Coming to a location near you…

mary2013′s VBS season is wrapping up and we have loved hearing the stories about the impact that Colossal Coaster World had on the kids who attended VBS at your church this summer!

We can hardly believe that it is time to start planning for 2014 now! The best planning and training that you can get takes place each year at the VBS Preview events. If you’ve been, leave us a comment and tell us why it’s a “can’t miss event.”

If you haven’t been before, here are 6 reasons to sign up today:
1. Be one of the first to truly experience and be trained for your time at Agency D3 in 2014.
2. Hear from writers and editors about best practices and creative ideas to engage the kids who attend.
3. Ask any question that you might have to those who developed the curriculum for Agency D3.
4. Have a blast networking with other leaders and hearing their ideas about decorating and training teachers.
5. Hear from experts about child development, discipline, and classroom management to pass on to your VBS volunteers.
6. Take home a ton of ideas, notes, and swag that will give you a jumpstart into the summer!

VBS Previews are coming to a city near you! We have events in Ridgecrest, North Carolina; Fort Worth, Texas; Nashville, Tennessee; and Kissimmee, Florida!

Check out more details and register here. 

6 tips for making volunteers feel loved

maryWe all know those precious people who volunteer at VBS and throughout the year in the children’s ministry. They tirelessly invest in the smallest (and most energetic) of church attenders without a whole lot of accolade. As someone who has been the teacher when a child eats her take-home sheet or when only one out of ten kids can even tell you what you taught, I can tell you that your volunteers need a pat on the back every once and a while to remind them that what they are doing matters.

Here are a few simple ways to love on your volunteers:

1. Recognize their dedication and service to children. Create times to celebrate and encourage your leaders with a volunteer meal, dessert party, or thank you breakfast. (Food is ALWAYS encouraging.) Remind them that what they do is making an eternal impact in the kingdom.

2. Live life with them. Celebrate when their children get into the college of their choice or when they get married. Pray with them when a family member is sick. Know them, and let them know that you care about them, not just their presence in one of the classrooms with your favorite little people.

3. Remember their birthday. A card or a small thank you gift will mean the world, simply because you took the time to remember.

4. Ask them for feedback and help with vision. Let them know that their opinions matter. They are the expert on the hour they spend each week with their specific kids. Let them know you value them and the wisdom that they have.

5. Train them well. Communicate with them often and set them up for success. Your volunteers will enjoy serving when they feel prepared and can spend the majority of their time building relationships and investing rather than trying to figure out basics of classroom management.

6. Communicate often.  Touch base with them after they teach to hear what went well and what maybe didn’t go so well. Help them stay in the loop even if they have taken a week off.

Looking forward to VBS 2014: Day 2

mary

I am so excited about Day 2 of VBS for the summer of 2014!

I have always loved the last half of Mark 6. Jesus’ miracles are such a beautiful picture of His ability to provide for our needs and His desire to help us understand who He is.

The apostles were just returning from performing miracles and teaching, and yet they still questioned how food would be provided for all of the people. Sometimes I wonder how Jesus felt when He taught them over and over again, and yet they just didn’t really get it. I wonder if He ever just shook His head and laughed because they were so far off target.

Just in case they had missed His power before, Jesus fed 5000+ with just five fish and two loaves of bread. I love that Jesus gives this food lavishly, as He gives so much to us. He didn’t just feed the people until they were full. There were twelve baskets of leftovers! I’m so glad we serve the God of excessive grace and provision. I am so frequently reminded that He gives us so much more than we deserve.

I’m often reminded that I am just like the disciples. I forget that God will provide for my needs and that He wants to know me and to be known by me. I forget that God wants to lavish grace upon grace on me, even though I have nothing to offer in return.

I look forward to kids learning about God’s provision and lavish grace through this passage! I hope that it really sinks in for kids that through Jesus, we receive God’s amazing power and perfect provision!

Preparing NOW for Next Summer

maryKids are headed back to school, and I’m betting that you need a week off to decompress from the crazy schedule full of activities that you have been keeping the last couple of months. As you take a few deep breaths and enjoy a little bit of quiet, let’s talk about something really important: planning.

How do you get ready for all of the unbelievably fun things you do at VBS and even throughout each week with your church next summer?… By starting the planning process now!

Here are 5 tips to get you started on planning for 2014. After all, June 1st is only 298 days away!

