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Our church is planning on doing a 1-day VBS in December. 

It would run for 3 hours.  We would focus on the Christmas story.  It is intended as an outreach to the community--drop your kids off and then get some of your Christmas shopping done!  Therefore, the kids we get may very well not be that familiar with the "real" Christmas story. So, here are some of my questions:

  1. Has anyone done something like this before and would be willing to share their ideas?
  2. We are thinking of doing 5 workshops of 25 minutes.  That will leave some "passing time" as well as a little time at the beginning and end to get kids sorted out. I've looked through the forums and have found a few ideas for stations (workshops), but could always use more
  3. Does anyone know of a good video of the Christmas story that lasts 20".  I saw a reference to a claymation one here, but have never heard of it and don't know if it is any good.
  4. And ideas on getting across the idea to the kids of WHY we needed a Savior to be born at Christmas. 
  5. If this actually works and we get alot of kids from the neighborhood, then it will be alot of kids and parents that we don't recognize.  We want to be safe and not hand the kids off to the wrong adults!  I was thinking of using wristbands to match them up--any other ideas?
  6. Any other words of wisdom?




Last edited by Neil MacQueen
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Christmas in July


Cathy, we did a 5 day Christmas in July several years ago to explain our Christmas traditions. Hope some of these ideas help you.  Included in the rotations were:


Crafting:  making advent wreaths of craft paper and painting t-shirts with advent wreaths


Cooking:  Ginger Bread Nativities


Games: Tug O War between the "Shepherds" and the "Wise Men" over a rubber wading pool filled with cotton batting and fake snow.


          Candy Cane Bite (candy canes hung on a wire between two poles. Kids had to remove them using teeth only and drop them into a bucket.  Timed for the older kids


          Tinsel Tangle:  Tossing a 100 ft spool of tinsel garland back and forth in a circle of children to create something of a spider web of tinsel.


          Pin the candle on the Christmas Tree


Video: Veggie Tales St. Nicholas for younger kids

          Discovery Video about the real St. Nicholas for older (PBS from the 80's?)


Service: Soup mix bags and Hygiene Bags to deliver to local shelter


Culminated with a Posada (Family) that had each family bring canned goods to the manger and then celebrated with a traditional Christmas Dinner prepared by the congregation.  Though out the week, St. Nick (in red Hawaiian shirt) visited with the children.


Our Symbol was an image of Santa kneeling before the manger.  We wanted our children to understand that, while Christmas is fun, the traditions we celebrate have a much deeper meaning than put forth in the commercial world.  We taught the origin of the Candy Cane, The stories of the Wise Men and the Shepherds and why they represent the Good News being brought to the world of both the Jews and the Gentiles.  We taught the meaning of Advent and preparing for Our Lord to come back. We taught  the legend of Luther's Christmas Tree Candles, why we give gifts, why we enjoy ginger and sweet, spicy treats in the Holidays.  Most of All, we taught that Christmas is about Christ and what He did for us.


Hope this helps.

Last edited by Lesson Forma-teer

"Drop and Shop"


Three years ago we did a "drop and shop" program.


  • Advertised to the community and to our members (small church).
  • We had about 15 young kids for 3 hours. 
  • Fed them lunch, played games, did a Xmas craft, showed an Advent movie.


We have no plans to do it again. 


For our own kids who attended, it was redundant. They were 'getting it' in Sunday School. And most of our own kids stayed away. 


Of the 7 or 8 'neighborhood kids' ...several were from other churches (friends of members), and most were quite young, so the impact of our time with them was likely forgotten.  Of the 3 or 4 kids who we thought might be "unchurched" ...none ever came back that I know of, and we did follow-up with them!


So as an "outreach" it was a lot of work for little result.



As for "giving parents a break to go shopping...,"  what a mixed message that is. 


IF I were to do it again...I would INCLUDE parents.  (in past years we've done a version of the "Unplug the Christmas Machine" workshop, which was well-received.) 




VBS in many churches is not an evangelistic/outreach program, but rather, it is often a 'replacement' or filler program for churches that do NOT have summer Sunday School (and a chance to do something different and outdoors).  


  • If my ADVENT VBS would be evangelistic because of our neighborhood situation/needs, then I think it could be a great idea  ...perhaps AFTER Christmas.  
  • But if it's for "mostly our own kids" ...then it could be a rather big burden on leaders, and redundant of what we already do in Sunday School, --at a very busy time of the year. 

Hope these thoughts help.



Last edited by Lesson Forma-teer

Interesting thoughts Neil. It doesn't sound like any of the adults involved had any fun! I'm wondering about the kids. Did they have fun? 


