Did you catch the earlier blog posts from other leaders who have been WINNING at creative programming during a pandemic? Check them out here, here and here and enjoy today’s new idea below!

What is your name and job title?
Jean Brown, children’s pastor at Busti Church of God 

Where is your church or ministry program located (city, state)?Jamestown, New York 

What was the name of your VBS program?
Focus Drive-Thru VBS

What was the general concept of your program?
We created a Drive-Thru Very Best Summer which ran for three evenings for preschool through 6th graders and their families! Families stayed in their vehicles except for one stop, which was an obstacle course at the end of the program each night. 

Each morning of our VBS dates, we posted the teaching video from the VBS curriculum we purchased on our YouTube channel and directed the participating families to watch it there.

In the evenings, we had our in-person drive-thru events. As cars came in for the event, we had a team set up to hand out t-shirts and STEM kits to each family. We set up a main stage outside in a trailer that was pretty high off the ground and each family would park to watch the programming together from their cars. We had music, a worship team, and fun skits from the main stage. We had three obstacle courses set up each evening and vehicles were directed to a different course each night after the main stage programming ended. While families waited for their turn on the course, we handed out snacks to each car. We also had a photo booth with props that were wiped down and sanitized after each family while they waited. One family at a time got out of their car to do the course together.

How did you staff your program? What roles were involved in planning and execution?
Luckily, we needed fewer people to staff as we had a smaller volunteer pool than usual. We had a small planning team too. Our volunteers were assigned to various roles throughout the event: 

Parking Lot Attendants

We have never had a need for this role before, but they were imperative to pull this event off. We wanted to fit as many cars in front of the stage as possible, so we parked vehicles checkerboard-style while still maintaining a six-foot distance from side-to-side. When the main stage programming wrapped up, we dismissed vehicles very carefully from the back with clear directions to each car about which obstacle course to go to. We spaced the courses out so that the traffic didn’t get clogged up as cars lined up.

Obstacle Course Attendants

We had three teams that were each assigned to a single obstacle course all three nights. Each obstacle course was unique, and the teams were responsible for creating, purchasing supplies, building, and staffing their course. The families rotated to a different course each night. We have a large property, so we were able to do two courses pretty far apart and the other course was off-site nearby in our community. They had to be spread out in places where traffic wouldn’t jam. All of them included water and were designed so that anything that was touched was wiped down and sanitized after each family’s turn. 

Worship Team

This team was responsible for the worship and dance each evening on the main stage. Most of the people on this team were from one family and the additional team members were close friends, so we didn’t have to worry about proximity and distancing among them.

Drama Team

There were only three of us on this team. My husband and I played the roles of two crazy scientists and were the hosts of the night. We did a short, comical skit each night to introduce the theme. We had one main storyteller, who was also a mad scientist. She was more serious than the characters my husband and I played. She played her character so well—she really had the audience’s attention and had kids shouting answers to her questions from their cars. 

Support Team

This team passed out free t-shirts and take-home STEM kits as cars drove in. They also answered logistical questions from participants. After the main stage events, they dispersed to help at each obstacle course by passing out snacks and cleaning photo props between families at photo booths. 

Did you charge a fee per child or per family?
No. Our VBS expenses are built into our local missions budget.

Did you provide any resources to parents, families, or kids for your program?
We showed the teaching video portion of the VBS curriculum we purchased at 9 a.m. each morning on our church’s YouTube channel. We also sent STEM kits with each family to be done at home. We posted the directions video for each STEM kit on our Facebook page. The kits included activities that were part of our VBS curriculum.

How did you promote or market your program?
We created a Facebook event and paid to have it boosted to our community. We advertised in our church newsletter, church bulletin, and had our members share it on their Facebook pages.  

What kind of follow-up did you do with the people who participated in your program?
This is an area that we have an opportunity to improve. Since we are a small church, I am able to interact with a lot of families on Facebook and chat with them on Facebook Messenger about their experiences. However, there were some new people who came that I never got their names because we didn’t do registration this year. 

Is there anything that you plan to change if you repeat this VBS program in the future?
I’d like to work out a way to get contact information from each family—possibly with a drawing for a great prize as an incentive.

If you have any other information or details about your program that would be helpful for other leaders, please feel free to share them!
Surprisingly many people said this was their favorite VBS yet! It was so different from any other VBS program that we have done before. We also had lower numbers than we’ve ever had before (by about 50%) which could have been due to COVID-19 or because parents are used to coming and dropping off their kids and not staying with them for the night. 

I’d definitely do this format again. It is easy to do with a smaller crew of volunteers. It may forever change the trajectory of how we do VBS in the future as we really liked some of the different elements of it! We liked more time outside, ministering to families as a whole, shorter nights, sending some components home to be worked on (STEM Kits), and the obstacle courses that were such a huge hit with kids. 

To read more non-traditional VBS ideas from leaders who have creatively continued to reach the families in their communities, check out this free ebook, “Rethinking VBS: 9 Non-Traditional Ideas to have the Very Best Summer.”