6 Ways to Make Transitions Meaningful

maryVBS is full of transitions. Kids are constantly moving from activity to activity. Don’t lose that time! Train your volunteers now to make sure no moment of the day goes without intentionality!
Guide leaders to use every moment that they have with kids to develop relationships and provide teachable moments, even when they are traveling from place to place. Remind teachers that this may be the only time we get to pour into a certain child, and we want to make the very best of the opportunity.
Here are 6 ways to make every transition meaningful:
  1. Ask a get-to-know-you question that every child gets to answer to help you understand them a little more.
  2. Repeat the key verse in different voices as you transition to rotation sites. Guide kids to say it in a high, squeaky voice, a low voice, in slow motion, in hyper speed, or with country twang.
  3. Sing one of the VBS songs that reinforces the concepts that have been covered during the day.
  4. Ask a question about the day for each child to answer. This can be as simple as, “Tell me something you learned today” or as complicated as a different review question for each child.
  5. Guide kids to tell you one thing they can thank God for – this might be a person, a thing, or for a characteristic that God has.
  6. Ask kids to tell you their favorite part of VBS so far as they walk to a rotation site. Use their favorite moments to reinforce what they have been learning during the day.

6 Ways to Build Relationships

maryVBS is an unbelievable opportunity for adult leaders to build discipleship relationships. There may be kids who come to VBS that you have never had in your church group before, and building relationships with those kids is of utmost importance so that they feel comfortable and want to come back and continue learning about God long after VBS.

As you train your teachers and helpers, communicate the importance of connecting with kids by giving them these 6 ways to begin building relationships:

  1. Find common interests. Ask kids what they are interested in and build a relationship around the things you have in common. Ask kids what they love about those interests, what is hardest, or what has been their biggest success.
  2. Ask kids about their family and their home life. You will be amazed how much you can learn simply by asking kids what they like to do when they are at home or what their families are like. Use these as jumping off points to develop relationships that will point kids to Jesus.
  3. Talk with them as you walk to and from rotation sites. Every moment is a teachable moment and a moment that can be used to point kids to Jesus.
  4. Make connections to the Bible content and applications to life with each activity, game, snack, and craft. Discuss with kids how the content applies to their lives specifically. Ask questions and be flexible and discerning as kids may lead the conversation somewhere you hadn’t planned to go, but that they need to hear. Asking questions instead of simply stating the connection helps kids process the application and helps you begin a discipleship relationship with them as they realize that you really care and want to help them understand.
  5. Be available. Tell kids frequently that they can talk to you and ask questions. Explain that you can answer questions to and from rotations or another time during the week. Make sure that you train helpers and teachers to always be in sight of another helper or teacher when talking one-on-one with a child. Invest in kids by going out of your way to answer questions and get to know them.
  6. Connect with their parents. Learn more about each child that you are coming in contact with during VBS by touching base with their parent. It’s always a good idea to ask what the child gets most excited about so that you have a great jumping off point the next day!

Using Zip for Kids as a Follow Up to VBS


Do you have an exit strategy for VBS this summer? How will you follow up with the kids and families who come to VBS? How will you intentionally continue the learning throughout the summer so that kids go back to school in the fall changed?

This summer at VBS, we are talking about who Jesus is and why we believe that He is who He said He is. The Lord was so sweet in the way that He lead us to develop Zip for Kids. We didn’t see what He had done until after we finished producing Zip for Kids, but as we looked back on the content, we saw that Zip for Kids is the perfect follow up for VBS!

Zip for Kids emphasizes who God is, and that He is loving, eternal, omnipotent, faithful, and trustworthy. What a perfect way to follow up who Jesus is and what He has done for us! Give kids the bigger picture of how the two lock together, in that God sent Jesus to us because He loved us so much that He wanted to provide a way for us to be made right with Him. We can trust that God forgives our sins through Jesus!

Consider using Zip for Kids to continue the Bible learning with kids in your community after VBS. You can use Zip for Kids as a day camp, your Wednesday or Sunday night programming, your “Wacky Wednesdays,” “Fun Fridays,” or “Terrific Tuesdays,” or a number of other ways. It contains 10 Bible story lessons, 5 from the Old Testament (life of David) and 5 from the New Testament (life of Peter), large group activities, small group plans, videos, music, 85 hours of track times (or activities like drama, art, basketball, or outdoor games), and tons of other options. It is completely customizable, and will be great for those who came to VBS or even for your older kids at VBS to go into neighborhoods and lead alongside adults. Check out the details about Zip for Kids and let us know how you choose to use it! Make sure to sign up for the free preview if you haven’t done that yet. Scroll down to the bottom of this page to do that today.

Five Reasons we Decorate

maryWhy do we spend time decorating for VBS? It takes a lot of effort and even some money to decorate. So why do we do that? Well, here are 5 reasons to decorate your space for VBS.
1. Decorations get kids excited about the week.
2. Decorations help kids feel that they have been prepared for and that the church is excited that they are there.
3. Decoration can remove distractions by creating one single environment or feel for the room. Decorations also can hide those things that kids might be drawn to like a chalkboard for them to write on or other items for them to play with instead of listening.
4. Decorating helps teachers be fully invested. It makes their classroom their own instead of it feeling like someone else’s Sunday School room.
5. Decorations take church kids out of the norm that they experience at church and beg kids to have a new experience with diving deeper with Jesus.

