Vacation Bible School: Keeping it Fun and Keeping it Catholic

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by Sarah Reinhard

There’s a certain irony to me writing about Vacation Bible School (VBS), because while I grew up at a (non-Catholic) church camp and spent my childhood attending VBS, as an adult, I haven’t been too fond of it. I love being a catechist, but working VBS is more like camp counselor meets chaos management, and I’ve realized that I hate event planning.

But I couldn’t avoid VBS in the last few years because my older children are old enough to demand it. They want to do it. How do I say no to that?

So, a couple of years ago, in a move that was either stupid or desperate, I organized our parish’s VBS. Here are a few tips I learned, and a few resources where you can find Catholic VBS resources ready to go.

Setting the Stage

In our parish, we realized that it’s not as much about catechesis as it is about fellowship. It brings together younger families, especially the children and the moms. (No offense, dads. But, like my own husband, many of them are working late and can’t make it to our VBS festivities.)

Get support. The first thing you have to do is get approval and support from both your pastor and your parish staff. Without them, you can’t do it. Period.

Set the dates. Next, you need to set the dates, and there’s a whole series of dates that matter. There are the dates and times for the actual VBS, yes, but also for your planning meetings and your timeline. Over the years that I’ve been involved (however reluctantly) with VBS, I’ve observed that there’s no time that works for everyone. It’s important, though, to keep in mind events and times that will affect the young families in your parish and those who are available to volunteer to help, things like community festivals, county or state fairs, school obligations, and other parish events.

Who are you serving? Come to think of it, sit down for a minute and think about who your VBS is for. At our parish, it’s for families with young grade school-aged children. Though we do get teens and preteens to help, the families who come and help are usually those with younger children. They’re also, in my experience, the moms who most need to connect with other moms in the parish, so keep that in mind as you’re pulling things together. One year, a volunteer made a special place for moms to hang out with their toddlers or just themselves. We provided super yummy homemade goodies. They didn’t have to help or do anything other than just chat. Someone told me afterward that it was the most fun they’d ever had at a VBS.

So don’t limit yourself to thinking that VBS is just for the kids. That’s the excuse for getting together, sure, but it doesn’t have to be where you stop. A few simple touches can make it an event for adults to enjoy too!

It’s a Team Thing

Once you’ve set your dates and your timeline, you need to outline your expectations and round up your team. Because, let’s face it: you can’t do it yourself. No, really, you can’t. For one thing, it’s not your VBS. For another, you rob others of the joy that could come from being involved.

A word about meetings: no one likes a meeting that goes on and on with no purpose or having to hustle at the last minute because something was poorly planned. You’ll need some meetings, without a doubt. I usually set meetings for an hour, and I set a timer. I’ve been known to stop talking when the clock’s up, and volunteers working with me have told me that they appreciate that. We can have another meeting, after all, and sometimes that’s what’s needed. In my experience, parish meetings don’t work if they last longer than an hour.

There are also many things you can handle via email, shared documents, and even technology like Evernote. You can do some communicating by email.

You have to plan, plan, plan, it’s true. But you also have to adjust, adjust, adjust. You’ll need to carve out your set-up time, the volunteers to help with different areas, and some extra people who can just be what I call “firefighters.” Make sure you have facilities information and all the paperwork you’ll need.

And before your brain explodes, don’t forget: You have a team for a reason! (I need that sentence to be as a reminder to myself.) Also, this is a parish event, so begin and end every meeting with prayer, however brief. You’re doing God’s work.

Sarah Reinhard can be found online at

Catholic VBS Resources

Catholic Vacation Bible School

(Loyola Press)

This is a resource book that includes planning and information for planning VBS for three different themes. The book contains instructions for setup, implementation, and follow-up for each theme. There’s background information, music suggestions, a daily schedule, snack ideas, lesson plans with scripted content, and blackline masters for copying. This has an imprimatur and sells for $39.95 from

Barnyard Roundup

(Liguori Publications)

Liguori has a months-long process for crafting their VBS programs. They use the New American Bible, Revised Edition and also cross-check their themes against Catholic theology. Their program has an imprimatur. The starter kit includes everything you need to get your VBS up and rolling, including planning and implementation instructions, activities, instructor books, games, posters, clip art, and more. I’ve used Liguori materials as a VBS volunteer and as the director of VBS and yes, it’s thorough. $159.99, from

Summer Faith Adventure

(Holy Heroes)

Holy Heroes has a unique take on VBS: this is an option that’s designed as much for families to do themselves as it is for parishes. The theme is around general catechesis and focuses on distinctly Catholic topics including sacraments and how to pray the Rosary. In the deluxe leader’s packet, you’ll get three activity books that go with the DVD presentations, an audio CD of the music, and the complete set of Holy Heroes Rosary CDs. $73.95, from

Totally Catholic VBS

(Our Sunday Visitor)

The 2016 theme is “Cave Quest: Following Jesus the Light of the World.” As with other VBS programs, this one has daily scripture woven into everything. This is another program that boasts an imprimatur. In the starter kit, you’ll get the director’s planning guide, station leader manuals, DVDs and CDs with training resources, the Sing & Play CD, and student resources. $176.99, from

Cat.Chat Vacation Bible School


This is a series unlike anything else I found. For one thing, there are six different themes available, so you can pick which theme you want to use. The themes are distinctly Catholic, focusing on the Mass, Mary, the sacraments, and angels and saints. The newest theme, Birthday Blast: A Celebration of Life is a pro-life themed program where kids learn to discover, respect, protect, serve, and celebrate life. The price of the kits ranges from $239.95 for the first four to $249.95 for the latest, and include leader guides, an action song DVD, VBS music CDs, a resource CD-ROM, free samples of take-home items, and a poster. 249.95, from


Copyright 2016, Bayard, Inc. All rights reserved. This article is protected by United States copyright and other intellectual property laws and may not be reproduced, rewritten, distributed, redisseminated, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast, directly or indirectly, in any medium without the prior written permission of Bayard, Inc.

This article was written by the Catechist Staff and appeared in Catechist magazine, June 2016.

Image Credit: Yuganov Konstantin/Shutter Stock 557866771

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