Every event like this is a balance -- effort vs. outcome. And to add to the mix, often one can't see the "outcome!" If one kid heard the good news, would that be worth it? This is hard because it is such a busy time of year! Such tradeoffs!


Interested in hearing other thoughts!


-- Carol


p.s. For help in changing our attitude about Christmas shopping, visit Advent Conspiracy 



Oh we had fun, Carol. I'm the game master!

But the longer I've been at this, the more I ask about the difference between "what works" and "what's just work." 

Corollary: I remind our Outreach Team that our members are better at inviting their neighbors than any newspaper ad or brochure or "event" will ever be.

Other Ideas

Thanks, Neil & Carol, helpful thoughts. I especially respond to "what works and what's just work!" I hope Cathy will let us know how this goes and whether they are able to do some outreach with it. Our traditional summer VBS has netted us some new participants because the kids had such a good time. Of course, these are a small percentage of our non-member attendees, but still a good enough result.

A video possibility:  Vol 3 of the Jesus Storybook Bible on DVD. This is a modestly animated version of the book -- the illustrations in the book are "enhanced" to provide some movement. Basically it's a reading with everyone able to see the illustrations on screen. David Suchet (of Hercule Poirot fame) is the reader. The whole DVD (11 stories) is 59 minutes. Christmas (the annunciation through the Magi) is the first 3 stories. I feel pretty confident that would come in at under 20 minutes.

Another DVD: Rabbit Ears "The Savior Is Born" on DVD. This is a similar style of "enhanced" illustrations. These illustrations are in the style of stained glass windows -- not whimsical, but beautiful and the music is from Christ Church Cathedral Choir, very traditional. The reader here is Morgan Freeman -- to whom I could listen for hours! But it's 28 minutes. You can start after the credits (about 2 min) and stop at the end of the shepherds' visit (about 12 min left). That would give you about 14 min of video and a pretty good margin for settling in and discussion. This video is beautiful and reverent, BUT not enough animation to hold pre-school attention, I think.

Both tell the biblical story without fictional embellishments. My regional library has the Rabbit Ears DVD, too, so it's worth checking your library.

My library also has the video the claymation First Christmas with Christopher Plummer as narrator, by Billy Budd Films (Moderator adds on 9/17/21- see this link for details on where to find this.) It shows the running time as 21 min. You might find it at your library, too. I haven't used this one.


PS to Carol LOVE "Advent Conspiracy" -- so gentle and generous, not heavy-handed, but still makes a great point.

Last edited by Luanne Payne

Christmas VBS


We did our Christmas VBS event last weekend.  We had 18 kids registered (two did not show up--one was sick).  We had 3 kids just show up--they had seen our banner at the corner (they had to take a bus from 2 suburbs over so it was a bit of work for them to get here).  Of these 21 kids, 8 were not members of our church.  Our pastor was at the event and had a chance to talk to some of these families--so we will see about that. 


The kids seemed to have a good time and seemed to know the Christmas story better by the end of the afternoon.  The volunteers had a great time--a number of them were saying things like "When we do this next year, we should...........".  So I think that we will probably do it again. And we will check with Pastor to see if anything comes from the visitors. 


Here is a brief overview of how the afternoon went (I will post links to the specific lessons once I have posted them).  The time of our event was from 1-4 pm.  We had a 15 minute opening (to give kids a chance to be dropped off).  During the opening, they decorated gift bags--at each activity station they got an item to put into their bag.  Then we had 5 activity stations (each 30" long).  There was a 15" closing session at the end where the kids could watch a video or color while waiting for their parents. We had the kids divided into 3 groups--each group had 2 youth group members serving as guides.  Each activity station had a teacher and a helper.  One of these 2 persons was the narrator--we told the Christmas story from the perspective of 5 different characters.  Here is a brief overview:


StationNarratorActivity Overview

Gift Bag Item

Openingn/a15" gathering time. Tables with crayons and markers so that kids can decorate their gift bagsThe gift bag!
GamesMaryGo through an obstacle course--the various obstacles retell Mary's storyflyer about our church and Sunday School
DramaShepherdPut on costumes and act out the storyChristmas tract--The Gift of Christmas
CookingAngelPut together a snack mix--the ingredients help tell the storyTheir left-over snack and the "recipe" (with the meanings)
StorytellingJosephScavenger hunt to find gift boxes (which have stickers relating to the Christmas story).  Each child has a card stock Christmas tree that they decorate with these ornaments.Their tree
GiftMagiThey will put together a brownie mix (in a bag not a jar) as a gift.The gift and the recipe
Last edited by Lesson Forma-teer

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