Making VBS Your Own

Sequence 01_4

Nothing says summer like a cardboard slide.

Every year when I edit the grammar and style of the VBS material, I pause over the paragraphs about making VBS your own and smile.


Sequence 01_2

It’s more fun if it twists sideways, or even backwards on the way down. I promise.

These sections tell you that you don’t have to use VBS curriculum just as it’s written, but can adjust it to fit your schedule, age groups, number of teachers, and any other needs you have.


An excellent model of proper slide sitting procedure.

And I smile because I know so many people who already do this so well. From stories of a helicopter landing at one Agency D3 this year to the rumor of a VBS villain trying to stomp out truth until he was thwarted by a Special Agent who had come to teach the kids the real truth, I know that so many of you get this concept so well!

Sequence 01_3

See, I told you, backwards!

One of my favorite examples is my home church where my dad pastors, Witt Baptist Church in Morristown TN. Every year, regardless of the theme, the kids most look forward to the giant cardboard slide. Someone with access to a lot of cardboard at work brings it every year, enough to cover the huge hill in front of the church, with a few more pieces to use as sleds. It’s better than a snow day if you can believe some of their faces. This wouldn’t work at any other church in the community, because no one else has that generous person who works with a lot of cardboard, not to mention a giant hill to put it on. But rather than cutting it out because it didn’t match the theme, the church decided to make it a tradition.

Sequence 01_5

Laying down and pulling on the front may increase velocity. Maybe.

There are other things churches do, from hosting VBS every Wednesday night for five weeks because of a hectic summer schedule, to serving supper instead of snacks to help kids who usually depend on school lunches, to using one master teacher for all 6 elementary grades because of the unique skills of a church member; that make each VBS special and different.

Sequence 01

At this point the grass has so much more traction, you often vault over the “tongue” of the sled. Grass stains anyone?

It’s easy to fall into a rut of wanting everything to come about just like the checklist in your Administrative Guide or Leader Guide says it should. But with a little flexibility and an openness to letting the DNA of your church and community shine through your VBS, I think you’ll open up more room for God to move and work.

Sequence 01_1

And it would be fun if Agent 001, AKA Pastor Doug (my dad) didn’t join in!

And it might just be a ton of fun!

How do you make your VBS fun and different? How is it tailored to the needs of your church and community? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Welcome, Klista Storts!

chalkboard headshot

Today we’re pausing to welcome a new face to our LifeWay VBS team! We’re really excited to welcome Klista Storts on board. Klista has been at LifeWay for 7 years as a Kids Ministry Specialist and I’ve gotten to see how awesome she is at what she does! A few weeks ago we had the privilege of seeing Klista move over to the VBS team. I asked her a few questions to help us all get to know her better. Without further ado, give a round of applause for Klista! You’ll be hearing some great wisdom from her on the blog in the next few months! Welcome Klista!

When did you begin working in Kids Ministry?

I began working in Kids Ministry upon the arrival of my first child!  I started getting paid for it in 1991 when I began working in the weekday program at my church.  I started serving full-time in kids ministry in 1994.​

What’s your favorite thing about Kids Ministry?

KIDS!  I love seeing the Word with their fresh eyes and watching the “lights” come on!

What excites you about being on the VBS team?

First of all, I love VBS.  Always have, always will!  I love the creativity of this team.  I’m amazed – not surprised, but amazed – at the incredible talent on this team.  I am excited to be a part of a resource that will impact so many kids that might not otherwise be reached with the Gospel.​

Tell us about your family!

I celebrated 30 years of marriage with my best friend, Gary, this past February.  We have been blessed with two fantastic boys, who somehow have overnight turned into young men.  Not sure how they got older but I didn’t!  Brett is 26 years old and is married to Britney.  My younger son is Blake, who is 23 years old.  We have one precious granddaughter whom I adore and love finally getting to buy pink, girly stuff for!  ​

What are your hobbies/favorite things to do?

​I love working outside in our flower garden. Every night when I water, I look for new surprise flowers to pop up.  It’s like my own personal Easter Egg Hunt every time! My love language is time, so any time I get to spend with my family just makes my day.

 What are your favorite candy, Starbucks drink, and restaurant?

​Anything chocolate! I even order it in my Diet Coke from Sonic!  My favorite Starbucks drink is the Salted Caramel Frappuccino (or hot in the winter!).  I love Mexican food, so maybe Chuy’s or something similar.  Tex-mex is the best!

If you were a kitchen appliance, what would you be and why?

