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Jesus surprised the people he met!

With each surprise,
people discovered more about Jesus.

Surprise! Stories of Discovering Jesus allows children to be surprised as they discover Jesus, too! Each of the five stories in this Bible-based vacation Bible school kit tells about someone surprised by Jesus. Surprise! invites children from preschool to grade 5 to come along on the journey, to open their eyes, and to see what Jesus has in store!

The stories come from the Gospels and tell of Jesus surprising leaders in the temple with his wisdom as a child, Jesus blessing children much to the surprise of the authorities, Jesus feeding a large crowd with only five loaves and two fish, Nicodemus seeking Jesus’ wisdom at night, and two travelers on the road surprised by Jesus after his death. With each surprise, children will discover more about Jesus.

Children in grades K–5 will see Bible stories come to life in the dramas during worship time, and will reflect on them during three response times: Bible Response, Active Response, and Creative Response.

Preschoolers ages 4–5 may participate in worship with the older children or have their own worship time. They too will share in the Bible story and engage in crafts, games, and other activities.

Adaptations are also available for children in grades 6-8.

Adaptations for COVID-19

How to Lead Vacation Bible School in a year with COVID-19

Detailed guidelines for planning and adapting your VBS approach this year, with coronavirus social distancing restrictions and concerns. Read the document here.

Games for Virtual VBS

Engaging games that can be played over Zoom or other video conferencing apps.

Licensing for At-Home Experiences

If you are planning or considering a virtual VBS experience this year, note that our licenses give you permission to share the download links with all of your leaders so they can prepare from home. You can also share individual electronic files with your participants, although we recommend having families pick up and bring home a bag/box of materials before the VBS begins. You are allowed to stream sing-along videos over video conference or make them available directly to your participants. Color booklets, audio CDs, and MP3 download cards still must be purchased separately for use by individual children/families. Please let us know if you have questions.



Discovering Jesus in the Temple

Luke 2:41-52

Jesus’ parents travel home to Nazareth after observing Passover in Jerusalem, and discover that 12-year-old Jesus is not with them. They return to Jerusalem and find Jesus in the temple, asking questions and talking with the teachers.

Faith Focus: We can ask questions and grow in wisdom.


Discovering Jesus with Children

Mark 10:13-16

People bring their children to Jesus, but the disciples turn them away. Jesus sees this and insists that they let the children come to him. He takes the children in his arms and blesses them.

Faith Focus: We can receive the blessing of Jesus.


Discovering Jesus in the Crowd

John 6:1-14

Hungry crowds travel to hear Jesus speak. There is no food except a young boy’s lunch of five loaves and two fish. Jesus takes the lunch, blesses it, and the food multiplies to feed everyone.

Faith Focus: We can give to others and bless them.


Discovering Jesus at Night

John 3:1-21

Nicodemus comes to see Jesus at night. He has seen Jesus’ miraculous signs and wants to know more about him. Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born from above and that God loves the world and wants to save it.

Faith Focus: We can choose to seek Jesus.


Discovering Jesus on the Road

Luke 24:13-35

Two men walk on the road to Emmaus, talking about Jesus’ recent death and the empty tomb. Jesus joins them and enters the discussion, but the men do not recognize him. They invite Jesus to stay and eat with them. As he blesses the bread and breaks it, the men recognize him.

Faith Focus: We can recognize Jesus with us.

Download PDF Overview

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Affordable & Flexible

Offered as a reproducible resource (for all components except student booklets and music CDs).

Both downloadable and physical formats.

Leader guides are provided in both topical and day-by-day formats. Physical leader guides are in a binder with tabs to make them easy to rearrange or duplicate.

Bulk-priced CDs can easily be sent home with every family.

Enthusiastically Catholic

Reflections from Pope Francis for each day.

Music from Oregon Catholic Press featuring Jesse Manibusan and other Catholic musicians.

Daily connections to our experience at Mass.

Service opportunity from Catholic Charities USA.

A great all-around Scripture-based experience perfect for any parish!

Catchy, Meaningful Music

You will be humming along with this top-notch kid-friendly music that connects closely with the theme.

Powerpoints and sing-along music videos with hand motions make it easy to lead your group in song.

Features songs written by Jesse Manibusan, Ken Canedo, Matt Maher, Steve Angrisano, Bryan Sirchio, and more.

Comprehensive, but Simple

We provide all the core features you expect in a VBS, without overwhelming complexity.

Our VBS is earth-friendly: fun without plastic trinkets that will litter our common home.

A separate early childhood leader guide makes it easy to include preschoolers.

The program is easy to adapt to your timeframe and preferences.

An Ideal Theme

A fun and effective way to help children learn about and experience Jesus and the kerygma.

Includes Scripture, prayer, drama, music, games, crafts, and activities, all nicely integrated to teach children meet and follow Jesus!

Bible stories with a good balance of men and women role models.

And More...

Thoughtful take-home pages will bring parents into the process and coach them on how to talk to their children about what they learned.

