You may have read last week that we’re using Group Publishing again this year for our vacation bible school curriculum.  I chose the curriculum because it works really well for our church, but there are pros and cons to every curriculum out there.

Vacation Bible School: My Love/Hate Relationship with Group Publishing -

Group has great music!  Our church is also super blessed to have a fun couple that writes and leads music every year.  Even if you don’t have tons of musically inclined people, it’s easy to follow along with the Group songs.  They include a music CD as well as music videos with dance moves if you want to use them.

I love Group’s format.  They use a nightly schedule we’re familiar with – Opening, Station Rotation, then Closing {each station lasts about 15 minutes for us}.  However, Group suggests keeping preschool kids separated from the large group for closing.  Our preschoolers are with the entire group for opening and closing, and they also join one of the other groups for music time.  Group also suggests having snacks as one large group.  We have never done this {to my knowledge} but are actually going to try having only one snack time this year.  We’ll see how it works for our kids!

Group suggests having each cave crew spend one night serving in the snack area.  While their format doesn’t exactly work for us, I love their idea to get the kids actively involved in serving each other.  Group also suggests giving kids in each cave crew a specific job each night {ie to thank the station leaders, to pray, to hold doors, etc}.  We’re definitely going to incorporate some servant leadership ideas!

The director manual suggests forming mixed-age crews.  Each crew, according to them, will have 5ish students in elementary school {various ages}.  They make mixed-age groups sound magical.  However, our church has tried mixed-age groups before and didn’t like them.  For VBS, age groups work best for us.  The director manual just.keeps.hitting. the mixed age cave crews.  Seriously Group, in the words of Elsa… let it go.

Vacation Bible School: My Love/Hate Relationship with Group Publishing

Group chooses an organization to support each year through Operation Kid-to-Kid, which VBS participants are supposed to raise money for.  This year’s focus is on donating money to fix houses for people in the US.  I’d rather use their ideas to support an organization our community has a connection to {like our local Habitat for Humanity}.

Every single area where Group could possibly charge you for something extra, they do.  Group pushes their extras in every area, from the Bible Quest Maps to the Bible Memory Buddies and more.  Every craft requires special supplies, available only from Group.  I am not generally impressed with the quality of the Group extras for the price.  If we like their ideas, we try to find comparable items from other companies.

Group Publishing uses the New Living Translation (NLT).  This is the translation we use with our youth group.  It is specifically designed to be easy to read aloud.  I like the continuity of using the same translation throughout our various kids’ events and programs as well as the simplicity of this translation.

Personally, I’m not a fan of Group’s suggestions for snacks.  I mean waffles with syrup for all the kids in VBS at one time?! No thank you.

Like I said before, Group has a tendency to nickel and dime you for every craft activity.  I do really like some of their ideas {like this year’s cave snot}, but I typically re-work their ideas to save money and not have to purchase pre-made supplies from Group.  They now have science-y activities rather than crafts.  We like to use more crafty activities.  Thankfully, Pinterest has a wealth of ideas!

Group's VBS Set

Group’s VBS Set Decorating Ideas

Group has some great, fun decorating ideas.  However, when I started to look at their supplies I realized they expect you to purchase nearly 40 cans at spray-in foam insulation.  At $4 a can, that’s $160 just to accent the regular foam sheets that they expect you to spend $400+ to purchase.  Uhhhh… not happening.  I was raised frugally, so spending several hundred dollars on foam seems ridiculous to me {and doesn’t fit our church situation}.  That being said, the decorating ideas are fun and can definitely be scaled down to fit most budgets.

Group consistently provides more and more resources to save time for VBS directors!  This year’s pack includes digital files for advertising flyers and postcards, videos for volunteer recruitment and training and lots of other goodies that I would have to plan on my own otherwise.  I am certainly thankful that they have spent the time to create these goodies that I can tweak and use for our church!

Group has two VBS kit options: with or without the digital edition.  The “normal” kit {without the digital version} is a tin can and includes leader books for each station, sample craft/prize items, music CDs, planning DVDs – basically everything you need to plan VBS.  The digital edition kit is still a physical kit in a tin can with everything listed above, but it also includes a digital download copy of EVERYTHING in the kit.  This version costs about $30 more than the “normal” kit, but it’s worth every penny!  We used to make copies of all the leader books.  Now we don’t have to worry about a book getting lost or ruined… if that happens, we can just print a new copy from the download!  I compiled the information below from Group’s website.

Click to enlarge the Group Publishing starter kit comparison.

Click to enlarge the Group Publishing starter kit comparison.

Overall, any curriculum is going to need to be modified for every church.  We’re always going to want to adjust ideas here or there to fit our kids and their needs.  Group Publishing works very well for us and is easily modified to fit any budget or event size.  I’ve compared other companies and none of them work as well for us as the Group curriculum does.  We are happy to be using Group Publishing’s vacation bible school curriculum again this year!

Thanks for visiting!  Have you used Group Publishing?  What did you love or hate about it?  You can follow Borrowed Blessings at the top of the page and share this post below.

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This article has 6 comments

  1. Stephanie Williams Reply

    Love Group, you hit a lot of my thoughts on the nose! I have used group for several years but have never followed it completely. I feel their crafts and science gizmos are costly. I don’t put mixed ages together and our pre schoolers are involved just like everyone else. Never have followed there snack directions or suggestions. But love the music! Stories, mascots and all the tips! Yep I’m a groupie!

  2. Lisa Heacox Reply

    Totally agree on all of your comments, Kara. Thank you SO MUCH for your help with other crafts! (Those Bible Buddy dog tags sure are preeeetty, though. 😉 )

  3. Victoria Jones Reply

    I agree with some of the stuff you say, and I have to say that what I love about Group is that we can customize it so easily. Our church does use the mixed age crews, but we mix in the pre-schoolers with our older kids so that each of our crews has kids ages 4-12. I have to admit, I was a skeptic until last year we had a surprise 3 year old that ended up in my crew for the last 3 days (I’m assistant director and I love leading a crew) and my whole crew, otherwise aged 5-11 rallied around helping her and leading her and behaved SO MUCH BETTER than they had the rest of the week. It was amazing.
    We also do the science-y gizmos, mostly because for some reason, even though I LOVE crafts, most of the kids that come to our regular Sunday School and Children’s Bible Study completely HATE crafts, and the science-y gizmos are generally well liked.
    That being said, every year we go through and pull out a lot of stuff- we don’t do the crew making snacks (it’s just too busy and too much complaining about missing games), we don’t do the huddle-and-prayer for the crew leaders at opening (there’s just not enough time, and we need the crew leaders in the room to help control the kids!) we always use our own church mission instead of Operation Kid-to-Kid so that the children’s mission aligns with what the church is doing, and we always find more frugal ways to decorate.
    The ‘easy’ VBS from Group works best for us, and I really love it. Used to, we did the holy land adventures and with a relatively small church (our normal VBS is about 20-30 kids, though this year we’re looking at about 50) it was simply impossible to make the ‘marketplace’ workable. I love the bible buddies, though, and although I wasn’t a big fan at first, I’ve come to like KidVid as well.

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