6 Must Knows for Working With Teens

carol_editedVBS it’s not just for kids. LifeWay provides VBS curriculum for Babies–Adults. Student VBS can be an awesome way for your church to connect with and attract students. However, many people only view VBS as a kids ministry. If you church already has or is interested in promoting Student VBS, these 6 tips will help equip your leaders.

  1. Teens are searching for their identity. VBS provides a great opportunity to introduce teens to the best place to search for the answers they need. Instead of turning to friends, social media, TV, and other worldly advice, teach teens to dig deeper into what God’s Word has to say about their true identity.
  2. Relationships mean everything to teens. VBS provides an excellent platform for teens to build relationships with positive role models within the church as well as deepen their relationship with God.
  3. Teens are beginning to explore and question their belief system. Many teens oscillate between believing in God today and doubting that belief tomorrow. VBS provides a safe place for them to find the answers to some of their questions and help them learn how to defend their faith.
  4. Teens are very experiential. They need times to put their faith into action. VBS offers a time to focus on Missions and practical ideas for allowing teens to fulfill the need to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
  5. Teens quickly jump from one topic to another and lose interest quickly if they are not engaged. VBS curriculum is intentionally written to help leaders transition between different types of activities to help keep teens engaged and on track.
  6. Teens are capable of and even desire the opportunity to lead. VBS provides opportunities for students to not only step up and lead in their own peer group, but they can also begin to lead and assist with the younger learners attending VBS.


The Heart of VBS—Evangelism

carol_editedBack in 1996  the VBS team felt God leading them to revisit the format and principles of “doing” VBS. In 1997 the new VBS was rolled out with The Wild and Wonderful Good News Stampede. Many of you could probably sing the theme song and have fond of memories of attending or leading VBS that year, but you may not have been aware that one of the driving principles of VBS was and is evangelism.

VBS is meant to be more than just a fun event for your church kids, more than just a summer diversion from the norm, more than just another program to check off the list. At the heart of VBS is evangelism. It’s that one chance you may have at getting those who might not otherwise step foot in a church to have an encounter with the Lord.

Recently at our Preview events Kelli McAnnly led a session outlining why we do VBS and strategies for embracing the true heart of VBS—reaching people of all ages, leading them to know and respond to Jesus Christ as led by the Holy Spirit. Kelli was gracious enough to allow me to share how she used the acrostic AGENCY D3 to help conferees be intentional about evangelism.


  • Be aware of those around us that do not have a personal relationship with Christ.
  • View those in our churches and community who are hurting, lost, sad, and in need of Christ through His perspective and become aware of their lost souls.


  • Offer VBS as a reason to intentionally invite lost people to your church
  • Give people a bridge to the spiritual orphans in your community.
  • Give people an opportunity to clearly present the gospel
  • Give people an opportunity to respond to Christ in a public way.


  • Enable your church to work together towards the Great Commission.
  • Enable VBS directors, leaders, parents, and staff to share the love of Christ with kids and their families.


  • Being evangelistic navigates an entry point for unchurched people.
  • Attract people to your church with programs like VBS for their kids. Then you can help them navigate the gospel and how it connects to their lives.
  • Remember the gospel makes VBS relevant. Without the gospel, it is just fun and games.


  • Connect with families. The initial follow-up contact should be the discovery of the family network.
  • Pass information discovered on to the follow-up team and to age group classes.
  • Invite each member of the family to the appropriate Bible study class and other ministry opportunities.
  • Plan to have multiple contacts with the family over the following months.


  • Yield and surrender your heart to God’s plan
  • Use bold, creative strategies to teach people about Christ.


  • Display—display the gospel. Be people who are evangelistic.
  • Demonstrate—demonstrate a life that follows Christ. Do things that bring Him glory.
  • Declare—declare the gospel. Tell people about Christ.

There are an estimated 313 million people living in the US. 98 million of those have accepted Jesus as their Savior. 43% of those accepted Jesus before reaching the age of 13. According to George Barna, evangelism is most effective among kids. Where is your heart?