Even if you decorate with only a poster, help kids feel planned for and excited about VBS. Decorations aren’t the point of VBS. Keep the main point of Jesus the main point. Use decorations to drive excitement and remove distractions for your kids!

Was Jesus Really God’s Son?

maryThis summer at VBS, we will work through some very difficult questions… questions that can make or break a person’s faith…questions that can build a solid foundation for giving a defense for what you believe. It may scare you to death to introduce these questions to your VBS goers, but these concepts are absolutely pivotal to kids developing a faith of their own that they will carry on with them throughout their lives.

5 Reasons Your Kids Need To Answer Hard Questions:
1. Your kids may not be asking you these questions, but they are hearing them from their friends or maybe thinking about them in their minds. We all have probably had a time when we had to wrestle through these questions ourselves. Is God real? Was Jesus who He said He was? Did Jesus really raise from the dead? Give kids the Truth to hold on to when they are faced with doubt or questions from others.
This will require kids to decide for themselves what they believe and how to defend it when they are asked.

2. You want to be the one to introduce and address these questions before they hear them from people who don’t believe in Jesus. There are lots of versions of “truth” out there. Give kids the defense they need for their faith proactively to help them build correct filters for determining what is True.

3. These questions are an amazing way to convey truth to unchurched kids. These kids will get a clear picture of who Jesus is and what the Bible says about Him through the content at VBS this year. The questions that we will seek to answer this year are a strong evangelical tool for introducing Jesus to kids who have never heard about Him.

4. There is no time like to today to build relationships with kids. Use this content to help kids know that they can ask hard questions and get answers from people who love them at church. Encourage kids to talk about the questions they have now, so that as they get older they will feel comfortable seeking truth from adults who follow Jesus.

5. This content will challenge you with how you talk to others about Jesus. As a teacher, you will be challenged to face the hard questions that the world is asking of Christians and give an answer for your faith. This content is a review of what you know to be true and a challenge to truly participate in the Great Commission in your job, networks, and friendships.

What do you see as the greatest benefit of answering the hard questions that the world has about Jesus this summer? What excites you about this?

Where in the World is Rocket Pack Jack?

maryRocket Pack Jack has been flying all over America, stopping in to see some of you guys along the way.

If you haven’t kept up with Rocket Pack Jack or know about his travels, check out this blog: http://blog.lifeway.com/vbs/2013/10/15/where-in-the-world-is-rocket-pack-jack/

Last week, Rocket Pack Jack was seen on location at the VBS Preview in Nashville, Tennessee. He hung out in the Creative Zone a while, and may have even snapped some photos with some of you guys who were here.


Comment to tell us where you have seen Rocket Pack Jack… and either of the two in the picture count! You can even email me your pictures at mary.wiley@lifeway.com and you might see them on an upcoming blog.

Did anyone make it to the Nashville VBS Preview last week? Comment with your favorite part//what you found to be the most beneficial during your time here!

Reset Friday

maryAs you reset for another year and wind down after all the holiday crazy of planning meals, gifts, and decorating, I hope you have a chance to sit back with a cup of coffee and your Bible and just rest in Him.
I pray that you get a little bit of silence in your day today, even as you are probably back at work, back to getting kids to school and to activities, and running around handling all kinds of situations.

It may be three days into the new year, but there’s never a bad time to reset and rest in the Lord for even just a few minutes. You are probably already thinking about all the teachers who you will need for VBS or Sunday School, all the decorations and planning you need to do for all your summer events, and all the preparation that you wish you had already done for things that are coming up. So, I hear-by declare all following Fridays as the day to reset. Put it on your calendar and put all those things aside for a few minutes and really get some quiet time to reset in the craziness of our lives.

Here are a few ways to take time out to reset throughout the coming months:

1. Set goals, but don’t let those goals rely on your ability to manage every moment of your time, get more done than is really even feasible, and create way more stress than they create inspiration.

2. Carve out some “me” time each week. If that means getting up an hour before everyone in your family once a week, hiring a babysitter once a month so you can head out to your favorite coffee shop, or spending an extra afternoon hanging out with a good friend, make the time and the arrangements to get a little time that you get to decide what you do.

3. Simplify. It’s ok to say no sometimes. Use the time you already have wisely by spending time with the Lord while you shower or drive, and so forth. In our world of crazy busy schedules and applause for doing more, free yourself us to remember that less really is more.

How do you reset? How are you planning for time to reset throughout 2014? What goals have you set that will help with this?

On the Ninth Day of Christmas…


On the ninth day of Christmas ——– I turn into a child.

It’s around this time each year that I get incredibly excited over putting the ornaments on the tree, being with family, reading the Christmas story, going to the Christmas Eve service, and driving around to look at lights. I even like the fruitcake cookies that seem to show up at every Christmas church potluck. I especially love opening up my ornament from my mom for this Christmas and placing it on the tree.