Hmmm.  Maybe a blender.  I like to stir things up and just want everyone to blend together and have fun! 

Thanks Klista! We think you’ll “blend” in well with the VBS team! Welcome!

Follow-up Kit Giveaway

bethanyOne of the most important aspects of VBS to me is how we follow up with the new kids who come to VBS. Do they know we cared during the week? Yes. Did they have a great time? Yeah! Did they learn about Jesus. You bet! But what does that mean to them if they cease to hear from us the moment they walk out of the church doors. It’s so important for kids and their families to see God’s love at work in you outside of the church building. A phone call, a card, a visit on the door step. Any of these can show kids that Christ’s love is real at active.

Become a part of their lives. Pray for their problems. Help them when their family is in need. Be Jesus’ hands and feet to them.

There’s more information about how to plan a successful follow-up plan in the Continue the Connections portion of your VBS 2014 Administrative Guide for Directors or VBS 2014 Backyard Kids Club Directors Guide. We hope that these resources will help you translate your desire to help others into action.

In the meantime, to give you a little boost of inspiration, we’re giving away a little Follow-up Kit! This Agency D3 Bag contains VBS 2014 Bookmarks, stickers, picture frames, and blank note cards, as well as a Takin’ It Home CD, which you are free to duplicate for your kids.

Consider creating a treat bag with a framed picture of each visiting child, a bookmark, a card, and a CD. The CDs have content related to each day in Agency D3, so that kids can ideally listen to it with their parents on their way home from VBS each day. Have fun with this giveaway as you work to reach the kids in your community. We’re praying for your efforts as summer comes into full swing!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

6 Ways to Use Backyard Kids Club This Summer

bethanyOne of my favorite things about working on the VBS team is hearing about how people adjust VBS curriculum to meet the specific needs of their church and community. From different schedule combinations to innovative  solutions to decorating challenges, you guys are so creative and forward thinking! I’m always amazed by what you do.

Maybe because it’s already such a flexible curriculum, some of the most exciting innovations I’ve heard about this year come from churches using the Backyard Kids Club curriculum. In no particular order, here are a few favorites I’ve heard about recently, many of which will be happening this summer.

1. BKC curriculum used once a week with adult special needs students during a regular meeting time they already have at the church.

2. Using BKC Bible study folders on Wednesday nights with the regular church kids to make sure they don’t miss the content (at a church that exclusively does BKCs in local neighborhoods and has no regular VBS.)

3. Teachers doing BKC in a neighborhood where many of their students live in hopes that they can eventually grow it large enough to use the school building for BKC, making it a central feature of their children’s summer.

4. An Agency D3 themed bash for special needs kids.

5. Using BKC in homes, parks, and schools across the city to reach friends and neighbors who might not normally be comfortable in church, but are happy to have something fun for their kids to do on those boring summer mornings or evenings.

6. Taking the compact BKC Kit on a mission trip in a nearby community, or around the world.

Those are just a few ideas. I know there are many other ways to use Backyard Kids Club curriculum! Are you using BKC this summer? Comment to let us know how you’ll be doing it. If you’re not, be in prayer for those who are, as well as all those preparing to do VBS across the country in just a few weeks! We’re praying for you here at LifeWay. You’re our heroes!

6 Safety Tips


Part of loving kids and teaching them about the gospel is making sure they have a safe place in which to learn during Vacation Bible School. Show kids and parents that you value them and their safety by making sure that church staff and volunteers adhere to these safety tips:

  1. Screen volunteers. – Use to screen each volunteer, even ones who have been at your church a long time. This may offend some helpers, but encourage them to remember that this is for their protection and for the confidence of parents and kids who are new to the church and is therefore important. Consider also using the 6/2 Rule: each volunteer should have been a member of the church for six months and there should always be at least two adults with minors.
  2. Teach in a safe environment. – Aspects of this will look differently in a church VBS than in a Backyard Kids Club. Regardless of the space, get on a child’s eye level and look for potential hazards such as exposed plugs, breakable objects, swimming pools, playground equipment and bee hives. Make sure that the space is not only safe but free from distractions that would keep kids from learning.
  3. Have a First Aid Kit handy somewhere near where the majority of your Vacation Bible School is being held and make sure you know where it is. If you are a director make sure that all teachers know where the First Aid Kit is and how to use it.
  4. Know the number of kids in your class on any given day and count them often to make sure no one has gone missing. If you are a director, stress to teachers the importance of keeping up with all kids in their group.
  5. Establish a bathroom procedure that allows one teacher to supervise younger children from the bathroom door while always within sight of another adult. A teacher should never be alone in the restroom with a child. Remind teachers that this is for their protection as much as it is for the children.
  6. Follow your church’s drop off/pick up plan. This plan should include ways to keep kids safe and occupied while cars are coming in and out of the church parking lot and ways to be sure that an approved adult picks up each child.

