6 Truths From the Agency D3 Scriptures

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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.

 

 

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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!

Teaching Kids to Give an Answer

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bethanyIt’s one of those times when long-awaited movies have been coming out right and left and as I  scrape my budget for ticket money and my schedule for matinee times and friends who are able to go at the same time as I am, I find myself thinking about worldview a lot.

Worldview is one of those things like the price of milk or gas. We don’t seem to notice a problem with it unless there’s a really drastic change all of a sudden.

If things change just a few cents, or a few degrees in ideology, no one realizes the difference until a long way down the road. And that’s why I think alertness during movie watching is so important. Because one movie makes thousands of truth claims about the world, rapid-fire, in alluring visual images and smoothly delivered lines that somehow creep into our hearts, and those of our children. And they’re often pretty close to what we believe. But not quite on target.

For example, the fairy-tales I had access to as a kid and their “follow your heart” claims are a big part of why I and others in my generation struggle with handing control to God and letting Him steer, especially during tough times. Modern media are also a part of an identity crisis for young women in regards to their body image. I’m sure you can think of more examples.

So am I saying to keep yourself and your kids out of theaters and away from your TV?

Actually, no. Just the opposite.

I think it can be really important to watch age-appropriate media with our kids, even when they don’t match up with the truth from the Bible.

There are just a couple of things we cannot forget to do.

The first thing is to learn ourselves, and to teach our kids, what Peter tells us we need in the second part of our 2014 theme verse.

“Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” 1 Peter 3:15b

How can we know something is a lie unless we know the truth about what we believe?

That’s why I’m so excited about this year’s VBS theme! It’s so important because it will help us equip kids to know the truth about God and the world and to identify lies.

Secondly, we need to take the time to talk to kids about what they’re seeing. Rather than avoiding lies, which is virtually impossible in today’s culture, what if we sat down after each movie and TV show and talked about what is and isn’t true and good in that particular story?

Imagine a generation of kids taught at home to be experts in distinguishing between the truth about the world and lies. Imagine what they can do!

So take the time to engage culture with your kids. But don’t forget to help them be ready to give an answer first! Happy movie-going in 2014!

On the First Day of Christmas

bethanyWe’ve been humming this silly little song with 12 numbers in our heads here on the LifeWay Kids floor, so the VBS team thought we’d get the song out of our heads and onto paper (at least electronically). So for the next 12 days, we’ll be telling your about some happy, funny, calamitous, and heartwarming memories, quirky traditions, favorite (and least favorite) gifts, and more, from our Christmas to yours! We hope you’re having a Merry Christmas season and pausing in the midst of the rush of church and school and family events to remember the hush of a stable long ago and kneel for worship at the throne of the Giver of the very best, and first, Christmas Gift ever.

As for my family, I struggled to think of steady Christmas traditions beyond food, because it seems like traditions I remember from childhood have died out and been replaced. That worried me until I realized that part of the reason for this is that in moving a lot for my parents’ work in the ministry, both with my dad as a pastor and my parents as missionaries in East Africa, we seem to adapt to our locations.

For instance, something I’ve grown to love now that my dad pastor’s in East Tennessee is the annual Rouse Road Christmas Parade, named for the road it traverses. This country road is home to a number of families who gather together every year to put together a parade for a growing number of community members who come out to watch. Our church always has a float, as do many individual families. Because showing horses is important to many of the residents, lots of people ride horses in the parade. The whole community then contributes to a huge potluck inside a nearby barn, horses looking on as we eat barbecue and sweet Christmas treats. Here are a few pictures from recent years:

Even the tractors feel a little Christmas spirit!

Even the tractors feel a little Christmas spirit!

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Rudolph the red nosed…horse?

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Some little cuties in a Christmas living room float

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My parents hanging out in the barn at lunch time!

