Impossible Clue #2

20140114-075705.jpgSo how did you do with the first set of clues? I still can’t figure out what the diagram of a cow (could it be a farm theme?) and a toy robot (of course we had robots in Agency D3) have to do with each other. Oh well, the gals on the marketing team definitely have something up their sleeves.

Of course you realize your job is to guess the theme and my job is to keep you from successfully guessing the theme. Oh what a tangled web we weave…

Grab your GPS and get ready for Clue Number 2.

Any ideas yet? I believe this mission is going to require a community effort to solve. Don’t forget, I’ll be back tomorrow with another clue.

And remember to share your guess in the comments section.  Then sign up in the box below to be entered to win a VBS 2015 Jump Start Kit, Preschool Starter Kit, and Kids Starter Kit! Five winners will be announced during the theme reveal blog party on June 2. Plus, save the date and bookmark this page to join us at 1:00 PM (CST) Monday, June 2 for the live theme reveal!

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And it Begins…Impossible Clues!

20140114-075705.jpgThis is one of my favorite days of the year! It’s like Christmas morning for a six year old. A true kid in a candy store experience! This is a true Whoo-hoo moment!

Hopefully by now you can tell I’m just a little excited about the theme reveal for VBS 2015. Actually, a whole lot excited! It is one of LifeWay’s best themes yet!

Once again our marketing team and the folks at SEVEN7HSTORY Productions have hit it out of the park with the clues. I’ve seen them all, know the theme, and still couldn’t figure them out.

But of course I’m sure you will have no trouble following the clues. Don’t forget that the answer each day can typically be found in the smallest details.

So without further delay here is the first clue.

 

Think you know the theme? Share your guess in the comments section.  Then sign up in the box below to be entered to win a VBS 2015 Jump Start Kit, Preschool Starter Kit, and Kids Starter Kit! Five winners will be announced during the theme reveal blog party on June 2.

Make sure to check back each day for a new set of clues leading up to the big reveal. Save the date and bookmark this page to join us at 1:00 PM (CST) Monday, June 2 for the live theme reveal!

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Relieving Stress in the Midst of VBS Chaos

20140114-075705.jpgWhile I believe there is no week of the church year more exciting than VBS, the truth is, for many VBS workers it is often the most stressful week of the year. Stop stress from raining on your VBS week by placing your plans and actions under the umbrella of these six truths:

1. God is already at work and has invited you to join Him. God has great plans for the week and if you are not careful your attitude, plans and actions will get in the way. VBS is not your work. It belongs to God and you have been graciously invited along for the ride.

2. God is in control, not you. When the activities of VBS become stressful and overwhelming it is time to check your attitude to see who you have decided is in control. If it is you, then watch out!

3. God has not asked you to do anything He has not already equipped you to do. God knew the minutes and seconds of the week long before He invited you to join Him. He knew the skills and strength that would be needed and He has already empowered (Philippians 4:13) you to carry out His plan.

4. Perfection is not required, just your best. If God had expected perfection He would have never enlisted a mere human for the job. While it is important to strive for perfection it is important to accept that it can never be achieved this side of Heaven.

5. You are not in it alone. VBS is not a one-woman, one-man, or even a one-church ministry. It requires a team! Even though you might be leading the team you are not in it alone. Learn to rely on the team even if it means things might not get done exactly as you personally would do them.

6. There are more people willing to help than you might imagine. Many church members who never work in VBS do so because they have never been specifically asked. One of the beauties of church life is community, and communities tend to respond to needs. Make your needs known and don’t be afraid to ask.

Jerry Wooley, @vbsguy, has served as LifeWay’s VBS Ministry Specialist since 2006.

 

Why Missions Study Should Be Included in Your VBS

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In addition to Bible study and a large-group experience we call Worship Rally, LifeWay’s VBS includes resources for crafts, recreation, music, missions and snacks. Each activity – including snacks – is designed to have a direct tie or application to both the Biblical passage and theme for each day.

Due to time restraints, space restrictions, or worker shortages, VBS leaders are often faced with the decision to trim back some of the traditional components of VBS. The first component to be chopped tends to be missions. But, before you start cutting consider these six reasons why missions study should be included in your VBS.

1. An emphasis on missions results in decisions for vocational ministry. As a result of VBS – and specifically mission studies – approximately 2,500 kids, teens and adults make decisions each year to pursue careers in vocational ministries such as pastors and missionaries.