What other safety tips can you think of to add to these? We’d love to hear them in the comments!

To shop for VBS supplies, click here.

6 Truths From the Agency D3 Scriptures


There are so many wonderful truths in the Scriptures that are a part of this year’s VBS. Here are the ones that jumped out at me as I reflected on them.

  1. Jesus is God’s Son. – Matthew 3:17 – It’s true! Jesus is the Son of the God of the universe. The One who created everything. The One who sent His Son to Earth because He takes a personal interest in whether we know and love Him or not. How incredible that you and I and the kids we minister to can have a relationship with God’s Son!
  2. Seeing Jesus act invokes wonder. – Mark 6:2, 42-44, 51 – Whether it was the unbelieving friends and neighbors in Nazareth, the people who ate miraculous loaves and fishes, or the terrified disciples in the boat, everyone who saw what Jesus did was astonished. Mark 6:51 says the disciples “were completely astounded.” I do not stop in amazement often enough at what He has done. What has He done in your life?
  3. The crucifixion was truly horrific. – Mark 15:22-47 – I read this passage with a new shudder this week. As Easter approaches, I see clean pictures of empty crosses and puzzles with words like crucifixion, resurrection, and nailed. And I realize how often I see the cross like that. A simple activity reduced to a few words. But this year the picture is vividly before me. He went through the worst death imaginable, for us. For me. For all my sins. Let my wonder and thanks and praise never fade.
  4. We forget. ­– Luke 24:5-7 – The disciples shared amazement at Jesus’ wonderful miracles, and they heard Jesus’ words about His future. But they forgot pretty quickly. Their astonishment at His rising makes me chuckle. The angel asked the terrified women at the tomb if they had forgotten what Jesus said about rising from the dead. The answer was yes. Unfortunately, I forget Jesus’ words and promises all too often. Lord help me be more mindful of your words and your power.
  5. Jesus is Alive! – Luke 24:5-7 – Woohoo! Celebrate! Jump up and down!!! On Easter Sunday I’ll barely be containing myself with this knowledge, wanting to run and scream and shout the news. But I’m afraid the news doesn’t infect me that way all year round. That’s something I’d like to change in my life this year. Do you have any suggestions for how to keep the wonder of this fact alive year round?
  6. Being with Jesus changes everything – Acts 2:14-42 – Wow did those disciples change after Jesus’ death and resurrection. From mousy guys who ran to hide during Jesus’ trial and death, they sure turned bold once they saw the power of His hand over the grave. I’ve seen those kinds of changes stir in my own heart. And I’m thankful that now that I know Him, even on the days when I fail to acknowledge the wonder of His power and love, I’ll still never be the same because I have been with Him.

How about you? Share with us your own reflections on these Scriptures in the comments.

Three Steps to Finding Your Serving Niche

So you keep hearing about your church’s VBS and how much fun it is and how many kids it’s touched, and you’ve been feeling God tugging on your heart to serve.

Now what?

When I got started with VBS, I had very little experience and I was a nervous wreck!

If you’re there, or know someone who’s there, don’t worry! You’ve got the calling, and that’s the most important part.

But how do you figure out where to serve?

1. Think about your skills. What do you do well? Get compliments on?

2. What ignites your passion, makes you feel alive and excited?

3. What are your church’s needs? You can ask your pastor or your VBS director about this one. They’ll probably have some quick answers for you!

Maybe you’re not especially comfortable with kids or being the center of attention, but you have a gift in the kitchen. Take a look at the snacks area of VBS. Maybe you prefer the background and are good with a hammer. Set design and decorating may be for you. Maybe your gifts are towards explaining how to do things and put things together. Crafts has some great potential. Or maybe you’re a gifted teacher and lead kids well. Don’t be afraid to step into a Bible study leader role!

In the past I’ve seen God bring these three aspects of calling together many times and I pray He does that for you as well. Most of all, ask Him where He would have you serve this summer and then do not hesitate to go there straight away!

If you are a Director, please feel free to share this blog with potential volunteer recruits as they try to decide where might be the best fit for them.

