’mores. I think I might have eaten ten!
Once I was in college, that church change how they operated and began to put on an actual Vacation Bible School. The youth were still heavily involved. I remember coming back one year and helping with the music. One year I was an intern in the children’s ministry and got to help with Vacation Bible School by helping write the skits! I also got to help with Backyard Bible Clubs (I’ll explain in a few). It was super fun! That particular church puts on a fantastic program with amazing volunteers every year. Maybe I’m remembering it with rose-colored glasses, but I remember smiles and love oozing from the people who were helping. They weren’t tired and I don’t think they were dragged into it. I think they genuinely wanted to be there.
I moved away from Atlanta, got married, and started having kids. If you don’t know me… my kids were all born in different states. Number one was in South Carolina, number two in Georgia, three in Florida, and four in North Carolina. We moved back to Atlanta for a brief couple of years when number two was born and we got involved in my church from high school. Being a parent involved in children’s ministry was equally as fun! As I said, the church put on a fantastic Vacation Bible School. I don’t know if they still do it, but at the time… once the VBS week was over, the children’s ministry staff would package up the materials for the week for families to come and check out. Families were encouraged to take the materials and put on a Backyard Bible Club in their neighborhoods. Invite neighbors and friends and share the message, music, and games. In the days when I was an intern at the church, I would go and help the families put on the club.
I loved the idea. What a great way to share the gospel! What a great way to love your neighbors. When we lived in an apartment just outside of Atlanta and my kids were 2 and 4, I got permission to use the common building of the apartment, checked out one of the boxes, and had one of the current interns come to help me put on a backyard Bible club. We didn’t have many kids, but we had a blast! When we moved to Florida, I wanted to keep going. My sweet friends from our Atlanta church sent materials to help. The first year it was my kids and two or three neighbors. We did it again the next year and had about fifteen kids. Those are precious memories.
When we moved to North Carolina, I found myself with four children and starting our homeschool journey. We joined a church that was fairly young and didn’t have a building of its own. It had never had a Vacation Bible School so I volunteered to help put one on! We used another friend’s backyard and invited people from the church and their friends to attend. It was the sweetest week. Teens were helping. We had music, skits, and games, and learned all about missionaries. We had special moments like a visit from the fire station to learn about fire safety and climb on a fire truck! The next year, the church had a building. I helped with the VBS for a couple of years before our life took a detour into the world of childhood cancer and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Fast forward to 2020. Covid… everything had shut down. Our church was not doing a VBS. I’m not sure that they had opened their doors for in-person gatherings yet. My kids were missing their friends. Things were starting to loosen up as far as getting together. My (at the time) thirteen-year-old and her best friend asked if they could do a backyard Bible club. It was a learning experience! Learning leadership, delegation, how to include people, time management, classroom management… so many things. I encouraged the girls to keep it short and sweet. I can’t remember if they did two days or three. They recruited so many friends to come and help. We had more helpers than kids! We had a snack team, a game team, a craft team, a check-in team, and team leaders. Several kids from our neighborhood plus many younger siblings and friends came. It was a bright spot in a hard season.
This year, the girls asked again if they could put on the club. They are older now and more mature. I have been 99% hands-off this go-round. They made their plans, hired their staff, advertised the club, communicated with the parents, and did team planning and debriefing every day. We are finishing the week of this year’s club and I thought I’d share some tips if you ever decide to host a backyard Bible club at your house.
How big is your space? Do you plan to be outside the entire time? How many days (I recommend three. My girls recommend five.)? How long each day? We are doing 9-12 this year. The first year we did 10-12. I was nervous at first that they would get hot and tired and bored and not fill the entire time. Day one took a little adjusting, but they got the hang of it. Will kids be coming in and out of the house? Which bathroom will they use? How many kids are you comfortable with? Who will be helping?
Canva! Canva is so easy and has tons of designs and features that are free. I had my daughter design a graphic with the basic information. She sent it to the families she babysits. I shared it on social media. Her friends shared as well. We created a Google Doc on which people could sign up. The sign-up included a space for allergies, emergency contact information, and other important information.
What will be the theme of the week? One year we did The King is Coming and learned all about King Jesus. One year we did Go Light Your World and learned about missionaries. One year we did the Four Spiritual Laws. Others we have done include the basic story of Creation, Fall, and Redemption, Go West, Detectives, and more. This year’s theme is Safari. The kids are using books from the Heroes for Young Readers to learn about Christian Heroes of the past. They will also learn about how they can impact their world for Christ. They ordered safari hats and fake mustaches. They decorated the check-in tent with stuffed snakes and other safari-ish items.
Plan Your Schedule
How will you use your time? Our day usually goes something like this:
Welcome Gathering… everyone gathers while they wait for friends to arrive. Sidewalk chalk is available to play with. Some of the teens ask get-to-know-you questions or review questions from the day before. Once everyone is there, they have a skit and explain how the day will go.
Games… we have a game master who comes up with games each day to go with the lesson.
Crafts… our craft team helps to complete themed crafts.
Lesson… The children gather to hear a story and have their lesson and Bible memory time
Snack… The snack team prepares and serves the snack. They also keep the water flowing as it is pretty warm outside and we want to make sure everyone is hydrated.
Final Gathering… the kids come back together to review the day.
We have chickens and guinea pigs at our house. So they’ve incorporated petting zoo time. You could choose something special that’s specific to your family home. On Friday, we will have water day. We get a giant tarp to use as a slip-and-slide. We will have water guns as well.
I had the girls make a list of everything they needed for the week. We went shopping at the Dollar Store and grocery store for crafty things and snacks. I also encouraged the girls to put a spot on the sign-up form asking if parents would be willing to donate a little towards the cost. We definitely don’t want people to stay away because of money. Usually, people are happy to chip in a little bit. You could also make a list of items and see if anyone could donate or loan something for the week.
Other Things to Consider
- Have the parents sunscreen and bug spray the kids before they come.
- Will parents be dropping kids off or sticking around? If they drop off, make sure you have a contact number!
- Will you have the kids all stay together as a group or have them split up into teams? Teams could be by age or by gender or all mixed up.
- Make sure you pay attention to food and other allergies!
- Have a first aid kit on hand.
- Whether you have two kids or twenty, praise the Lord! Have fun and make memories! Seeds planted can grow into beautiful things.
- Have a celebration at the end for your volunteers. Order pizza and celebrate the week!