2. An emphasis on missions challenges kids to think outside of themselves and their community. During VBS mission studies kids are exposed to people, cultures and needs outside of their known world and are challenged to think globally. Kids are challenged to realize the world does not revolve around them individually.

3. An emphasis on missions provides kids with examples of Believers living out their faith. During VBS mission studies kids meet missionary families who are following God’s call to “make disciples of all nations.” Through the practical experiences and stories of real-life missionaries, kids are challenged to become missionaries themselves and see every place they go – including school and the park – as their mission field.

4. An emphasis on missions connects VBS with other ministries and mission endeavors of the church. Quiet often kids – even kids who attend church every week – are unaware of the outreach and benevolence ministries of their church. Through VBS mission studies kids get a glimpse into the far-reaching impact the church has on their community and the world. Kids are challenged to not just be the recipients of ministry but to also be providers of ministry.

5. An emphasis on missions provides an opportunity for kids to participate in hands-on projects and to give of themselves and their money. Kids love to create, get involved, and do something with their hands that makes a difference. VBS mission projects gives them an opportunity to put their talents and energy to productive use and experience the fun of helping others.

6. An emphasis on missions shows kids they do not have to wait to be adults to make a difference. As already stated, kids love to get involved, but are often told – either through actions or implications – they must wait until they are adults to make a true difference. VBS mission studies challenges kids to make a difference now, where they are, and with the resources they have.

Jerry Wooley, @vbsguy, serves you as LifeWay’s VBS Ministry Specialist. A little known fact about Jerry – upon leaving his church staff position in 2006, the church (Park Place Baptist Church, Houston) commissioned him as a missionary to LifeWay Christian Resources and the world beyond.

 

It’s Not Too Late to Plan a Backyard Kids Club

20140114-075705.jpgWhile it may be a little late to begin planning a full-fledge Vacation Bible School, it is definitely not too late to plan for one or more Backyard Kids Clubs (BKC).

In case you haven’t heard, Backyard Kids Clubs (also known as Backyard Bible Clubs) are an excellent way to expand the reach of your church and your VBS far beyond the neighborhoods directly surrounding the church campus.

Like VBS, BKCs are by nature evangelistic and create an excellent opportunity to connect families to the Gospel and to the church. But unlike Bible Schools that are designed for a large number of kids divided into age groupings (closely graded), BKCs are designed for 20 or fewer kids who typically met in one or two groups of multiple ages (broadly graded).

Because BKCs require fewer workers, resources and space, and are uniquely created to reach the families of a specific street or multi-housing community, they can be planned and promoted quickly. BKCs are a perfect add-on to your summer. In fact, many churches planning BKCs will also conduct a traditional VBS and use BKCs as a way to reach kids in sections of the community who can not easily travel to the church campus. (A congregation in Clarksville, Tennessee is planning one week of traditional VBS followed by 10 BKCs throughout the city.)

Not yet convinced that BKC is right for your church? Here are six ways to take VBS beyond the church walls and into the neighborhoods of your community.

1. Work with the managers of multi-housing communities (apartment complexes and mobile home parks) to conduct BKCs specifically for the kids of each community. Since BKCs can be conducted with as few as three or four workers, a congregation with 100 workers could potentially conduct as many as 25 BKCs simultaneously.

2. Challenge each adult small group or Sunday School class to conduct at least one BKC in the neighborhood of a group member. (A congregation in Dallas, Texas makes conducting a BKC an annual requirement of every home group.)

3. Enlist and train a group of older high school and collage students to serve as a summer mission team to conduct BKCs throughout the community. (A congregation in Kentucky has trained a student team and is making the team available to help area churches with VBS and BKC.)

4. Partner with area churches to conduct BKCs in city parks and recreation centers.

5. Partner with smaller-membership churches to provide workers for BKCs on their church campuses or in the surrounding neighborhoods.

6. Plan BKCs for Fall, Winter and Spring breaks. Several school districts I’m aware of now schedule two-week breaks. While families might not be looking for activities as structured as VBS, the informal atmosphere of BKC provides a perfect opportunity to gather neighborhood kids for recreation and Bible study.

LifeWay produces a fantastic resource designed for Backyard Kids Clubs that is part of the VBS 2014 Agency D3 resources.

Jerry Wooley, @vbsguy, serves as LifeWay’s VBS Ministry Specialist as well as VBS Director at Creekside Fellowship, a church plant in Castalian Springs, Tennessee, where LifeWay’s Backyard Kids Club resources are being used for the second year.