(Sidenote: Parents – my mom started an ornament series when I was born and gives me one each year. It was such a cool piece of my childhood to now put on my tree at my house! Do this for your kids. Start a series or choose an ornament that signifies something about them for that year and write the year on it! It’s never too late to begin.)

Most of all, I love blaming my excitement over Christmas for what has become one of my favorite traditions: helping the wise men move east. I would guess that my mom probably doesn’t love this tradition as much as I do, since it means that the wise men from her beloved nativity scene end up all over the house – in drawers, on counters, in closets, on the top ledge of the shower, on the floor marching through the dining room.

Guys, it took the wise men a LOOONNNG time to get to Jesus. Most scholars think He was a few months old when the wise men came to Him. It is only fitting that they make a LOOONNG journey throughout the house toward Jesus. Every morning I move them and wait for others to find them. It’s almost like Elf on a Shelf, but way better because you don’t have to clean up the mess that you made while the kids were sleeping and it gives you another opportunity to talk about Jesus! As the wise men travel through your house, remind kids that the wise men traveled hundreds of miles to see Jesus because they knew that He was God’s Son and that He had come to save the world. The wise men may not have made it to the manger, but they still traveled a long way to Jesus’ house to worship Him!

What is your favorite tradition that your family does during the Christmas season?

Follow-Up to VBS: Zip for Kids

maryWhat VBS director isn’t looking for a great way to follow up with the kids that came to VBS?

This year, consider offering another experience to reinforce who God is. Focus in on God’s love, His presence with us, His trustworthiness, and His promises after spending VBS focusing on the life of Jesus.

Zip for Kids is a great opportunity to continue the learning that kids began at VBS through any event that you choose! Zip for Kids is completely customizable to fit a day camp, overnight camp, summer of Wednesday nights, or any other event that you can dream.

I am most excited about the focus that Zip for Kids has on equipping the people in your church to serve the community through the gifts that God has given them. You can choose activities (or tracks) that your kids and the kids in your community love, while empowering a leader to lead an activity that they are deeply passionate about. Zip for Kids infuses your DNA into an event that can be used for following up with kids, as well as ministering to kids who may not have been interested in something like VBS, but who might love a sports or arts camp.

Zip for Kids includes ten Bible story lessons, large group plans, small group plans, 16 track time plans (five one-hour activity plans in each track), and tons of videos and music for kids. The Bible content provides an Old Testament and New Testament lesson for each of the five Bible concepts. The Old Testament lessons focus on David and the New Testament lessons focus on Peter. You can mix and match the lessons or choose to do all of them. Either way, the specific concept is woven throughout the day in each element of Zip for Kids.

Meet your community where they are by offering an opportunity to continue their Bible learning while having a blast doing activities that they already love by offering Zip for Kids as a follow-up for VBS this summer.

Check it out here. Make sure to sign up for the preview so you can see the great content and activities that will be offered for your group this summer!


Why Apologetics?

BlogDDDVBS 2014 will not only teach kids about Jesus and the work that He did on the cross for them, but will also teach them to defend their faith in Him. We are so excited about kids diving deeper into apologetics, or a defense of their faith in Jesus. Through learning that Jesus is the absolute truth, kids will dive deeper into their relationship with Him and be challenged to tell others.

Michael Kelley works at LifeWay with Discipleship in Context providing customized biblical content for churches. He’s authored a few books (Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal: A Boy, Cancer, and God; Transformational Discipleship: How People Really Grow; and Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life). Above all, he’s a husband and a father to three kids. Michael talks about the importance of apologetics for kids, even his kids, in the following:

“I don’t know if you’ve felt it, but the winds of culture are more than changing; they’ve changed. At one point, we talked to our kids about Christianity in terms of “defending the faith.” When we did so, we meant for them to learn the distinct parts of Christianity and what separated them from the other religious of the world:

How is Christianity different than Islam? What about Hinduism and Buddhism? What makes Christianity a unique expression of faith?

All valid questions, and all good ones to know the answers to, but times have changed. See, each one of those questions is built upon a fundamental issue that was assumed. The issue, I believe, goes something like this: One of these religions is right; the others are wrong. As Christians, we must be prepared with scientific and logical arguments as to why Christianity is the right one.

But that issue can no longer be assumed. It can’t because we live in a day and time now when the primary objection to Christianity is not that it’s wrong and that another religion is right; it’s that no religion is wrong and they are all right.

Here’s how that works out practically. You might tell someone you believe in Jesus, and then ask them what they believe. They might believe in something completely different, but that’s where the conversation is likely to end because the cultural climate is such that it’s fine to believe in Jesus. And it’s fine to believe in something else. They are all fine; the question isn’t what’s “right and true”; the question is what works for you as an individual.

That’s why we have to help our kids not just think about the proof of Christianity; we have to help them think about the nature of truth. We have to help them understand that some things are absolutely true, no matter where you are and what you are doing. It’s a challenge indeed; one that we must embrace if we want our kids to not just know the nature of Christianity, but also be prepared to be uniquely Christian in a day and time when no one is uniquely anything.”