The Rouse Road Parade usually freezes fingers and toes, but my family hasn’t always needed such warm coats at Christmas. In fact one of my favorite Christmas memories was our first Christmas as career missionaries in Tanzania, which is located in East Africa. Tanzania sits near the equator, and we were in the south, close to the coast, which meant for abundant fruit trees, no need for central heating and HOT weather. In fact December is at the peak of the hottest part of the year, the reverse of this side of the Equator.

 

That year we made Christmas t-shirts, learned that you can eat termites (I didn’t, but I’ve heard they taste like burnt popcorn) and I spent a lot of time trying to keep my new kitten out of the tiny Christmas tree my mom had managed to fit into our luggage. My parents worked really hard to make things feel special, even though they were far from normal or traditional, which was hard on my 13-year-old perspective. I’m thankful for parents who taught me that where Christ and family are, there is home, regardless of the drought circumstances outside and the lack of snow on Christmas day.

Making my Christmas t-shirt

Me, using lots of focus as I make my Christmas t-shirt.

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Wearing my Christmas t-shirt while cuddling my kitten on Christmas morning.

My parents and me one Christmas morning in Tanzania.

My parents and me celebrating Christmas morning in Tanzania.

Five Tips for Taking Backyard Kids Club on Mission

bethanyYou’ve done your VBS and you’ve packed it away until you can reuse items fromAgency D3. But what if you could still serve kids by grabbing some of those leftovers and a Backyard Kids Club Kit and taking them on mission?

We’ve heard lots of stories about people using VBS and Backyard Kids Club for mission trips and we love hearing them! I’m especially excited about the simplified version of VBS that Backyard Kids Club provides, since it means a much easier time organizing kids’ programming with limited space, time, or supplies.

I grew up as a missionary kid and I’ve seen many people bring VBS overseas with them. I’ve even been on short term VBS mission trips myself. Because of that, I’ve had the chance to learn what works and doesn’t work in an international setting.

After you start by praying hard for every step of your trip, here are a few tips as you prepare:

1. Pack light. Check with the airline you’re flying with about weight restrictions and baggage fees and then determine what you have to have for your Backyard Kids Club, within that restriction. Remember to check security guidelines when you’re packing your carry-on baggage as well.

2. Be sustainable. What this looks like depends on where you’re going, but don’t focus on taking a lot of extra stuff for your Backyard Kids Club. While extras can be fun, if it’s something a local church in another country won’t be able to replicate without you, either because of money or availability, it could do more harm than good. Instead, focus on the eternal message you’ll be sharing. Talk with local missionaries and church leaders in the area where you’ll be going for more advice on this subject.

3. Be culturally sensitive. Talk with missionaries, read books, and learn about the culture where you’ll be conducting Backyard Kids Club. Things that are innocent in the U.S. could mean something totally different in another country. Being prepared for things to get lost in translation shows you care about people and their culture, and helps show them what Christ means to them in their culture.

4. Strive for good teamwork. Pray that God will help your team work well together and be patient with one another. Also do your best to work well with local missionaries, churches, and other Christian organizations in the area where you’re serving. When you leave, those people will remain to continue serving God and showing His love to people, so it’s important to listen to them and take their advice in order to avoid breaking relationships they’ve worked hard to build, even if it’s done accidentally.

5. Love well. A smile here and a hug there (when it’s culturally appropriate!) go a long way toward telling any child you love them, no matter the language. Give your time and caring freely, knowing God will be honored if you love well, and that more people will hopefully come to love and follow Him.

Have you taken VBS or Backyard Kids Club on mission before? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments! To see more information about our Backyard Kids Club resources, click here.

5 Things I Learned from Mom

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Happy Monday! Hope you had a marvelous weekend! I spent it traveling for my mom’s birthday, and it was a special time of celebrating her.

Which gets me thinking. My mom was more excited than anyone else when she found out I was moving to Nashville to work on VBS. That’s because for as long as I can remember, my mom has been a teacher, but her secret identity is VBS Super Woman.

