All Aboard: How We Pulled Off Virtual VBS at Northside UMC


Northside UMC is wrapping up Day 4 of Virtual VBS and, even with the theme "Rocky Railway," it has been a great ride! 
By Brandi Diamond

With the COVID-19 pandemic, our team (including Estee Lassiter, Nissa White, Marie Smith, Nancy Jeanne Bateman, & Gaby Obregon) was faced with early challenges due to the timing of our VBS. I hope our decisions and plans can help others who are still deciding if and how to pull this off.

A few points that helped us make our decision to go virtual:
  • Our VBS was scheduled for early June — way too early to have a large group of children get together in a traditional way safely.
  • We needed to maintain our May 1 deadline — this allowed us to order final supplies, give parents as much notice as possible of the change, and also maintain care for our team during this time. This also allowed us to create a plan for how we would lean on our volunteer team.
  • We wanted to use our time wisely — and the decision to go in person, go virtual, attempt a reschedule, or cancel outright would greatly influence the way we spent our time.
  • We engaged the whole staff, allowing us to create a clear plan of what would happen when and by which team member, so that we could make the most of the time we had.
  • A big help to us was having a digital curriculum including virtual measures, rights to resources, and encouragement. Whatever resource you use, be sure to check out what they offer online to support what you are doing.
What we did:
  • We came up with a suggested family schedule that would mimic our in-person experience somewhat — but that would also allow for families to replay it later or do VBS on their own timing. Keep in m mind our “live” portions were all prerecorded or downloads so that we could have the least stress the week of.
  • We created a private Facebook group — not our normal Children’s Ministries page or our church page — which helped build community and gave families a different level of access. 
  • We planned one small group Zoom time for each class. 
  • We gave parents advance notice of a pickup day and organized a carpool, breaking the alphabet into 3 groups. We provided a minimal amount of decor and played the VBS music to help the experience be fun. Volunteers wore our VBS shirts, masks, and wore gloves. We also provided individually wrapped popsicles. We loved seeing the kids and helping them feel excited about VBS, even though we can’t be together in person!
How it's going:
  • This week 207 children from 126 families are singing, crafting, and learning about God's love! 
Brandi Diamond is Director of Children's Ministries at Northside UMC in Atlanta.