May 18 is National Day of Prayer for VBS

20140114-075705.jpgAs the headline to this post proclaims, this Sunday is the annual National Day of Prayer for VBS.

Each year, on the third Sunday of May, churches are encouraged to take time to pray not only for their own upcoming Vacation Bible Schools, but for churches down the street and around the world.

VBS continues to be an extremely successful evangelistic outreach, resulting in 80,000 plus professions of faith each year in the Southern Baptist Convention alone. In addition to the thousands of decisions to become followers of Jesus Christ, approximately 2,500 kids, teens and adults each year make public the decision to pursue a career in ministry. And if these numbers are not enough to celebrate, as a result of VBS churches collectively identify approximately 1,000,000 unchurched individuals annually.

Here are six opportunities to encourage your congregation and VBS team to join you in observance of the National Day of Prayer for VBS.

1. Create and distribute a call to prayer. List specific prayer requests for your own church and team as well as the VBS dates of neighboring churches.

2. Start the day early by asking your VBS team to join you for prayer prior to regularly scheduled activities.

3. Work with your pastor and worship leader to include prayer for VBS in the morning service.

4. Schedule an afternoon prayer walk through and around the buildings that will be used for VBS. After the team has prayed for your church, travel throughout the community stopping to pray for churches displaying VBS banners and signs.

5. Communicate with your congregation’s homebound members and ask them to pray at a specific time and for specific needs.

6. Invite your VBS leadership team to your home for an evening or after church prayer gathering.

Jerry Wooley, @vbsguy, has served as LifeWay’s VBS Ministry Specialist since 2006.

Using Takin’ It Home CD to Connect with Parents

20140114-075705.jpg“We have not been successful connecting with the parents of kids attending VBS,” is a statement I often hear from pastors and VBS leaders. This has not been from lack of trying since most of us have tried a variety of methods from daily newsletters to offering Adult VBS classes.

With Agency D3 LifeWay has introduced a new resource called Takin’ It Home CD that is specifically designed to connect parents to the content and activities of each day.

In addition to the copy of the CD included in the VBS 2014 Jump Start Kit, the files are also available for free download at lifeway.com/vbs under the “About” tab. Both the CD and digital files can be reproduced to make one copy per family or as many as needed. A downloadable faceplate template is also available.

Takin’ It Home is a fun and interactive way to involve the entire family in reviewing the daily Bible passage and applications. By the end of the week parents will be encouraged to pray with their kids and discuss how they can have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the church.

Here are six steps for using Takin’ It Home CD to connect with parents:

1. Prior to the first day of VBS make a copy of the CD for each family.

2. Share information about the CD during worker training. Play the CD or provide a copy for Bible study leaders so they can learn how the contents connects with the daily theme. Bible study leaders should encourage kids to get their parents to listen to the CD each day on the way home.

3. Distribute CDs at the close of the first day (or the first day a kid attends). An ideal way to insure each family receives a copy is to distribute CDs at parking lot exists.

4. Take a moment during Worship Rally and Bible Study to remind kids to encourage their parents to listen to the CD each day.

5. Send out an e-mail blast encouraging parents, if they have not already done so, to listen to the CD with their kids before bedtime.

6. Send a postcard-sized message home on the last day encouraging parents to listen to the bonus session that invites the family to return the Sunday following VBS. Be sure to include service times as well as contact information in case they have questions about the church or would like to talk to someone about their own relationship with Jesus Christ.

Jerry Wooley, @vbsguy, serves as LifeWay’s VBS Ministry Specialist and as VBS Director at Creekside Fellowship in Castalian Springs, Tennessee.

6 Things Every Pastor Should Know About VBS

20140114-075705.jpgIf you know me at all you know I believe VBS is an all-church ministry.  VBS is a ministry that has the ability to reach the entire family and should be embraced by every age-group and ministry of the church. VBS continues to be one of the most successful outreach ministries conducted by most churches and typically results in approximately 80,000 professions of faith each year.

With the first big week of VBS 2014 just days away, it is critical for pastors to know and accept the vital role they have in assuring a successful VBS.

 

1. The Pastor sets the pace and level of enthusiasm. A congregation typically mirrors the attitude and priorities of the pastor. When the pastor exhibits personal support for VBS and makes it a priority the congregation will typically do the same.

2. The Pastor is the team coach. While the VBS Director may be tasked with leading the logistical aspects of VBS, the pastor is the coach. He challenges, inspires, trains, and leads by example.

3. The Pastor is the head cheerleader. VBS requires a team, and like all teams they perform best when encouraged, appreciated and celebrated. Pastors have the best platform of all (the pulpit) to cheer on the team.

