How To “Lazy Genius” Planning for Vacation Bible School

My friend Elizabeth had probably mentioned The Lazy Genius podcast about 45 times before I finally read the book, The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi. On the surface, this book might be easy to dismiss as irrelevant to a ministry professional like myself. There are a lot of tips for things like keeping your kids socks in separate mesh bags when you do the laundry and how to build a consistent yoga practice. Maybe, like me, you don’t have children. Maybe you don’t do yoga. Either way, I encourage you to check out the framework Kendra has to offer. I believe she is actually inviting us into living more intentional lives of meaning and purpose.

How To Be A Lazy Genius: The Basics

Here’s the basic idea: figure out what matters most to you. Name it. Then spend more energy on the things that matter to you and less energy on the things that don’t matter.

It sounds simple, but embracing what matters most to you often requires significant discernment. Rather than providing a blueprint for productivity or healthy living, Kendra outlines thirteen principles that can help each of us “embrace what matters and ditch what doesn’t.” It’s not about living in one specific way, but connecting with what matters most to us, which is different for everyone. So why am I writing about this for a website dedicated to practical ideas for Christian formation? This framework is an exceptional tool for ministry. You can “Lazy Genius” just about anything. Let me demonstrate by applying a few of the thirteen principles to planning VBS…

Lazy Geniusing VBS Planning

There are three steps to essentializing: 1. name what really matters 2. remove what’s in the way 3. keep only the essentials. While this principle is not the first discussed in The Lazy Genius Way, it’s a great one to start with when planning something like VBS. There are lots of things that could matter, which can make planning feel really overwhelming. To help you name what really matters, Kendra suggests making a list of everything that could matter, from that list, make a second (smaller) list of what does matter, then a third (very small) list of what really matters.

To help you practice, we’ve made this list of a bunch of things that might matter in terms of VBS planning. Print it out. Cross out what does not matter in your context. And highlight just 3-4 things that really matter. You’ll probably need to add to this list as well as specify what matters about those 3-4 things. If including Bible stories matters, articulate what matters about Bible stories. Maybe it’s having props. Maybe it’s using a specific translation of the Bible. Maybe it’s including women in the selected stories.

Side Note: This is a great exercise to do with a VBS planning team. If you’re doing it on your own, you might need to ask yourself what matters most to a variety of stakeholders (participants, parents, church leaders, wider community, preschool families). In a recent workshop on planning for Vacation Bible School our panelist Toni Luc shared that making a venn diagram helped her sort through what matters about VBS to these various groups.

Start Small
Directing Vacation Bible School is a big undertaking and sometimes we get paralyzed by large overwhelming projects. It can help to start small. For example, you might start small by:

  • Picking the date and a time of day for your VBS
  • Calling another local church and inviting them to partner with you
  • Asking someone to help you essentialize

You can also start small in various categories of planning. If you identify that justice really matters as part of your VBS planning, you might start small by:

  • Recruiting a diverse group of leaders 
  • Selecting a Story Bible with diverse racial representation to use during VBS 
  • Planning a way to invite those participating in VBS to give financially to a local organization working for justice

Go In The Right Order
When things get overwhelming, go in the right order by 1. Naming what matters (again) 2. Calming the crazy (step away and come back if you need to) and 3. Trusting yourself to do the next right thing. It might help to prioritize your task list. Here are a few suggestions:

  • What might need to happen early on? Picking a curriculum, selecting the dates, creating a registration process, recruiting leaders, and publicizing your VBS registration process
  • What can happen later? Leader training, assigning participants to small groups, making name tags, purchasing snacks

Decide Once
Deciding once is a fantastic strategy for saving brain space. Are there things you could make a blanket decision about to save yourself reconsidering on a case by case basis? For example:

  • All VBS leaders will be thanked with a hand written note and $5 Starbucks gift card
  • Snack each day will be a choice between goldfish or gluten free pretzels and water
  • We will sing the same four songs each day
  • Children are not allowed to switch small groups, even if their best friend is in another group

Ask the Magic Question
The magic question is: What can I do now to make ­­­____ easier later? You can use this to think about all of VBS (What can I do now to make VBS easier later?) or you can think about specific areas of VBS (What can I do now to make registration easier later?). This is a fantastic strategy for keeping the details from piling up the week before VBS. Do you know you’ll need 30-50 name tag holders? Go ahead and order 50 now. You can use leftovers next year. Make a template for daily sign in. You can fill in the names later.

Let People In
Vacation Bible School is a fantastic opportunity for folks to come together in ministry. There is a lot to be done and the program is truly enriched by the sharing of many gifts. Consider what only you can do in terms of preparing for VBS and let others in to help with the rest. Maybe you choose the curriculum, but someone else makes copies and delivers leader guides. Maybe you order craft supplies and someone else preps the materials and divides them into boxes for each day.

When recruiting volunteers, I highly recommend making personal invitations based on very specific requests. For larger commitments, make a job description that includes the responsibilities and time commitment. For smaller tasks, Toni Luc suggests making a specific list and including a time commitment. For example:

  • Laminate and trim 10 directional signs for VBS (will take about 30 minutes)
  • Stuff 50 name tag holders (will take about 1 hour)
  • Blow up 15 balloons (will take about 20 minutes)
  • Divide goldfish into 50 ziplock bags (will take about 45 minutes)

Batch It
When we engage in a repetitive task, our minds actually get a break. Instead of printing and stuffing a name tag each time someone registers, set aside an hour the week after registration closes to print and stuff all the name tags at once (even better, ask someone else to batch this!). You can even batch a group of tasks. Consider keeping a list of everything you need to do to prepare craft kits and then ask a few people to help you get it all done during a VBS workday.

Be Kind to Yourself & Schedule Rest
Vacation Bible School is exhausting. Whether or not you are a full-time employee, no matter how organized you are, you’ll likely be working overtime the week of VBS. What do you need in order to show up as your best self, the person God created you to be? Do you need to take an extra day off the week before? Do you need to eat frozen pizza every night so you don’t have to worry about cooking dinner? And how will you care for yourself when the week is over? Will you work half days the next week or take a few days off?

Going Deeper with The Lazy Genius

There are four additional principles: Live in Your Season, Build the Right Routines, Set House Rules, Put Everything In Order. You can read about them in The Lazy Genius Way or by listening to the podcast. Episode #205, How to Lazy Genius a Wedding, provides a great example of how to use these principles to plan just about anything!

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash


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