Sometimes it's difficult to come up with a new theme for vacation Bible school (VBS) each summer. The key is to begin looking for church camp themes well in advance of your church's camp dates so you have plenty of time to prepare. The following suggestions offer a variety of activities that help bring the theme to life and make the event fun for kids.
Ten Vacation Bible Camp Theme Ideas
Jump start your imagination with these Christian camp theme suggestions. Use them as a starting point and feel free to incorporate your own activity ideas as the inspiration strikes.
Using 1 Timothy 4:7 as a key verse, use sports as a means to teach kids to "finish the race." This is also a great theme to use when the Olympics roll around, and it can be adapted for children of any age.
- Crafts: Crafts can include decorating Frisbees and sports caps.
- Snacks: Serve up some popcorn "sports" balls and Gatorade as themed snacks.
- Stories: Use a story like Daniel and the Lions' Den from Daniel 6 as the basis for your theme. Paul's own missionary journeys also show how Christians can finish the race well. Acts 13:1-4 is a good place to find passages to share.
- Music: Music should include traditional hymns and could also include sports-themed and battle songs such as "Eye of the Tiger."
- Games: Each day of VBS could focus on a different sport. For example, day one could center around basketball, day two around baseball, day three around track and field, and so on.
The Great Adventure
An adventure-themed camp offers so many possibilities. This theme is one that just about any age group would love since you're never too old for an adventure. First consider where your "adventure" will take place: rainforest, Wild West, mountain climbing, jungle, outback, south of the border, European trek, or any other adventure you can imagine. Decorate your camp area so it really looks as if you are at your chosen destination. Next, plan the activities around that location.
Crafts: Kids can make crafts like decorated water bottles and cardboard binoculars and compasses.
Snacks: Offers snacks that would be typical of food that fits with your imaginary location. For example, bananas and other tropical fruits work well for a rainforest theme, while a snack like trail mix fits a mountain climbing theme.
Stories: The story of Joseph, which is found in Genesis 37, offers a great example of how going on God's adventure always leads you to the right place. The story of Jonah is another good one to use. In Jonah 1-4, Jonah flees God's commands and winds up in the belly of a whale. Of course, there are other adventures in the Bible as well, and this type of theme lends itself to some creativity.
Music: Play music that suits your adventure, such as Mariachi music for a South of the Border theme, or use Indiana Jones theme music.
Activity: An adventure walk works well with this theme. Create a path outside and hide Bible verses along the way that tell about great adventurers, such as Moses. Stop at each point where you've hidden a verse, encourage the children to find it, and then discuss why that person was adventurous and how it can be applied to the kids' lives.
Knights, kings, queens, princes, and princesses all make great themes to work around. You can decorate your VBS area to look like a castle. This theme is probably most appropriate for children through third grade, but fourth and fifth graders might enjoy it if the focus is on knights and battles.
- Crafts: Make crowns out of pipe cleaners or construction paper. Create armor from tin foil and cardboard and talk about putting on God's armor.
- Snacks: Serve cookies shaped like castles.
- Stories: Spend the week focusing on the stories of King David from 2 Samuel 5, King Solomon from 1 Kings and, of course, Jesus Christ as the coming King from Luke 2.
- Music: Play songs like "Onward Christian Soldiers" and "Be Still, God Will Fight Your Battle." You can include other youth worship songs if they fit the theme.
- Activity: Host an old-time jousting tournament complete with toy horses on sticks and swords made from cardboard and aluminum foil.
Noah's Ark Theme
Young children, in particular, will enjoy a Noah's Ark theme accompanied by a fun craft. The story of Noah is a reminder that God sometimes calls us to do things that seem impossible, but with God, all things are possible.
- Crafts: Use clay to create an ark and animals, or make animal masks out of cardstock and construction paper.
- Snacks: Animal crackers and celery with peanut butter and raisins. or ants on a log, make great snacks for this theme.
- Stories: Tell the story of Noah and the building of the ark as found in Genesis 5:32 - 10:1. Also, share the story of the rainbow from the same verses and talk about how it represents hope.
- Music: There are several songs written especially about Noah that you can incorporate into your bible camp week, including "Arky, Arky." DLTK features an entire list of Noah themed song ideas.
- Games: Create cards with two of each type of animal and play a matching game.
God created a vast universe, so it only makes sense to celebrate that creation with a space-themed vacation bible school. Children from preschool to fifth grade will enjoy this theme.
- Crafts: Use empty paper towel cardboard tubes to create rocket ships. The kids should paint the "ships" however they want. The point of the ship can be created with a paper cone made with construction paper.
- Snacks: Rice Crispy treats shaped like space rockets make terrific snacks. Wrap other snacks in aluminum foil and stick American toothpick flags into the top.
- Stories: Share the story of Genesis 1:1 where it states that God made the heavens and put the stars in their place.