How have you seen God guide you into His will using your gifts and passions? Please share with us in the comments!

Friday Giveaway!

It’s time for another giveaway! This is getting to be my favorite part of the week!

We had over 200 entries for last week’s giveaway. The winner said her favorite VBS Snacks were all things Colossal Coaster World! Kids love them as well as adults:-). Collosal cookies yummy! Coaster Cars and tracks were cute too!

This week, I’m super excited to give away our Special Agent Watch.

005610229Special features of this watch include a pop up screen, a working laser for pointing to items in Bible Study Evidence Vault (or driving your cat crazy!) and a working time mechanism. Batteries are also included. So enter below and join the fun! This giveaway will be open until Thursday, March 13.



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Three Ways to Use Gadget Making in Your VBS

One of the very best parts of this year’s VBS Previews for me was getting to watch people exercise their creative juices on gadget making in the Creative Zone.

Don’t worry if you missed it, because we have pictures and ideas galore for you! Take a look at some of the finished products on our Facebook page.

Gadget making in Forth Worth!

Gadget making in Forth Worth!

It started as a way to help you brainstorm easy ways to decorate. We realized that some might be intimidated by the “high tech” features of Agency D3, so we set out to create gadgets from every day items that would be easy to make. It was so much fun, we thought you might like to try too!

We visited a local Goodwill Outlet, which allows you to buy by the pound, and loaded up several carts with what most people would call junk.

But one man’s junk is another’s gadget, right?

For those who signed up to do the the activity at the Creative Zone, they each received a box with four to five items that were just theirs and a free table available to everyone that was full of bottle caps, wires, craft sticks, stickers, hot glue guns, buttons, screws, hardware, and any other small recyclable junk people donated to our cause.

Gathered around the free table at the gadget making station.

Gathered around the free table at the gadget making station.

The mission: create a unique gadget with your items.

The result: some of the most creative craft/decoration items I’ve ever seen, from the Truth Detector Hat that sat on your head and let people know whether you were telling the truth to an analyzer that took in your DNA and put up results on the screen to tell you the truth about yourself. And sometimes the people who protested the hardest that they weren’t creative made the best gadgets of all!

What could you create? Where would you get the items? We heard a lot of ideas, from cleaning out garages, nursery closets, and church resource rooms, to doing a church wide drive for bottle caps, keyboards, screens, old broken toys, and broken kitchen items that seem gadgety.

People suggested all types of different ways they plan to use this activity:

1. Letting volunteers compete to make the best gadget at a training or planning session.

2. Having a preteen or student fun night before VBS and letting their older kids or teens create gadgets to decorate the church, helping them be more invested in VBS since they helped decorate.

3. Making the gadget process a three day or week long craft that kids add to a bit each day during crafts to keep them coming back.

How could you use it to inspire kids or volunteers, or just have some fun with your own family? Let us know in the comments!

Gadget creators here in Nashville.

Gadget creators here in Nashville.


The Sound of VBS Preview

The VBS Team hanging out  in the Creative Zone at the Nashville Preview events.

The VBS Team hanging out in the Creative Zone at the Nashville Preview events.

bethanyIt’s a quiet day in the VBS offices today. Probably it feels even quieter than usual because of the noise that’s missing that was in the building last week.

There was the noise of worship coming from Van Ness Auditorium as VBS leaders from all over the country learned new VBS songs and motions.

I got to hear the noise of teachers explaining various aspects of VBS curriculum to eager directors, teachers, craft directors missions leaders and more.

Scissors cut through paper and duct tape made that zipping noise it makes in the Creative Zone.

People like you asked questions about curriculum, about decorations and crafts, about how to teach kids to Discover, Decide and Defend their faith.

In short, it was the sound of the VBS Preview events in Nashville, TN right here at LifeWay, and it was a joyful noise!

In the quiet of this Wednesday morning, I’m kind of missing the buzz from last week. But in a way, I’m glad it’s gone. Because it means that the incredible leaders I had the privilege to meet last week have taken that excited buzz home with them. And soon they’ll be using it to touch lives for God’s kingdom. I can’t wait to see what God does with their passion this year.

And with yours.

Your VBS will be filled with similar sounds as kids get excited about being able to know and defend what they believe. Spend some time thanking God for that joyful noise today and asking Him to give you to passion you need to work through the exhausting hours of planning and putting together your VBS for His glory.

I know I’ve been inspired by the passion some of you brought to Nashville this year. If you were here, share some stories about your favorite things about the conference in the comments! We’d love to hear your stories!