  1. Begin praying NOW for the kids that will come to VBS next summer. Pray that they have a life-changing experience with Jesus during the week.
  2. Get to know new people in the church. Get to know their skills and passions, and help guide them to use those to serve during the summer.
  3. Take a good look at the decorations you already have and consider how you can repurpose them into gadgets for Agency D3.
  4. Start plotting out the summer calendar. When is your church taking the kids to camp? When is VBS? When is day camp? Consider shuffling events if there were lots of conflict with summer baseball, etc. Let parents know the summer calendar before Spring Break so they can plan their vacations accordingly.
  5. Challenge every person in your church to be involved in serving the children’s ministry in some way during the year, whether that be by painting sets one afternoon or teaching on a Sunday morning, equip people to love to serve. Help them find a way to serve that they will love and desire to continue.

What tips can you give us on preparing now for next summer to be the best one yet?

6 Tips You Need for Leading VBS Training

mary

VBS training time is here! Are you a leader who likes to lead from behind-the-scenes and is a little intimated by training? Are you a leader who has been training people for years and years and just needs something to make it fresh? Maybe this is your first try at training your church leaders to lead VBS and you just need some tips to do so. Here are 6 tips to consider when leading a VBS training session… just to get the conversation going.


1. Start and end when you say you will.
Build trust and respect with your teachers now.
2. Get to know your teachers.
If you want your teachers to learn how to build relationships with the kids in the VBS class, make sure to be building relationships with them.
3. Don’t be all business.
VBS is fun! Make sure to work some fun into your training!
4. Empower other leaders.
If you feel like it is important to talk through what will happen at recreation or during missions, allow those teachers to speak to that. Empower every teacher by giving them your expectations and what success at VBS looks like, which is spending time with kids teaching them about Jesus, so that they may see Him and desire to follow Him!
5. Give leaders specific ways to pray.
Pass out a prayer calendar that has a specific thing to pray for each day between training and VBS. Pray for teachers as they prepare, kids as they get excited to come, and parents as kids go home and tell them about what they learned.
6. Consider ways to include the entire church.
Allow your volunteers to help you think about as many ways as possible to get your entire church involved in VBS. Share your prayer calendar with the church, ask them to come to the week’s night of celebration and get to know some of the families, or have them prayer walk through the church the day before VBS begins. There are tons of ways to include your church, so think through some ways to do so and make it happen!

If you missed last week’s post about training, find it here.

What is the best tip you can share with us about leading a VBS training session?

Get the Most Out of VBS Training

maryIt’s that time of year! You have probably already planned a date to train all of your volunteers for VBS. Training is pivotal to a successful week of kids learning about Jesus and building discipleship relationships with leaders. Here are 6 quick tips to help you spend your time wisely during training.

1. Cast vision instead of teaching details.photo 1
Begin with prayer and remind teachers that more than great decorations, seamless transitions, and a ton of fun that will be had at VBS, the ultimate goal is to help children see Jesus. Trust your teachers to go home and read their curriculum, or even better, get it to them prior to training and have them study up. Ask them to bring you their questions during training (but make sure they know they can send you questions anytime, both before and after training as well). Cover those things that they won’t learn from their curriculum plan. Explain how your church may do things a little differently from what they will read and explain the goals and purpose of why you do VBS… It will be a successful week if kids leave having had a life-altering experience with Jesus – rather that be learning more about Him than they knew before, entering into a relationship with Him, or being challenged to live it out and tell their friends.
2. Create the atmosphere in the training room that you expect them to create in their rooms.
The room itself should train your leaders and show them your expectations for their rooms. Explain how to use the entire room and have kids get up, sit down, and move around throughout the lesson to keep them engaged.
3. Teach them how to connect with children and talk about the Bible content. Don’t just run through the stories.
Teachers will read through the stories and prepare well. Help them also prepare well to really connect with kids by asking them questions about their lives, finding common interests, and really listening as they speak. Help them to understand how to be relational while moving through rotations and during the Bible story lesson and how to balance it with staying on task.
4. Don’t waste time that doesn’t have to be wasted.
If each volunteer is getting a shirt, collect sizes, label beforehand with masking tape, and hand it to them with their curriculum as they walk in the door. Give each volunteer a sheet (or send an email prior to training.. or both for those who forget to check their email) detailing what room they will teach in, what their rotation schedule will be, drop off and pick up details, security and safety procedures, and any other pertinent information that they will need.
5. Video content and music is great, but make sure you are very comfortable with using the equipment to play these.
Always have a plan B since technology doesn’t always cooperate like we would like it to.
6. Give teachers time to connect with the other teachers in their age group to brainstorm ideas, choose activities, and determine responsibilities within their classroom. Hopefully, your teachers will come prepared with ideas. This time will be so valuable for them to begin to put some serious planning in for the week. They can go see the room, determine when they will all come to the church to decorate, and begin to pray over their rooms.