From Derailed to Teachable Moment

carol_editedWe’ve all had them, those moments when some little something derails our whole lesson. We’ve prepared, recited in our minds how things are going to go, imagined how we’ll see the “lightbulbs come on” when the kids get it, then Wham one kid derails the whole shebang. This happened to me recently. I actually even anticipated that the picture of Baby Jesus that  looked like a picture of Charlie Brown could cause problems. I decided to head things off at the pass and find a more realistic picture of Baby Jesus to use. Armed with my picture and lesson, I set off to church feeling quite confident that the lesson I had envisioned would come to fruition. Only one little problem, I had forgotten that the Charlie Brown picture would show up again later in the lesson. And as predicted, when the pictures were handed out for the last activity, my one rambunctious child immediately yelled, “Hey, it’s Charlie Brown!”

Then a discussion ensued as to whether or not Charlie Brown had hair because the baby in this picture had a little hair. And in God’s infinite wisdom, He saw fit to send one little girl to the library before coming to church. Guess what book she checked out. Yep, it was a Snoopy book. Yes, she did indeed bring it to class instead of leaving it in the car, so she could show an actual picture of Charlie Brown and put the matter to rest. He does indeed have a little swirl of hair. So what to do now that all the kids were labeling their pictures “Charlie Brown” instead of “Baby Jesus?”

We tried reminding the kids that this was just supposed to be a picture to help them remember that Baby Jesus was special even though He looked and acted like all the other babies. We told the kids that Jesus was better than Charlie Brown ever could be. We asked if Charlie Brown would die on the cross for us. Now some kids reasoned that he might die on a cross for us. At this point we reminded the kids that even if he did, it would never be enough. Only the sacrifice of a sinless person, only Jesus would ever be enough. And then they began to focus less on Charlie Brown and more on the true meaning of how special Jesus is and how we need Him to be our Savior.

So in that moment when your lesson is derailed, do not fear, do not feel defeated, this may just be the teachable moment God has planned.

Tips for Moving from Derailed to Teachable Moment

1. Anticipate and plan for things that could derail your lesson. It can be something as small as the artwork you use, but know that kids will pick up on the small things.

2. Turn the moments around by asking questions and guiding discussion. Lead the kids back to the biblical truth that you are trying to drive home.

3. Take a “time out.” Stop for a moment, take a deep breath, regroup, and start again. The more flustered you get about the situation, the more kids will want to continue the distraction.

4. Remember that this may not have been in your plan, but it very well could have been in God’s plan.

Share with us your tips that get you moving from a derailed moment to a teachable one in the comments.

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas. . .

carol_editedI polled folks in the office to find out what some of their favorite Christmas Eve traditions are. So in no particular order, here are twelve traditions from folks on the LifeWay Kids team.

  • We play board games or card games–Erika Scrimpshire
  • When I was a kid, we would bake Christmas cookies each afternoon during the four Sundays of Advent. We didn’t get to eat any though; they went straight to the freezer! On Christmas eve, they were pulled from the freezer and we finally got to dig in!–Stephanie Salvatore
  • In Texas, my family always eats at Tamales for Xmas eve in honor of our Mexican heritage!–Jana Magruder
  • Several years ago we began choosing someone in the family to be the recipient of “Twelve Days of Christmas.” Twelve presents are arranged and made available in a variety of ways. This year my elderly parents are the recipients. During Thanksgiving, my daughter and daughter-in-law shopped for and hid nine presents in their home. Then I sent them a package with three more gifts along with the clues to find the others. Included on the clue for each day is a Scripture so that they not only find a small gift each day but also enjoy the joy of the season as they read about the Savior. One year we sent a box full of gifts to cousins who live in another state. The year my daughter-in-law was pregnant with the first grandchild, she received a basket full of gifts. The gifts are small, useful items and usually include at least one gift card. It is fun for those who prepare and for those who receive.– Wanda King
  • We go to see a movie together as a family. Each person opens one present at a time.– Katy Bradley
  • In our family, we always read Luke 2 on Christmas Eve. The youngest person that can read gets to read the story. –Henry Dutton
  • My dad always read the Christmas story.  My mom reads it now. –Lance Howerton
  • My family eats Chinese Food on Christmas Eve. Sixteen years ago when I first came to LifeWay, my family tried to go out and eat on Christmas Eve. All that was open were Chinese Restaurants. Since then, Chinese Food has been our choice for Christmas Eve dinner!– Jerry Vogel
  • Christmas Eve, after the last Christmas Eve service at church, we have Clam Chowder in bread bowls and watch It’s a Wonderful Life. The kids barely make it half-way through the movie without crashing. My wife and I cry…, mostly my wife. On Christmas Day we watch Christmas Story while we open presents. Afterwards we go eat at a Chinese restaurant, yes there is always one open. –Jeffrey Reed

