Random Tip 1410 – Connect Everything – Even Snacks – to Scripture

20140114-075705.jpgDid you know that once upon a time churches conducted VBS for four weeks? Hard to imagine isn’t it?

Even more recently the typical VBS was 10 days. While I do not personally remember attending a 10-day school I know many people who did.

A four week or 10-day school provided the luxury of time we no longer enjoy. Can you imagine what Bible truths you could teach if you had 60 hours? Or even 30?

Like far too much of life, VBS is often described as a rush. A VBS leader recently lamented, “We rush kids to worship rally so we can rush them to Bible study. Then we rush them to crafts so we can rush them home.”

Today, at best, we have 15 hours to do all the things that make VBS not only educational but fun and entertaining. (An evening Bible school typically included only 10 hours.) With this limited amount of time we have to make sure every minute counts and every activity is connected to the Biblical emphasis for the day.

I recently shared during a training session that even snack time needs to be used to reinforce the Biblical truth for the day. One leader replied that her church does not use the snacks suggested by LifeWay so they do not try to connect the snack to the Bible story. I reminder her that it is not the snack that is important but what is done with the time while the snack is being served and eaten.

As many of you know, my all-time favorite VBS snack is fruit punch and butter cookies (the kind shaped like a flower with a hole in the middle). Nothing fancy or even theme related about this snack, but the time allotted for the snack is still a perfect time for a review of the lesson, the sharing of life application points, or work on Scripture memorization.

I often hear that recreation leaders want to choose their own activities instead of using the games that connect to the theme and Biblical truth. Again, no problem as long as rec leaders connect their games to the daily theme.

Too often we enlist workers without stressing that every thing that happens during VBS – from the moment the kids arrives until they return home – must be connected to the Biblical content for the week and each day. Failing to insure that crafts, recreation, snacks and music connect to Scripture is a lost opportunity that will never be retrieved.

Back when VBS leaders needed to fill 60 hours it might have been fine to play a game or sing a song that was not relevant to the content, but not when we only have 10 to 15 hours. Help your workers see the value of every minute and the lost opportunity of not connecting everything – even snacks – to Scripture.

Random Tip 1409 – Use Grades 3 & 4 for Broadly Graded

wooley1 2013One of the most exciting characteristics of VBS is that it is a ministry that every church can make uniquely their own. LifeWay provides a wide variety of resources tailored for specific age groups from babies to adults, but we know that every church has unique needs and limitations that often requires adapting the resources to fit.

Broadly graded (either having all 1st through 6th graders in one class or having the same teacher rotate to different age groups) is a great example of a church needing to adapt the resources to fit the need.

When faced with the need to adapt LifeWay’s VBS Bible study resources, consider using the resources designed for Grades 3 & 4. Since the age-appropriate learning activities are designed for the middle group, they will be easier to adapt up or down to fit all kids in grades 1- 6.

Random Tip 1408 – Make Worship Rally a Time for Parents

wooley1 2013For most churches worship rally is the first – or sometimes the last – thing that happens in the VBS day. It is a perfect time to invite parents to participate and see their kids having fun at church.

Parents sit for entire days on hard bleachers under broiling sun, endure endless hours of music and dance recitals, and thrill at seeing their son or daughter dressed as a tomato in the school play. Why? Because they want to be supportive and involved!

Yet when it comes to VBS at times we actually discourage parents from involvement. Once the kid has been dropped off at the curb we often have little use for the parent until it is time to once again return to the curb for the trip home.

Worship Rally is a great opportunity for parents to be supportive while experiencing just a little VBS for themselves. Parents can be invited to sit and participate in music motions with their kids, or a place can be reserved just for them where they can observe without straying far from their comfort zones.

Worship Rally becomes a friendly, non-threatening, place for parents to get to know church members and leaders. It is also a great way for unchurched parents to become acquainted with each other and leaders of ministry they might be attracted to.

Encouraging parents to participate in Worship Rally also sends the message that your church is interested in the entire family and not just the kids.

If Worship Rally is at the beginning of the day, you might even plan a short debriefing time for parents once the kids rotate out to Bible study and other activities.

Random Tip 1407 – Do the Math

20140114-075705.jpgAs with most things as big as VBS there are many components and individual pieces of the puzzle. This is definitely true with the resources LifeWay creates for teaching every age from babies to older adults.