Not many days go by that I don’t remember and use her advice. In honor of my mom’s excellence as a VBS mentor, here are some lessons I’ve learned from her.

Mombday

1. Get excited! My mom has childlike excitement down to a science, which taught me not to grow up too fast. She proved the point on her last visit. It was just after the Giant Inflatable Game Cube (005630803) released and I left it in my living room floor. As I expected, it was the first thing she went to after hugging me. Her excitement was second only to…well, mine!

2. Plan too many activities; know you won’t use them all. As a new teacher, I was terrified of running out of activities. My mom told me to go ahead and prepare a lot of activities, but not to be upset if we didn’t finish everything. It’s more important to get Biblical truth across to kids than to finish a to-do list.

3. Make decorations interactive and reusable. My mom’s a simple decorator for VBS. But what she does is memorable. Her yellow wagon shows up every year as a train car, taxi, roller coaster, and more. Kids love to be pulled in it, not to mention that it’s handy for packing supplies.

4. Don’t focus on decorations. My first year teaching, I obsessed over making my decorations impressive, complex, and unique. I’m sure my 3- and 4-year-olds appreciated it. My mom urged me not to stress but to spend more time learning Bible content and loving my kids. She was right of course. My kids will never remember what their room looked like that year. They will remember that I loved them like my mom taught me. Like Jesus taught us.

5. Love is the same in every language. It’s not easy to ruffle my mom. Was she phased when half her kindergarteners spoke only Spanish, a language she’s barely heard? Nope. She called me that year, excited over new friends and new words she was learning. Only God knows how instrumental her willingness to be flexible has been in the spiritual lives of so many kids.

I love and respect my mom a lot. Whoever it may be, I’m guessing you also had someone who mentored you as you learned to minister to children. Share their name in the comments and then share this post! Let them know how thankful you are for what they’ve taught you. Speaking of which, I think I’ll go call my mom. Some things can’t be said too often.

Day 1: Is Jesus Really God's Son?

bethanyAs a VBS team, we wanted to share with you what the Biblical content in Agency D3 means to each of us. I’m honored to get to go first in this series.

And there came a voice from heaven: “This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him!” (Matthew 3:17)

Not long ago I found out from my mom that when I finished high school, some adults I knew well were worried about what college might do to my faith. They told my mom they were afraid college might make me cynical about the things of God. They weren’t totally wrong.

My freshman year made me question much of what I knew about the reliability of Scripture, the truth of a Biblical worldview, and the traditional Christian view of sin.

Thankfully God put people in my life who helped me see the truth and not grow hard or cynical on these subjects. In fact I think it helped me be more firmly grounded in the truth because I had a chance to question these things for myself.

But the one thing I never struggled with, never questioned or feared is the fact that Jesus is God’s Son.

During high school, which I completed at a school in East Africa since my parents were missionaries, I attended boarding school. Learning to be on my own from my parents was very difficult, but at those moments when I thought the rug had been pulled from my feet and I was falling toward a deeper rock bottom, God was there. Always there.

The truth of who He is and what Jesus did for me so that I could have that relationship became very real during that time of my life. A favorite college professor who really helped ground me in my faith and Biblical worldview liked to ask, “Do you really believe what you really believe is really real?”

Do you?

Is the fact that Jesus is God’s son a vividly true fact for you that colors all the other knowledge you have about the Bible and the world? It is for me. The Bible says it, the disciples died for it, and I’ve seen it to be true in my own life. During seasons of joy and trouble both then and now.

And I’m so so excited to get to share these truths with kids in Agency D3.

Imagine kids who enter not just their colleges and their high schools, but even their elementary schools really believing that what they really believe about Jesus is really real.

They’ll be unstoppable!

I’m praying you’ll be reminded this week of the reality of who Christ is, what that means for where you stand before God, and that you’ll be encouraged to share that with your kids, not just during Agency D3, but all year round.

When was a time in your life when Christ’s identity was confirmed for you?