Catholic Vacation Bible School Ideas

Earlier in the year, I reviewed several Catholic Vacation Bible School packages (and I mean real Catholic packages, meaning they were developed by actual Catholics). Our parish, however, wrote their own program this year, and it was fabulous! They have used packaged kits in the past, but ultimately ended up tweaking them so much they thought they may as well go ahead and start from scratch.

(This is a picture of the last day of VBS-
we ended with a First Friday mass!)

I do have a bone to pick with popular VBS packages- what's with the weird "themes"? I mean, if we're learning about the bible, why did we decorate our whole church like the old west, or like the arctic with polar bears everywhere? I think that choosing a random additional theme seems over the top, and like a far stretch. For our VBS this year, our theme was "Jesus' Family Summer Vacation", and each day we learned about a different prophet from the Old Testament. Know what our them was on the day we learned about Jonah? Whales. Not panda bears, but whales. Know what our theme was the day we learned about Daniel? Lions. Not surfing, but lions. Novel idea- I know! ;-)

Anywho, our parish doesn't have a school, so we don't have a great big facility to host Vacation Bible School. What do you do when you want to have VBS but you don't have a good location? You just work with what you do have! We rented a tent, made use of our picnic pavilion, had one station meet inside the church- we even made use of our Mary garden! It all worked out beautifully.

Obviously a Catholic church is different than most because we have Jesus present in the tabernacle. We made sure to catch the kids outside of the church each day to make them practice genuflecting and making the sign of the cross. We also discussed reverence each day (especially on Thursday when our church time was adoration). 

The kids were actually a lot better during church time
than I had expected- especially on adoration day!

It's pretty standard for everyone to get shirts at Vacation Bible School, but at our church each grade got a different color shirt. I thought this was a really cool idea! It was so easy to see where all the kids belonged. Also, you see our priest in the picture below? It was amazing how helpful and involved he was! :-)

I loved that during snack they watched the coordinating Veggie Tales video to go with the day's bible story. Cute!

I also helped teach all week. They already had a craft volunteer, so I became the "Music Lady". Until last week I had never played the guitar in front of more than about 10 people at a time, but I'm really glad I did it! It doesn't take much to impress the kids, so the 6 guitar chords I know worked just fine. By Wednesday I wasn't even nervous anymore. ;-)

I love dressing for VBS because for me it's a chance to wear outrageous accessories that don't fly on "normal" days.

For instance, I hardly ever get to wear this necklace I made!

I also wore several skirts with my t-shirt since I was mostly
in the church all day. (And yes, the bandana tied on my head
is from World Youth Day Toronto. Whoo hoo!) :-)

On Friday I paired my VBS t-shirt with a crazy tie dyed skirt
and I also wore outrageous jewelry, flip flops, and pigtails! :-)
(Also, this is a picture of me standing with a whale our drama team
made from a trailer and a tent. Isn't it awesome?!)

Even the little nursery kids got t-shirts.
Violet wore hers all week, too! :-)
For my kids who were too small for their shirts, 
I just tied up the extra with a rubber band and rolled the sleeves.

This really was a great program, and I'm hoping to be able to post it for free for everyone to be able to use next year. In order to get that to happen, I'm going to need to get the permission of everyone who was involved (because I only developed the music and helped with the church time) so say a prayer that it works out! I know there are a lot of parishes that could benefit from having access to a program like this.

We had such a fun (and really exhausting week) for VBS. I was actually surprised at how much I learned and grew spiritually during the week as well! Vacation Bible School is a great way to get involved with your church and teach your children about the bible in a really fun way! If you don't have a program like this available, you could just do VBS with your own kids or perhaps a few friends. Holy Heroes provides a free Catholic Vacation Bible School program that can be used at home, so be sure to look into that. 

Happy Summertime, everyone! :-)

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  1. Looks like everyone had an awesome week. I teach at our VBS every year and we always have a blast. I just love the whale:)

  2. I think it's great how you were all able to use what you had and didn't have to use "retail solutions" for everything!  I also love the whale, we made our minivan into a whale for a Halloween trunk and treat at our parish (and won a prize!) but the tent is way better!  

  3. Yes, the whale was certainly a big hit! The drama team was super above and
    beyond. I wish I would have gotten to spend more time with them! :-)

  4. OOh, I love the idea of making a van into a whale! That might work better
    for people who don't have tailors. lol! ;-)

  5. I was reading about how you loved being able to wear stuff you wouldn't normally wear and I thought about how much I love doing that at work too! I am a Head Start teacher so I get to do it a lot! I love that necklace you wore!! I also think your VBS looked great. I am praying for you to be able to post it because I am thinking about talking to my church about doing VBS next year.... ;)

  6. We do a program call "Summer Saints"  We choose a saint a day
    and use the saint's life for the theme of the day.  For example, On the St Patrick's Day, we had the currator for the Zoo bring out
    a varity of snakes.  A couple of the teachers were grossed out
    but the kids loved it.