What else will you be covering in your training that might help other churches plan their training time?

Kids and Discipleship

mary
Prior to working with the VBS team, I was a CentriKid Camp Specialist. One of my favorite job responsibilities in this role was interviewing potential staff. However, after a few days of interviewing, I had a very clear picture of what discipleship in the church 10 years ago looked like. It seemed that four out of every five had a story that went something like this:

“I believed and prayed a prayer when I was (insert age between 6-12). I know that I truly believed then, but I didn’t really understand the decision I was making. It wasn’t until I got into youth and my youth minister really helped me understand what it meant to follow Christ that I think I my faith really became real.”

Heartbreaking. This is what I’m hearing: The Holy Spirit moved in my life and I believed in Jesus. I made a decision and asked Jesus to be in control of my life, but I didn’t know everything that I know now. I didn’t have anyone walking beside me, so I didn’t know that it’s ok to not know everything. No one explained to me how to trust Jesus or follow Him daily. No one taught me to have a quiet time. No one discipled me.

May this never be in your children’s ministry or the lives of the children that you parent! Here are 3 practical things you can do today to begin discipling your kids.

  1. Talk about Jesus and what He is doing in your life. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit should be frequent in your vocabulary.
  2. Follow up after Bible teaching. If your kids went to Sunday school, a Disciple Now weekend, or any other place teaching happens, ask questions. Help them process what they learned by asking them to rehash it for you.
  3. Most importantly, be a disciple yourself. One of my favorite quotes is from David Platt on discipleship: “Making disciples is a supernatural overflow of being a disciple.” Serve and teach your kids out of the overflow of what God is teaching you through your time with Him. I know you are so busy, but this is pivotal to make time for. You can do it! I believe in you. I know having 168 hours in a week is a staggering picture… but use yours wisely!

In case you missed it, here’s an earlier post about discipleship:
http://blog.lifeway.com/vbs/2013/02/28/training-parents-in-discipleship/

3 Ways to Equip Parents to Prepare Kids for attending VBS

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Spiritual formation does not happen in one week at VBS, however, they can grow in leaps and bounds during a week of VBS with the right support and discipleship at home. Kids need to know that Jesus is not just for church or VBS. Following Jesus transforms the entire life of a believer, and kids need to see that Jesus is an integral part of each piece of your life, including your home life. Here’s three practical ways that you can equip parents to prepare their kids for attending VBS, all while establishing or continuing discipleship in the home:

1. Send home an outline of what kids will study each day. 

Guide parents to ask their children what they know about the Biblical characters that will be studied. Ask parents to get a good feel of where their kids are on understanding the Bible stories and the Gospel message prior to VBS so they can ask similar questions afterward and evaluate their learning, clearing up any misunderstandings or questions they may have.

2. Even now, you can begin to discuss with them what to expect out of the experience.

Meet with parents or send home some information about what a normal day at VBS looks like. The more comfortable a child new to VBS or new to specific teachers, the more receptive they will be to the message being taught. Tell children that you know the Bible is true. Tell children that they will learn more about Jesus at VBS and explain why you follow Him and what it means to do that.

3. Explain the phrases they may hear at VBS.

Train teachers well to not use confusing statements like, “ask Jesus into your heart,” and “Jesus lives in me.” Children, especially younger children, are very concrete in their thinking. These phrases sound scary — Does that require surgery? Communicate with parents what they may hear like “asking Jesus to be in control of your life” or “following Jesus.” Explain what these mean prior to VBS and your child will have a better grasp on the message that is being presented…and who knows what great conversations may come of it!?

How do you prepare the kids at church or your own kids for VBS?

Getting your heart ready for VBS

IMG_9942Frazzled. That’s me leading up to VBS last year. I was in a demanding job, involved in three church kids programs and a Bible study, and trying to keep dinner cooked and house cleaned. I was also absent for two nights of VBS and had to prepare for a substitute! I was a wreck!

