VBS Reviews 2020: Our Methodology

VBS Reviews 2020: Our Methodology

Our goal is to provide you with a brief overview of a variety of Vacation Bible School curricula, from cost to schedule to what to expect theologically.

Virginia Theological Seminary has offered Vacation Bible School reviews for more than 15 years. Beginning as an in-person “fair” and transitioning to an online-only presence in 2018, Lifelong Learning has spent countless hours assessing intensive, formative curricula so that the hundreds of folks can rely on an authoritative assessment. We take our role in your programming seriously. This year, we asked our reviewers to probe the various programs a little more deeply.

Basics First

We have set up each review with what we think the reader needs to know at a glance before delving deeper into content. 

  • Title & Publisher
  • Cost
  • How to purchase the program
  • What age groups the curriculum is designed for
  • What scheduling options are available 

We note ovearching scripture theme, if there is one, and the themes for each session. We think this helps readers see the arc of the content in one swoop and gives a good overview of which books of the Bible will be included in the program.

What’s Included in The Basic Package?

We know that many people choose to purchase only the basic package, or choose to purchase a few basic packages to really get an idea of what is offered. 

  • Is there music, how is accessed, can it be duplicated
  • Is there online help (registration forms, chat room, marketing, etc.)
  • Marketing (posters, flyers, postcards)
  • Sample crafts
  • Videos for opening and closing skits
  • Leader guides for each age group
  • Is a digital form available
  • Are worship prompts or a complete service included

This section flows into more detailed answers about the complexity, appropriateness, and overall choices for:

  • Snacks
  • Decorations
  • Music
  • Worship

What Else Does a Leader Need to Know?

We know that VBS leaders and clergy turn to us for more than an overview of the stuff. Just as in the past, each of our reviews includes a “strengths and weaknesses” section.

Theology and Practice

This year we asked reviewers to answer a series of Guiding Questions. You’ll find these answers after Strengths & Weaknesses under the title “What Our Reviewer Thought.” We believe that representation matters. We believe that all children are made in the image of God and are beloved by God. We believe we are called to be careful stewards of creation. To that end, we wanted to know how these VBS curricula addressed questions we consider vital to the life of our worshiping communities.

  • How does this curriculum approach scripture?
  • How is leadership represented in the leader guide and the content?
  • How are cultures of the world represented, if at all?
  • Are there people of color represented in the content?
  • Are there different cultures, genders, folks with disabilities represented?
  • Are roles in skits & stories binary? Can we adapt based on our needs?
  • Are the games adaptable for all participants?
  • Are games collaborative and team-building?
  • How does this VBS approach care of creation in content and structure?

about the publisher

Finally, we added a paragraph about the publishing house. We believe all curricula deserve our time to review. And we understand that many, many churches choose the most complete package or the program that will partner well with the church down the street. However, we also emphatically believe that the more you know about a curriculum, the better equipped you are to make a choice that fits with your congregation’s theology and mission statement.

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