  7. Lacy, looks & sounds awesome!  You all have a great turnout & looks like everyone had a lot of fun!  I am all for TOTALLY Catholic VBS :o)  I am planning our parish VBS right now & usually do it from scratch as well.  I have used 2 or 3 of Catholic Heritage's programs & they are really good.  I am hoping to publish the one I am working on this year :o)  We'll see...never tried anything like that before!  Our theme is Saint Safari: Africa!  We will be learning about saints from Africa including: Our Lady of Kibeho, St .Josephine Bakhita, St. Charles Lwanga, Sts. Augustine & Monica, and Sts. Perpetua & Felicity.  My 13 year old daughter even wrote a cool play for us to do at the Pot Luck on Friday night!  I will try to post more info & photos on my blog later (VBS is July 11-15)...or be watching for my book :o)

  8. I love your ideas!  Our church is doing "Fruits of the Spirit" this year, and we have someone dressed up as an OT hero stopping by to speak to the kids each day.  We always make up our own VBS--some reasons you mentioned.  I can't wait to show everyone the lion cupcakes for Daniel day--would be perfect for us this year!

  9. That is great!  We used Cat Chat - it had a wilderness theme - which I actually liked - the wilderness and a hike thru the wilderness - to the 7 sacraments.  One a day - no hiking lions ;)  The wilderness theme was nice - if you stick to the path God plans for us, follow the sacrements and teachings of the Church, you are safe in the wilderness surrounding us.  Lots of teacher prep, though - our Learning Room's stuff was sparse - no way it would teach 3 year olds to 7th graders.  We uped the anty - we "made" sin with black paint, corn syrup, soil, etc.  And God loves us enough to wash all of that goop away!  Even when the water is black!  So - lots of extra work but lots of God Moments = we had the Dominican Sisters who spoke on Oprah!  I never watch that show - but who can't cheerlead them ;)  Gush!  So we all collapsed last week.  Can't wait to read what you all did!  I LOVE that the Priest came - too bad he didnt' wear either a tie dye or your pool rosary ;)  Blessings!

  10. Great job!  Sounded like a fun week. Love the different t-shirt colors for different age groups and those cute lion cupcakes:-)  

  11. There hadn't been a Catholic VBS in our city for a number of years but 1 mom got a bunch of other moms together, we received permission from the pastor as well as a hunk of money and everything went great. We only needed to charge $5 for each child which I feel was a great relief and blessing to many families. The K4J program was chosen and it was flexible and completely Catholic. The kids loved everything from the games, snacks, songs crafts and "Missionaries in Motion".

  12. Cheryl Schroeder BasileJuly 5, 2011 at 5:15 PM

    I used to be very  involved with VBS when my son was younger; it was alot of fun and exhausting, too!  One year I liked the theme so much and our church wasn't using it so I organized a VBS for our playgroup. I took care of planning the overall agenda and crafts, another mom handled the games. We took turns having it at each family's house and providing the themed snacks. I think the theme was a water/whale one, too.  We put up our tent and pretended it was a whale, then read the story about Jonah inside the "whale" (tent).  On the last day, we did some water-themed games which the kids loved, of course!

    Some of the themes in the commercial packages are quite far removed from the concept of the Bible, but I think the creators did that on purpose.  They want the kids to feel like they are going on a "vacation" to someplace exotic or unique (thus, the "vacation" actually refers to going on a vacation somewhere.) Some protestant churches use them as a way to bring "unchurched" kids to the church and get them excited about the Bible. If it is a missionary effort, they might also bring in kids who live in poor areas and might not get an opportunity to take a vacation otherwise.

    Sounds like your church's VBS was great!

  13. I love that your parish created it's own VBS.  We have a really small parish - I only had 30 kids this year and finding adult help is like pulling teeth.  We did PandaMania and I changed all the crafts.  I was talking to my adult helpers this year and we all agreed it would be much better to come up with something ourselves.  I'm not sure of the fate of VBS next year (too much drama/politics to go into here)  but I would totally be interested in seeing your program. Thanks so much for posting this, it was a joy to read!

  14. Offended CatholicJuly 5, 2011 at 8:50 PM

    Sorry, I am  offended that you seem to think that our VBS was not as good and holy as yours because we chose to do Pandamania (Catholic version) we had to changes treats, crafts as well on some days, but I think our kids (130) learned a great deal and had a blast there as well.  I didn't think you judged people, my mistake.

  15. I would soooo love to see this program you all used. My husband is the Coordinator of Religious Ed at our Parish and we don't have VBS. A lot of other Parishes in our area do, but we don't and we have a HUGE Parish! I really want to start one next year and can't wait to see what you all did! Glad to see you had a great week!

  16. I LOVE this idea!!!! What a great way to keep it Catholic! How great!!!

  17. Also think that it is ironic that your ad under your blog is for a "commercial" VBS.

  18. Sounds like a wonderful time!  I agree with you on the themes!  Our daughter belongs to a girls group at church -- they're theme was Love of Family -- so beautiful.
    Also I can't believe you didn't wear your Sacred Heart t-shirts for the First Friday Mass!!!!  We made some this year and they turned out fantastic!  Thanks for all the ideas!

