I've heard it said at plenty of church conferences and workshops: 10% of the people in church do 90% of the work. Vacation Bible School is no exception, and that's the main reason we decided to do it as a 1-day event. My husband and I did most of the planning, so having it only for a day saved some of my sanity. We were also hoping adults would be more apt to help if it weren't multiple evenings when they're already tired from work. Our hopes came true! More adults were willing to help this year, and more kids showed up. We hosted it on a Saturday from 11:00-4:00, though we could've ended at 3:00 and been fine.
DH and I came up with the curriculum: Fishers of Men. We decided on a modern-day setting of Jesus calling the disciples. We wanted to show that Jesus is still calling disciples today, with each one of us, and thought the modern-day setting would help drive the message home. Modern-day also meant we didn't have to find costumes or spend a bunch of time and money on decorations!
We set it up almost like a play that the kids were participants in. We began in the sanctuary, with the kids divided into family groups. That worked much better last year than the years they were divided by ages. The family groups varied in age so that siblings and friends could stay together, and older kids could help the younger. An adult and at least 1 teenager were part of each group. Everyone stayed together the whole day, but dividing into family groups made it easier to keep track of everyone, since I gave each adult a roster of their kids.
In the sanctuary, we had praise and worship and ice breaker Minute-to-Win-It type games. Then I stood behind the pulpit to "begin a message" when a man ran through the door. "There's this crazy man named Jesus out there! Ya'll have to come hear the wild things he's saying!" he yelled. So of course, we followed him outside.
A boat with a blue tarp around it to symbolize ocean waves was outside. Simon Peter and another disciple were gathering in their empty nets when Jesus walked up to ask for the use of his boat. Simon Peter grumbled but agreed, and Jesus taught a message from the boat to the kids. It was HOT, so thankfully someone had let us borrow a tent to set up earlier for the kids to stand under through this.
At the end of the message (and Simon Peter pulling up fish with his net), Matthew ran over and excitedly invited everyone to his home for a celebration, with Jesus as the guest of honor. We walked to the gym where lunch was set out on a banquet table. It was a simple lunch of hot dogs, chips, cookies, and brownies, but it was decorated very elegantly (kudos to our decorator who has done some catering and has lots of fancy/pretty things!).
Before beginning the meal, Matthew gave a brief testimony of how he was a tax collector and a cheat, who nobody liked, but Jesus accepted him anyways. Jesus spoke briefly of how everyone, no matter what they've done, can be followers of Jesus. As the kids were finishing eating, a Pharisee stood and demanded "Why is Jesus eating with these sinners?!" Jesus told the story of the prodigal son and reiterated that God loves everyone.
Next, the family groups went to different areas of the gym where one of the older teenagers were waiting. The teenagers told the rest of the story, of how Jesus died on the cross for each one of us. They led the kids in a prayer of salvation if they wanted to follow Jesus.
Finally, we met back in the sanctuary for a little more music, follow-up questions, and prizes. Then it was time for water games!
The kids stayed with their family group and rotated between the water games, which were led by the teenagers and young adults. We did the same games as 2011, with the addition of Water Balloon Baseball. The family group was divided into 2 teams. To start, 1 team batted (with a plastic whiffle bat) and 1 team pitched the water balloons. The pitcher tried to throw a balloon into a bucket, and the batter stood next to the bucket to try and hit the balloon. Each kid had a turn pitching twice and batting twice. The team who got the most balloons into the bucket won.
It was hot and sunny so all of the water games were a hit, but the water slide was the favorite...just a tarp, a water hose, and some baby shampoo.