Yes, I know there are 13, but they were all too fun not to share : )

On the Sixth Day of Christmas. . .

carol_editedCalamity came to visit. Well, at least my house anyway. Remember back on the First Day of Christmas when Bethany said some calamitous stories? Yeah, she was foreshadowing the Sixth Day of Christmas for you. My family’s holiday tradition is for someone to visit the ER. Yep, that’s right it’s not a holiday if the Tomlinson’s or someone closely related has not been to the ER. It all started with my son’s first Christmas 14 years ago and has pretty much carried on since then. So for this Sixth Day of Christmas, I share our top 6 Holiday Calamities.

1. Take my one month old son to the ER on Christmas morning leaving my daughter and husband to open gifts without us.

2. On my son’s first birthday, take him to have tubes put in his ears. It was all good by evening in time for his party.

3. New Year’s day, daughter falls while running on the outside of the trampoline (yes, we had a net) and ends up with 36 stitches in her leg. We thought we were going to make through the holidays with no ER visits. Oh, well, why break tradition?

4. Memorial day, I break a bone in my foot stepping off the stairs on our deck.

5. Two years later break the same bone in the other foot two days before Christmas. This time I stepped on a Nerf gun left at the bottom of the garage steps. (Thanks, son!)

6. Take my husband to the ER Christmas day with chest pains, turns out he just had reflux. Probably too much turkey.

That’s just the highlights of our calamitous holidays. But through it all we end up being closer to one another and have many opportunities to praise the Lord for His healing and provision. We even have a laugh or two albeit a little down the road. So no matter where the holidays find you, be of good cheer and count your blessings no matter the circumstance.

I hope you all have a safe, healthy, and blessed Christmas this year!

D3: Discover, Decide, Defend

carol_editedMost of you reading this title for this blog post are probably thinking, “Wait a minute, where’s the Agency in D3?” No, I have not forgotten or even misprinted this title. D3 is the title for Student VBS in 2014. Yes, you read that correctly. LifeWay does have Student VBS curriculum, and in fact we have Adult VBS curriculum as well. That’s right, when we say we have you covered from birth to death, that includes VBS.  We not only want kids to know how to discover, decide, and defend their faith, we want to equip students and adults to do the same.

Students are pressured on all sides to accept what teachers, professors, peers, and sometimes even family tell them about Jesus. It’s time for them to discover the facts about who Jesus is, decide what they will do with the evidence they’ve gathered, and step out in faith to defend what they believe.

Student VBS can be held at the same time as your children’s VBS, as camp curriculum for Student Camp, Bible study for Sunday or Wednesday nights, or as a weekend retreat.

And if you are looking for a way to get Students excited about defending their faith, consider taking your students to see the movie God’s Not Dead that is releasing in the Spring of 2014. Watching the movie would be a great kickoff or follow-up to D3.

For those of you out there who already use Student VBS, we would love for you to share your advice, experiences, and ideas.