Games: Create a board with stars, planets and the sun, but leave Earth out of the scene. Create a cutout of planet earth and play "Pin Earth in Space."
- Music: Play the theme from Space Odyssey and the Blast Off Song (video below).
Glow With God
Let Proverbs 4:18 be your camp motto, " The ways of right-living people glow with light; the longer they live, the brighter they shine." Replace all the light bulbs in the main rooms you'll use with black light bulbs and ask kids ages 8 and up to wear white or light neon colors each day so they'll stand out in the dark. For younger kids, hand out glow sticks or glow necklaces and dim the lights.
Crafts: Sticks and wax paper can easily be turned into small, personal lanterns with battery-operated candles. Kids can add Bible verses that talk about glowing with black markers on their wax paper.
Snacks: Add tonic water to any drink at will glow under a black light. Serve up some neon-colored candy worms with white-chocolate coated strawberries where the chocolate is dyed with neon food coloring.
Stories: Even though it's summer, a story like "The Christmas Star" talks about how a light can be your guide.
Music: Play the old song "The Glow Worm" by the Mills Brothers or let kids listen to a variety of Christian songs and hymns about being the light.
Activity: Kids can use glow-in-the-dark makeup to write positive phrases as tattoos on their arms. Help kids make their own black light bubble solution then fill a bubble machine and have a dance party.
God's Summer of World Records
Believe it or not the Guinness Book of World Records includes religious records too such as the largest gospel choir and the longest marathon church organ playing. Use Matthew 19:26 as your guide, "But Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Crafts: Work as a group to create an actual Book of Camp Records by assigning some kids to take photos, others to interview winners, and others to decorate the cover and pages.
Snacks: Serve up foods commonly used in world record eating competitions like hot dogs or chicken wings.
Stories: The story of David and Goliath is great for showing kids the importance of trying something that seems impossible.
Music: Inspirational music that some might listen to when working out such as Katy Perry's "Roar."
Activity: Have the group create their own camp records such as: most kids reading a Bible verse at the same time, most Bible verses recited in one day, or the shortest sermon given by a kid.
Think of your camp as a mini maker fair that encourages kids to create with their hands just as Jesus was said to do and as God created the world. Bible verses to include might be 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 and Ephesians 4:28 because they talk about working with your hands.
Crafts: God created the world and Jesus was said to have built a church among other things. Let kids choose to create craft stick churches or a unique world inside a shoe box using craft supplies.
Snacks: In "The Story of Creation" God says he made grains and fruits for the humans to eat so you could serve fruit trays and oatmeal.
Stories: "The Story of Creation" is an obvious choice to share.
Music: Introduce kids to the song "Jesus Was a Carpenter" by Johnny Cash or "The Carpenter" by Randy Travis.
Activity: Set your space up like a carnival so there are different crafting stations and games that involve dexterity. Give out craft and science kits as prizes.
Mind, Body, and Soul Theme
Take a more tranquil approach to your summer Bible camp by incorporating yoga, mindfulness techniques, and forging deep bonds to enrich children's souls. Bible verses like Psalm 19:14 and Psalm 49:3 speak about meditation and mindfulness.
Crafts: Have kids decorate blank journals then provide them with daily writing prompts that will get them thinking about their relationship with God.
Snacks: Opt for healthy snacks like nuts and veggies served with fun, flavorful fruit smoothies.
Stories: Recount the story of God sharing the Ten Commandments, one of which is that all people shall rest on the seventh day.
Music: Choose uplifting songs that celebrate self-love such as "Happy" by Pharrell Williams and "Be Kind to Yourself" by Andrew Peterson.
All Dogs Go to Heaven
Movies and shows about pets are always appealing to kids. Make your summer camp all about treating all living things with respect. Incorporate Bible verses such as Job 12:7-10 and Psalm 136:25 which talk about the importance of man's interactions with animals.
Crafts: Make dog sock puppets to use in a puppet show or stuff them with cotton and sew the bottom closed for an easy dog stuffed animal.
Snacks: Look for snacks that resemble dog or cat food such as Scooby Doo Graham Cracker Sticks shaped like dog bones or Goldfish crackers because cats sometimes eat fish.
Stories: Many Bible stories incorporate animals and people helping each other like in 1 Kings you see that God sent the ravens to give food to Elijah.
Music: Fun songs like "Who Let the Dogs Out" or "Everybody Wants to Be a Cat" by Scatman Crothers get kids excited about pets.
Activity: Visit a local animal shelter and read to the animals or make/donate items to give to them.
Ensure Your Bible Camp Is a Success
You may be the person in charge of coming up with the VBS theme, but it's important to recruit help and divide duties based on the number of volunteers you recruit. While it may not be advisable to have a large committee go over all the options for your VBS, narrow your choices down to two or three themes then have a committee help you select one. With good organization and cooperation from everyone involved, your Bible camp can be a wonderful success!