  19. A friend in ChristJuly 6, 2011 at 2:01 AM

    I think instead of being "offended" you should be excited.  So you both don't share the same view about themes of VBS.  So what?  It sounds like both parishes had a wonderful time with children who grew closer to our Lord.  Let's focus on that!

  20. A Slice of Smith Life SmithJuly 6, 2011 at 6:54 AM

    Hi Lacy! This looks like a fun week and I'm so impressed that your Catholic Church did a CATHOLIC VBS from scratch!  Our church has been doing the Protestant VBS put out by Catholic companies ( Are you familiar with Liguori Catholic VBS?  We did end our week with a mass and the volunteers did work hard to throw in Catholicism here and there through the week, like showing the image of Divine Mercy during one of the Bible story times.  But, overall it was difficult to see that our program was authentically Catholic (no adoration or mention of the Eucharist, saints throughout the week). 

    I volunteered during our week by taking the 3rd graders around from station to station.  Each child had to pay $33 for the week.  WHY do Protestant churches charge NOTHING and give away so much including meals and our local Catholic Churches charge and no meals (but snacks) are served????????  Also, my oldest daughter and I volunteered for the week and our parish administrator still made me pay $33 for each of my younger 3 children.  So I had to pay $100 for a kinda Catholic program that I could have received for free at a non-Catholic Church for FREE and my daughter and I volunteered lots of our time!!!!!  And we wonder why our Catholic youth are going to the "cheaper, more fun" non-Catholic churches???? 

    OK, I'll stop ranting and raving, whining and complaining!  A group of us parents did bring all this to our priest and administrators' attention and the "politics" in our parish is getting ugly with VBS issues being one of many.  So I'm sorry to use your comment space to vent, but I wanted to let you know how very blessed you are to be in a Catholic Church that has authentically Catholic VBS programs and that are low-cost for participants.  :) 

  21. In my comunity (in Brasil) we don't have this kind of activity, I'll get this idea and bring to my coordinator to see if we can have authorization to make at least one meeting day during the vacation time. I was wondering we would make a cinema section... First time maybe can be strange even for parents. Just a question: how you get the children stay so calm during the mass? It's a hard and stressed situation for me. Normally I stay close to them asking for silence all the time. :) Thanks for sharing 

  22. Never said my program was better or "more holy", just that I didn't get why
    VBS needed another theme on top of everything else that's going on. So glad
    that you were able to reach so many kids! :-)

  23. The VBS at our church uses a company well known for their "over the top" themes and decorations/props.Groups (the company name) is completely biblical in all lessons, songs, etc..Perhaps instead of being critical of it, why not go onto their website and see exactly what they DO teach. One must be very careful not to cast judgement on something just because it is different than what you may be familiar with. Themes make it fun for all the children and it draws those children in who may never have heard about Jesus or may have never seen a Bible. We should all support eachother as Christians and praise the Lord that through VBS, many children will come to know Jesus as their personal savior!

  24. Your church's VBS looks fantastic.  How generous of you to offer the program to us FREE online, pending the agreement of the others involved.  Our church recently renovated our old convent and turned it into a parish centre with a hall, perpetual adoration chapel and several metting and classrooms.  As an ECE, I hope to be able to propose this to the Parish Council for next summer!

  25. Thanks for all your ideas, Lacy!  We need a "chalice craft" for our own homemade VBS next week.  Any ideas?

  26. I just put the finishing touches on our homegrown VBS program for 2011.  The focus of ours is the Stations of the Cross.  Thanks to your blog we have wonderful craft ideas!  We are doing the Stations  Booklets, Stations in a box, and tie-dying the Divine Mercy pattern - considering first image of that is actually from the cross!  I am excited to see how it all turns out!

  27. oh my goodness. all the pictures are precious! looks like you all are having so much fun too :)

  28. TOTUS TUUS is a diocesan program that gathers together college students and seminarians onto teams of two each and sends them to parishes to spread the GOOD NEWS of our LORD among children and youth.  For grade school children the program consists of catechetical instruction, songs, games, daily Mass, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, lunch, recess and more.  TOTUS TUUS balances strong catechetical content with having FUN!  The high school program has catechetical instruction, a night of Adoration and Reconciliation, and a night of fellowship with the team.  The goal of both programs is to help them to know the LORD and love him more deeply.  Because of the youthfulness and energy of the teachers, the children and youth have FUN as well!  Try Totus Tuus it's been great for many of the churches in Chicagoland!

  29. Lacy,

    What a great experience!  There's a parish in Akron, Ohio that did a Catholic one with a different Saint each day.  I think it's a lady local to them that wrote it, but never found out.

    Our parish here partners with a local non-denominational church for the week.  We run the a.m. one with pretty much just kids from our parish and they run the p.m. one.  There is an understanding that we keep it ecumenical in case some one from the other church attends.  Group is who they pandas abound.

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