Pre-packaged kits such as Super Samplers or LifeWay’s new Jump Start Kit and Starter Kits are a fantastic way to get started – providing you are going to use all of the pieces. If you will be using all the resources contained in the kits you are most likely saving a few dollars (about $12.00 for the Kids Starter Kit) and you are definitely enjoying the convenience of someone else collecting all the needed resources and making them available in one container.

However, if you are not using all the resources you are wasting money – sometimes big money that outweighs any potential savings of dollars or convenience.

Teaching resources (including worship rally guides, CDs and DVDs) are always sold independently from the kits and is often a more economical way to purchase. For example, if you are only offering VBS for kindergarten then it is much better to only purchase the Kindergarten Leader Pack, Leader Guide, and the Preschool Rotation resources. You will save approximately $50 that I am sure you can find another use for.

Before heading to the store or ordering online, do the math! Your church finance guy (or gal) will thank you for it.

Random Tip 1406 – Create a Plan Before the Emergency

20140105-190812.jpg You may have noticed my photo looks a little different today. That is because I am FROZEN!!!

In case you are not aware, Nashville experienced a temperature drop of 50 degrees in 12 hours. While this might not be an unusual experience for you, it definitely was for this boy from Houston, Texas! To be honest I had no idea how to prepare my house, car or mind. I’m sure I am giving you Northerners a good laugh with my lack of preparedness.

In Houston the threat of a hurricane was real, but could typically be managed with a stock of supplies, a generator, and an emergency evacuation plan. I was prepared. I still have a hurricane supply box in the garage even though the threat of a tidal wave is not likely in Nashville.

What does all of this talk of weather have to do with Bible School? Glad you asked. Just like unexpected weather situations, a week of VBS is an emergency just waiting to happen. You may not experience tidal waves or plunging temperatures, but extreme heat or a sudden down pour can scrambled even the best orchestrated plans.

Make emergency planning part of your VBS planning and training. Know in advance what you will do if rain makes it impossible to have recreation on the front lawn, a fire alarm sends everyone running, or an injury requires immediate medical attention. What will you do if the air conditioner chooses the week of VBS to take a vacation, or a worker becomes ill and is unable to finish the week.

Another potential emergency lets us end on a brighter note – more kids than expected. I once had 60 teenagers show up on the first day for Youth VBS when we only expected 10. Talk about an emergency!

The definition of emergency is an unexpected situation that becomes top priority and requires immediate attention. With a plan in place emergencies become expected and manageable.

Something I always thought a little funny – the years we enlisted a nurse as a member of the VBS team her skills were never needed. The years we didn’t have a nurse we needed one every day.

On the Second Day of Christmas

wooley1 2013This morning Nashville awoke to a world blanketed with snow, and I just returned from the office break room where the holiday classic White Christmas was being played for lunch entertainment. It really does seem like the beginning of Christmas – or in this case the Second Day of Christmas!

Since I grew up in Dallas where snow is typically not part of the Christmas scene, the festivities of this most special holiday truly begins not with snow but when certain foods start making an appearance. My family’s most memorable Christmas traditions are based on food. My father loved to cook. And he especially liked to cook when the expected crowd resembled a small army.

While families traditionally gather around tables overflowing with turkey and trimmings, my family – for at least the last 45 years – has gathered around a table barely able to withstand the weight of dozens-upon-dozens of home-made hot tamales – all lovingly hand-crafted by my father.

Some years a little salsa was needed to add an extra punch. While other years each tamale contained so much fire a full glass of tea was needed to temper the burn. I forgot to mention that Dad was an experimental cook, so you were never sure what the experience would be until you took the first bite. But no matter how hot or mild, by the end of the evening 45 to 50 dozen tamales would become history along with gallons of iced tea, pounds of peanut brittle (another of Dad’s specialties) and peanut butter balls.

Dad is no longer here, but his tamale bowls and steamers have been passed on to another generation, and the tradition remains alive and well.

Merry Christmas to you one and all. May your days be blessed with the sweetness of family, traditions, and the knowledge of the Hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15).



6 Additional Reasons to Attend VBS 2014 Preview

wooley1 2013Now that CyberMonday is behind us, and before the extreme crush of Christmas begins, we can take a moment to once again think about our favorite subject – VBS! Or better said, VBS Preview!

Chances are, if you are reading this post, you have already registered for Preview, but in case you are still debating here are six additional reasons why my friends think you should join the fun.

