This time of year, churches far and wide are facilitating Vacation Bible School, commonly known as VBS. VBS can have a huge impact 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 VBS is a huge part of fulfilling the Great Commission. The costs involved are always worthwhile.
We asked churches 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:
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. They 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 and 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. This is a great way to reach people who perhaps had never taken their kids to a VBS.
Another option would be to provide VBS curriculum to church members to put on a small neighborhood VBS in their homes or backyards. This would be virtually no-cost VBS for churches. It would encourage families to connect in addition to sharing the Gospel with children who may not have the opportunity to go to a church.
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 acting as the director 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 with their facility in 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. 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, and 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 often have mega resources like larger church campuses to run multiple camps at the same time. They typically have more space to offer bigger attractions such as sports camps, water-themed camps, and even music camps. Often these camps are on par with city-run or private summer camps that have high-level excitement and activities. However, 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 can be tough to swallow.
That said, there are more facility costs associated with running a large summer camp. 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. You can also expect 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 with greater visibility of the church in the community.
…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
If you host a VBS, how do you budget for increased facilities expenses and manage all the details?