by Kathy Carlisle
Now is the time to recruit helping hands who are willing to pitch in and make vacation Bible school happen for your parish.
Parish leaders have a pool of volunteers to assist them for catechetical programs, youth ministry, and other special events. Tap into that pool, but encourage others as well. If this is a new project for your parish, inspire first-time volunteers to enlist.
Here are three critical points to remember: Make a personal invitation or connection. Offer lots of options. Never turn down an offer of assistance.
Where to Start
Start with a list of jobs—many programs include job descriptions for volunteers. This may look way too overwhelming to present to someone, but it serves as a helpful guide. Potential volunteers get a clear idea of what might be expected of them.
Jobs can be organized into a few categories, including tasks to be completed before the program, during the program, and after the program. For example, look at these tasks related to crafts:
∗ Before VBS: identify craft projects; make a list of materials needed and gather them; sort and prep craft materials, such as cutting shapes to simplify the process.
∗ During VBS: arrange materials for the craft; provide examples and instructions to complete crafts; supervise participants during craft time.
∗ After VBS: inventory leftover materials; make notes on projects completed that would assist in the future.
There is a variety of jobs that need to be filled including assembly leaders, guest speakers, music leaders, leaders for activity centers and/or groups, a registration coordinator, and those offering hospitality in the form of snacks and information to parents. Our parish utilizes at least one adult with several teens in each activity area and group.
Keep in mind that VBS is a meaningful outreach for young people in the parish. Younger VBS participants look up to the teen helpers. It is also a wonderful service opportunity for young people. So depending on the goals of your VBS, some youth may be recruited as helpers.
The Next Step
The next step would be to match people’s gifts and talents with the tasks. There may be catechists or teachers who jump out immediately as possible helpers; nevertheless try to engage new volunteers in this unique opportunity. People often feel complimented that you thought of them and recognized their special skills.
Recruiting from the general parish population is also important. Make an announcement in church inviting volunteers to join the team, and use the bulletin and parish website to communicate needs. Our parish includes a wish list in the bulletin and a collection area for materials to be donated for decorations, crafts, or snacks. This allows the whole parish an opportunity to contribute. If your parish has a time-and-talent survey, review it to match people’s interests with this special ministry.
Parents as Volunteers
Do not overlook participants’ parents as helpers. On registration forms, offer multiple options for parents to assist with things like set up, decorating, craft prep, providing snacks, and helping during the program itself. By date, list each of the days of your VBS and let people check any day (one or more) that works for them. This will help with building a volunteer schedule.
You may uncover more jobs for volunteers as ideas come to mind. Encourage participation now so that you can depend on a core group of leaders for your brainstorming and planning. As the momentum builds, keep praying that God will inspire more people to participate in your VBS now!
Kathy Carlisle has worked in ministry for over 15 years at national, diocesan, and parish levels. She holds an MEd from Loyola University Maryland. She directs the VBS program at her parish, St. Rose of Lima in York, PA, where she also assists with the religious education program.
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This article was written by the Catechist Staff and appeared in Catechist magazine, December 2010.