Did you catch the earlier blog posts from other leaders who have been WINNING at creative programming during a pandemic? Learn more about Backyard VBS, ideas for Virtual VBS, or Hybrid Virtual VBS with Backyard Gatherings on the blog. Today, we will learn about Drive-Thru VBS!
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
Drive-Thru VBS Concept
What was the name of your VBS program?
Focus Drive-Thru VBS
What was the general concept of your program?
For a nontraditional VBS concept, we created a Drive-Thru Very Best Summer! This VBS 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, we posted the teaching video from the VBS curriculum we purchased on our YouTube channel. We directed the participating families to watch it there.
In the evenings, we had in-person drive-thru VBS events. As cars came in for the event, a team handed out t-shirts and STEM kits to each family. In order for families to watch the programming together, we set up a main stage in a trailer that was high off the ground. Each family watched the programming together from their cars.
To engage families, there was music, games, and fun skits from the main stage. We also had three obstacle courses set up each evening, and vehicles were directed to a different course each night after the main stage programming. While families waited for their turn on the course, we handed out snacks to each car. To make drive-thru VBS a memory, there was a photo booth with sanitized props. One family at a time got out of their car to do the course together.
Drive-Thru VBS Logistics
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. In addition, we also had a small planning team. Our volunteers were assigned to various roles throughout the event:
Parking Lot Attendants
Although we have never needed this role before, parking lot attendants were imperative for drive-thru VBS to run smoothly. In order to fit as many cars in front of the stage as possible, 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 carefully from the back with clear directions on which obstacle course to visit. To avoid traffic, we spaced the courses.
Obstacle Course Attendants
In order to make the obstacle courses run smoothly, we had three teams assigned to a single obstacle course every night. 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 of drive-thru VBS.
It was critical that courses were spread out in places where traffic wouldn’t jam. Thankfully, we have a large property, so we were able to set up two courses far apart, and the other course was off-site in our community. To prevent the spread of germs, each course was wiped down and sanitized after each family’s turn.
The worship team was responsible for the worship and dance each evening on the main stage. Since most of the people on this team were from one family or close friends, we didn’t have to worry about proximity and distancing among them.
For the drama team, there were only three people, and they were all mad scientists! My husband and I played two of the crazy scientists and hosted each night. To introduce the theme, we did a short, comical skit. The other scientist was the more serious one and played her character so well — she had the audience’s attention and had kids shouting answers to her questions from their cars!
To make the logistics of drive-thru VBS run smoothly, the support team passed out free t-shirts and take-home STEM kits as cars entered. Also, they answered logistical questions from participants. After the main stage events, they passed out snacks and cleaned photo props.
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?
At 9AM, we showed the teaching video portion of the VBS curriculum we purchased through our church’s YouTube channel. We also sent STEM kits with each family to complete at home and posted the directions video on our Facebook page. These kits included activities that were part of our VBS curriculum.
Marketing Drive-Thru VBS
How did you promote or market your program?
To market this program, we created a Facebook event and paid to have it boosted to our community. We also 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?
For next year, 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 that drive-thru VBS 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 dropping off kids.
With that said, I’d definitely do drive-thru VBS again. It is easy to do with a smaller crew of volunteers, and it may forever change the trajectory of how we do VBS in the future! Everyone 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.
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.