As I sat on my living room floor late at night preparing, I felt a sense of despair that I couldn’t get deeper than a to-do list. Oh I’d get the pieces cut and bagged, and I’d have my teaching outline, but my heart wasn’t there. My spirit wasn’t prepared for VBS.

I suspect I’m not alone. Between family, work, church, and community responsibilities … we’re drowning VBS workers! How do we prepare our spirits for one more thing?

First, we start early. Like now.

Now directors, before you wring my neck, I know this isn’t early! You’re in the throes of VBS prep already, but for the rest of us, donning coats and gloves daily, summer seems far away.

But if we stop thinking that way and start preparing, I think we’ll find some extra time, as well as a much richer VBS.

Some ideas:

to do

Be in the Word.  Apply God’s words to your life. Ask God to help you know Him. One of the best gifts you can give your VBS kids is to be growing spiritually.

Spend time with kids. Play with your own, babysit or volunteer, but use this time to rekindle deep love for kids. Ask God to show you how He loves them and to help you love them that way.  Truly listen to what kids say. What do they care about? What do they fear? If you know them and love them, your ministry will go beyond a to-do list.

Ask your director how you can help. And pray while you help. If you work on name tags, pray for the child that will touch each name tag. If you collect craft supplies, pray that God will help tactile learners embrace truth during crafts, etc…

Make good use of time- Prepare ahead for what you’ll be doing so when the time comes you’ll be calm and ready to spend time with kids. I’m guessing if you asked for your materials early, your director would jump for joy! Pray for God’s inspiration and presence in your corner of VBS.

Spend some time with God about the things you are afraid of, and specific VBS worries. Confess them and ask Him to use your fears and weaknesses to minister to children.

Pray for God’s boldness as you speak to each of the kids you encounter at VBS.

Pray for teachers. Hold other teachers up in prayer. Pray for their energy, courage, and spiritual preparation.

Notice a theme? Pray, pray, pray is the most important form of preparation. People say, “all I can do is pray, we can only pray, or please just pray,” but though I’ve never been a strong prayer warrior, God frequently reminds me that prayer is not an “all,” an “only,” or a “just.” It is talking with the Creator of the universe, who loves and cares for us and wants to make His will known.

What are ways you can prepare spiritually for VBS? How can we pray for your preparation?

 

 

Training Parents in Discipleship

DiscipleshipThere are 168 dots in this image, one for every hour of the week in a child’s life. Many of those hours are spent sleeping or at school, but what about the other hours during the week?

As church leaders, we are lucky if we get to see kids 2 hours per week. In a lot of cases, this is the only spiritual investment that kids receive. This is not only true in those households where church is just a place that parents drop off their kids so they can have some peace and quiet, but it is even true in the most Bible-believing, church-going families.

Why? Here are 3 misconceptions most parents in the church hold:

  1. Most parents believe kids will learn all they need to know at church. Two hours is plenty of time to build foundations and understandings of the biggest spiritual concepts. Teaching children to follow Jesus is the church’s responsibility anyway.
  2. Most parents believe they aren’t capable. They think that if they don’t teach Sunday school or preach, they don’t have the skills or don’t know enough about the Bible to teach their children to follow Jesus.
  3. Most parents fear failure. If their child falls away from the church later in life they are afraid that they will be responsible.

Why does this matter to you?
Whether you are a parent, a VBS director or volunteer, a children’s minister, or a Sunday school teacher, the spiritual development of children is something that you have a direct hand in both in the classroom and through the relationships that you have with their parents. Discipleship is not something that parents will learn to do in a quick training session. As you seek to train parents to disciple their children, here are a few good starting points:

  1. What can you send home that can start a conversation about Jesus?
  2. Encourage parents. Help them understand that they don’t have to have all the answers. They don’t have to have a family devotion time. That fits some families and doesn’t fit others. Do what fits your family. Ask them to start by trying to point to Jesus in one conversation that they have with their kids each day.
  3. Remind parents that failure is not a possibility. Their job as a parent is to point their children to Christ. It is the Holy Spirit’s working that calls them to Jesus and creates a growing relationship with Him.
  4. Create ways for parents to network and direct them to talk about how they are pointing their kids to Christ. Hold each other accountable and partner with each other.
  5. Pray, pray, pray. Raising kids is hard work. Pray for parents and remind them that they are not alone.