1. You will have the opportunity to win a VBS 2014 trivia contest. – Jerry Vogel

2. You will have the opportunity to meet me (Collin). – Collin Spindle

3. You might experience a Secret Service Mission act of kindness. – Carol Tomlinson

4. You will have a chance to get away with friends and laugh until your sides hurt. – Rhonda Van Cleave

5. You will receive fun free stuff. – Henry Dutton

6. You will get re-fueled and return home flying like Rocket Pack Jack! – Bill Emeott


Register today at lifeway.com/vbs/preview.


Seven Reasons Why I’m Looking Forward to VBS Preview

The following post was written by Mark Jones, Children’s Pastor at Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City. Mark is a nationally recognized speaker and host of Mr. Mark’s Classroom

I wasn’t sure there could ever be a better theme than an Amusement Park coupled with biblical content about facing fear and trusting God.  That was a homerun!  But then the call came last April.  I was invited to write the Decorating Made Easy Book for Agency D3.  When the theme was described to me, I got so excited for all the boys in my children’s ministry.  Girls like everything, but boys are picky.  Let me say, this theme will be a hit for both.  Here are seven reasons I’m looking forward to seeing you at the VBS preview.

1. The theme has a much different appearance than before.  The locations are all “inside” headquarters and I have ideas for making it look amazing and I think they will surprise you.

2. Boxes, silver spray paint, mailing tubes and aluminum foil are your friends! I’ll show you simple assembly steps to create the props.

3. Go and buy the clear shower curtain with the world map from Bed Bath and Beyond or www.target.com with left over money in your budget this year. (Ha Ha- If you have some.)

4. I have created a silver case Investigation Kit that will only be seen at the event.  I am using this to enlist workers and give Top Secret information to my Special Agents beginning in February.

5. I will share the mistakes and time wasting goofs so you can avoid wasting your time.

6. All these props are loaded and shipped and will be on display for you to touch, take pictures, and ask questions so when you get home you’re more prepared for tackling the VBS decorations with ease.

7. You will be inspired!  Starting now is the best choice.  Hearing others’ ideas and taking pictures will make the work this spring so much easier.

I believe the most benefit you will receive is when you travel with your team of VBS friends.  The relationships grow deeper and the enthusiasm builds and your team can come up with more and better ideas than just struggling on your own.  Load everyone on the VBS party van and meet me at the VBS preview!  We are going to have a great time!  It will be a hoot!

I will unveil more ideas and photos at www.mrmarksclassroom.com the last week of January.  Come see me!

Sign up for VBS Previews here!

Thankful for VBS. Thankful for You!

wooley1 2013Thursday, as I gather with family and friends, you will be counted as one of my richest blessings. Although I may not know each of you by name, I do know you by your spirit.

You are the heart and soul of this great ministry we call Vacation Bible School. Each year you tirelessly give your talents, time and resources that that the spiritual orphans of this world might hear Jesus proclaimed.

Because of you there are countless millions who will be thankful this Thursday that they have been transformed through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

As the Apostle Paul would say, “I give thanks to my God upon my every remembrance of you.”

Random Tip 1405 – Missions and Snacks in One

wooley1 2013As I pointed out last Tuesday, churches that conduct VBS at night often find it difficult to get in a full three-hour schedule each night. As a result these churches have to make decisions concerning which aspects of VBS they will either delete or condense.

Given that the middle word of this time-honored ministry is Bible, I truly hope Bible study is not something you would choose to delete or shorten too severely. This means that one or more of the typical rotations (crafts, missions, music, recreation and snacks) must be restructured.

One option is to combine two rotations into one, and my favorite combination is missions and snacks. To make this combination work it is best to serve snacks that are either prepared in advance by the snack team or pre-packaged. Kid-step snacks (where ingredients are provided and kids are encouraged to create their own snack) typically requires too much time when snacks are combined with another activity.

It is best to have simple snacks ready for kids to pick up as they enter the room or have them arranged at each place setting before kids are seated. To minimize distractions and to insure everyone can easily see the videos, kids should be seated – either on the floor or at tables – in semicircles around the television or projection screen.

This combination creates a simple dinner theater that gives kids the opportunity to learn about missions and cultures while they enjoy their snack.

Did you know that each year, as a result of the VBS missions rotation, between 2,500 and 3,000 kids, teens, and adults respond to a call to vocational ministry? Missions and snacks – a winning combination!