Marooned Without a Compass Day

carol_editedWho knew that there is day for being marooned without a compass? I love that we can find reasons to celebrate/honor odd days. I mean, who thought, “I know! November 6th should be Marooned Without a Compass Day”? Was it someone who had recently been marooned and rescued? Was it someone who had just finished watching the Tom Hanks movie, Castaway? I’m not sure what the history behind the day is, but I thought it would be fun to poll the VBS team (in honor of Wilson, the volleyball) to see what VBS item they would want to have with them if they were marooned without a compass. I, of course, would take the VBS tablecloths. You can make a lean-to, rain poncho, sleeping bag, or any number of items.

So, in no certain order, here are the responses:

Keith— The giant inflatable to use as a raft.

Rhonda—Wanted to say the inflatable, but she changed to the tablecloths. And since it only said, “No compass,” She’s thinking her pack would have duct tape etc. She would put up a temporary shelter, use them to keep things waterproof, tote the food she would find when she’s foraging, and set a fine table for whomever wanders by.

Gordon—Decided to be all spiritual on us and said The New Testament of course! But he also gave props to Survivorman, Les Stroud for teaching him all he needs to know.

Bethany—Wanted to take the Rocket Pack Jack Stand-up, so she would have a friend. (Kind of like Wilson in Castaway.)

Mary—Opted for the Special Agent Watch, which she thought had a GPS function – thus allowing someone to find her. She was just going to enjoy the scenery until they arrived, but we hated to inform her it might be a long wait since the watch doesn’t have GPS. It does, however, have a cool laser light with which she could entertain small animals and a working watch so she could keep track of just how long she was marooned.

Candace—Settled on taking the balloons, so she could tie them to something and fly away. She has her movies confused – that would have been Up.

Melita—Of course Melita is the rebel on the team, she said she would take duct tape. Because even though it’s not an official VBS accessory, you can’t do VBS without it!

So there you have it. What VBS accessory would you take if you were marooned without a compass?

Happy Fall, Y’all

carol_editedYep, it’s that time of year. Fall is upon us. The leaves are changing, the air is nippy, and the pumpkins are harvested. This is one of my favorite seasons of the year. I love the crispness in the air and all those yummy pumpkin flavored treats that are now available. Speaking of, have you checked out our Pinterest board lately? Well, what are you waiting for? Check out our board that’s chock full of Fall Recipes.  And if it’s crafts you need, check out our board for Fall Craft ideas.

We have also recently added a Fall Festival board. So be sure to check us out!

fall festival

We would also love to hear from you about your Fall favorites.

Now Pinning. . .

carol-2 Decorating tips, activities for special agents and more are now being pinned to LifeWay Kids on Pinterest.

Investigate our Agency D3 board and discover tips and ideas to prepare you for VBS in 2014. It’s never too early to start planning and collecting items that you will need to make your VBS an exciting place for kids to be!

For example, find awesome disguises to create a photo booth for your VBS Kickoff or VBS Celebration event.

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Or what about some cool decorating ideas?

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And there’s even some fun activities for your special agents.

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So no matter what you need, we’ll have you covered. Keep checking the board over the next several months, we’ll be adding more fun and easy ideas!

Foto Friday–Door Decorating

carol-2We recently had a Door Decorating Contest for all of Kid’s Ministry. Of course being a member of the VBS team, I had to do a shout out to VBS. As I was working on my door, I realized that I have served in or worked on every VBS except for Good News Stampede. That was a very humbling realization that God has allowed me to be a small part of such a great ministry. Some of my favorite memories of my kids are coming home from VBS with the VBS music blaring and them singing their hearts out in the backseat. With all that said, here’s a picture of the finished project:


I used the I Heart VBS Stencils and chalk to add the theme title for my door. Then I created a “word cloud” for each theme at Tagxedo. If you look closely you can see that within the words there is an image related to the theme. The words I used were all related to the theme. Can you figure out what each theme is?

I had a lot of fun walking down memory lane as I made each theme. I truly do “heart” VBS!