Extra resources included to help you market and manage your VBS.

Optional gestures/motions are provided for prayers, memory verses, and songs.


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Director Guide

Overview of the VBS and guidelines for orchestrating the process. Includes a planning chart, sample schedules, tips for working with staff/volunteers, forms, Bible backgrounds, snack ideas, a book list, a letter to parents, guidelines for inviting children to faith, and more.

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Early Childhood Leader Guide

Full guide for all aspects of VBS for younger children (ages 4-5). Makes suggestions for full daily schedules, including snack ideas, Bible sessions, activities, crafts, books, song/motion suggestions, and more.

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Worship & Drama Guide

Full guide for leading Worship & Drama sessions for each day, including gathering (introducing theme, opening prayer, etc.), worshiping (prayer, song, Bible verse, drama), responding (offering project), and sending (schedule review, blessing, and song)

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Active Response Guide

Full guide for leading interactive activities & games each day, including advance preparation, session plan, material list, step-by-step instructions, and debrief.

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Bible Response Guide

Full guide for leading Bible Response sessions for each day, including Biblical background information, materials list, advance preparation, session plan, and suggestions for teaching Bible memory verses.

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Creative Response Guide

Full guide for leading craft sessions for each day, including Biblical background, materials list, advance preparation, snack ideas, and debrief.

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Tales of Discovery - Child Booklet

Full-color 16-page activity booklet for grades K-5, including puzzles and other interactive activities.

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My Book of Stories - Preschool Child Booklet

Full-color 16-page activity booklet for ages 4-5, including a retelling of the Bible story for each day, puzzles, and other interactive activities. Send this booklet home so parents can follow up with their children!

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Invitation Poster

Customize and post around your parish or around town.

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Bible Memory Verse Poster

Make it easy for kids to learn the verses day-by-day.

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Send Home Parent Engagement Notes

Engaging letters to keep parents in the loop and coach them on how to follow up with their children each day.

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Customize and print to invite parishioners, school families, etc.


• Logo artwork (use to create your own t-shirts or documents) 

• Music components (see below) 

• …and much more!


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Featuring the music of Jesse Manibusan & Oregon Catholic Press

A great collection of easy-to-sing songs that fit perfectly into the VBS theme.

Catholic composer, singer/songwriter, storyteller, humorist, catechist, evangelizer and encourager Jesse Manibusan leads our music and has written two new songs just for Surprise!

VBS Sing-Along Video Previews

Bless the Lord

Written by Ken Canedo, Marc Cavallero, Dan Brennan, Kevin Roth. Performed by Jesse Manibusan & Ken Canedo.

We Are the Light

Written & performed by Jesse Manibusan.

We Are Children of God

Written by Jesse Manibusan & Jayme Manibusan. Performed by Jesse Manibusan.

Go Make a Difference

Written & performed by Steve Angrisano.

Just Like You

Written & performed by Matt Maher.

In the Temple

Written & performed by Jesse Manibusan.

On the Road to Emmeaus

Written & performed by Jesse Manibusan.

Put It in the Hands of Jesus

Written & performed by Bryan Sirchio.

Music Components

The downloadable VBS starter kit includes the following components for use within the VBS sessions (all downloadable):
• MP3 audio files of all songs
• Songbook with lead sheets (melody line scores, lyrics, and chords)
• Hand/body motions for all songs
• Simple sing-along videos, showing the motions
• Simple sing-along lyric presentations (in Powerpoint and Keynote formats)
• Lead sheets with scores for select songs

The physical starter kit includes:
• All of the downloadable files on a data DVD
• Audio CD
• Simple sing-along lyric video DVD
• Printed songbook

In addition, purchase inexpensive bulk audio CDs to send home with families, so they can continue to sing the VBS songs!


"I wanted to send a quick note to you and thank you for the awesome VBS program! We are on our 4th day of Vacation Bible School, and it is going so well! We have received many compliments on the content of the program, the kids are having a great time, our teachers and leaders are so pleased with all of the activities.

One comment that really spoke volumes to me was the fact that it is a fairly simple program, and because of this, the message really is received. So many VBS programs have become a huge production, and the message of God is lost in all of the external factors of the program. I am so glad we happened upon your program. I hope you are working on another one for next year, because we will be reaching out to you! This is the first time in at least 15 years that our parish has hosted a VBS. Looks like it will become an annual event for us!"

Pam Richter
St. Anne’s Catholic Church
Berryville, AR



Downloadable Starter Kit

  • Reproducible files delivered electronically

  • Music for use in VBS delivered electronically

  • Online access to
    sing-along videos

  • Reproducible posters & promotional materials

  • Electronic preview
    of child booklets


Physical Kit + Downloadable

  • Handy tabbed binder + CD-ROM + download access

  • Audio CD & printed music + download access

  • Sing-along video DVD + online access

  • Two copies of each poster + download access

  • Printed sample of
    each child booklet

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