‘Tis the time of year for churches far and wide to facilitate Vacation Bible School, commonly know in ‘churchese’ as VBS. VBS can have a huge impact both within your church community and in your larger community. Because there are so many different sized churches, and so many different styles, formats, and sizes of VBS, we polled about 15 churches to take a closer look at the facilities costs related to VBS programs.

Overall, most churches feel that it a huge part of fulfilling the Great Commission, hence the costs involved are always worthwhile. We polled churches to ask them about the following expenses:

We polled churches to ask them about the following expenses:

  • Janitorial/Cleaning Costs
  • Utility Costs (A/V, water, trash)
  • Insurance and Background Check Costs
  • Wear and Tear on Facilities and Staff

Whether your church is small, medium, large, or mega, here are some great options and costs associated:

Small Church

For churches in the smallest of categories, a great way to hold a VBS but keep costs low is to throw a neighborhood VBS in a local park. Creekside Church in Northern California put on park VBS in several different neighborhoods throughout their town and encouraged church members to volunteer at the park closest to their homes and invite their kids’ school friends and neighbors. There were no A/C costs, no facility cleaning fees. Just small park rental fees and volunteer time. Each park VBS was “hosted” by a church member who lived nearby. Parents of VBS participants were then invited to attend a casual community dinner while the kids were at camp one of the three evenings as a way to reach people who perhaps had never taken their kids to a VBS.

Another option would be to provide willing church members with neighborhood or backyard VBS curriculum to do small neighborhood VBS in their homes. This would be virtually no-cost VBS for churches and would encourage families to connect in addition to sharing the Gospel with children who may not even have the opportunity to go to a church.

 

Medium-to Large-Sized Churches

For churches with a facility available to host camp on-site, purchasing a curriculum or program would be the first expense, then paying perhaps one or two key staff members to direct the camp is key. Whether you’re expecting 50 0r 500 kids, having someone wearing the director hat is key.

For facilities, the costs can often range from several hundred to several thousand.

For Granite Springs Church in Lincoln, California, the A/C costs alone for a week of 9-Noon camp run nearly $1,500 extra for the week of VBS. While that’s a huge expense, the church budgets for this and other VBS costs associated with their facility into their General Fund for the year.

First Baptist Church in Belton, Texas sees an increase of about $2,000 in A/C costs during the month of June.

Some churches see no increase in insurance costs, while others see an increase of $300-400 for the week plus background checks for all adult volunteers are essential. Typical costs for background checks are around $20. Some churches have 40+ people to run through checks. One option is to ask people to pay for their own background check, or churches can absorb and budget for this expense as-needed.

With additional trash pickups, carpet cleaning, water usage, the costs can add up.

While offering VBS for free is ideal, most small to medium churches now charge $20-80 per child to cover some of the fees involved.

 

Megachurches

Megachurches often have mega resources like larger church campuses to run multiple camps at the same time, or more space to offer bigger attractions such as sports camps, water-themed camps, and even music camps. Often these camps are more on par with city-run or private summer camps that have high-level excitement and activities, but often the costs to participate in these camps can price out many families. Looking at the nearby megachurch in our city, the cost to participants is $128 for M-F, 9-Noon. If you have more than one child, the price point it tough to swallow.

That said, there are more facility costs associated with running a large summer camp, and often these larger camps morph into a business or separate ministry with camps running consecutive weeks all summer long, not just one week. Separate staff will need to be hired to run this type of camp with college and high school interns, more facilities costs for water, A/C, trash, and cleaning fees. However, the impact can also be greater as more children are taught about the love of Jesus due to the visibility of the church in the community.

 

Lastly…

Most of the churches in our survey, which was aided by Cool Solutions Group:
…did not see a rise in insurance costs
…felt that the facilities costs involved were more than worth it to share the Gospel with children

…had some extra trash and water expenses

…had some carpet cleaning and facilities wear and tear that wasn’t optimal but was tolerable

…were willing to pay for background checks to ensure the safety of children

…a few of the church polled no longer offered VBS due to expense

As for your church, if you host a VBS, how to you budget for increased facilities expenses and manage all the details?