4. The Pastor inspires by his presence. VBS is not the week for the pastor to hole up in his office or take vacation. He needs to be on the parking lot, in the registration area, involved in the Worship Rally, wondering the halls, and in the classrooms. Workers need to see the pastor as a committed member of the team. Kids need to see the pastor as caring and approachable. Parents need to see the pastor as someone who is personally interested in them and their children.

5. The Pastor leads the charge to continue connections with unchurched families. Collectively we annually identify approximately one million unchurched individuals through VBS. Approximately ten percent of everyone attending VBS admits to being unchurched, and when parents and other siblings are added in that number is approximately 40 people for every church conducting VBS. While the pastor should not be expected to be solely responsible for continuing connections (follow-up) he should lead the way!

6. The Pastor is the primary storyteller. VBS results in tremendous stories of transformation, opportunities, and discovered abilities. Telling these stories is part of making VBS an all-church ministry and involves the congregation in celebrating the success of the week. As the pastor shares the stories of VBS he builds support and becomes the primary recruiter for next year.

Jerry Wooley, @vbsguy, has served as LifeWay’s VBS Ministry Specialist since 2006.

Using VBS to Initiate Continued Connections

20140114-075705.jpgSeveral years ago LifeWay’s VBS Team surveyed 3,000 leaders about church practices and potential resources. We were amazed when 97% of the respondents agreed their greatest need was help with follow-up (connecting with unchurched guests and families attending VBS).

Each year approximately 10% of everyone attending VBS acknowledge being unchurched. Considering approximately 3,000,000 kids, teens, and adults participate, 10% is 300,000. Of course since most of these individuals are kids, when you add in their parents and siblings who did not attend the grand total is a staggering 1,000,000.

As we have talked with VBS leaders across the country it has become evident that for the majority of churches follow-up is a one-time action consisting or a postcard or letter expressing thanks for participation and a invitation to return. Sadly, these same churches have often expressed disappointment that the results of VBS has been minimal at best.

Another assumption these conversations has confirmed is that far too many churches leave follow-up to the pastor or a staff member. Workers tend to feel their responsibilities end with the close of the last day of VBS and assume someone else will take care of making contact with the unchurched kids and families discovered during the week.

With survey results and statistics in hand, the VBS team has been on a journey to help church leaders see follow-up not as a one-time, one-action event, but as a series of actions intentionally designed to connect unchurched families to the Gospel and to the church. Here are six key points for using VBS to initiate continued connections.

1. VBS can no longer be seen as an event in itself, but must be seen as a prelude to the real event – relationships that connect people to the Gospel and to the church.

2. When unchurched families bring their kids to VBS they are the ones initiating the relationships or connections. In doing so the families provide names, addresses, phone numbers and everything needed to make contacts and nurture the relationships. Unchurched families initiate the relationship and it is the responsibility of the church to respond. This way of thinking is contrary to what we have typically practiced.

3. For churches to be successful they must stop thinking in terms of “follow-up” action steps and instead must start thinking in terms of relational “continued connections.” Friendships develop over time and as a result of continually reaching out to each other. Relationships can be messy and complicated and do not develop as a result of a completed checklist.

4. VBS leaders and pastors must be intentional about designing opportunities for continued connections to happen instead of leaving them to chance. Continued connections need to be planned with the same priority, intensity and detail as VBS itself. Someone needs to be in charge and have plans ready before the first day of VBS.

5. Unchurched families discovered during VBS must become the responsibility of the entire church and not just VBS workers. For connections to be successfully made every age-group ministry must become intentionally involved in connecting families to ongoing ministries.

6. Persistence is vital. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again,” is a proverb that truly applies to making continued connections.

The average VBS results in the discovery of 40 unchurched individuals (kids and other family members). What might be the result of your church intentionally investing in the lives of 40 people for one year?

Jerry Wooley, @vbsguy, has served as LifeWay’s VBS Ministry Specialist since 2006.

 

6 Things You Need to Know About Working with Adults During VBS

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Adult VBS? Really? Yes!!! You read it correctly! When we host VBS for kids only we are missing a tremendous opportunity to share God’s Word and the Gospel with older siblings and parents. If the truths being taught during VBS are important for kids then they are just as important for teens and adults. LifeWay creates VBS resources for the entire family – babies through adults – because we believe VBS remains one of the most successful ways to evangelistically reach families and not just kids.

 

When planning for adult VBS you might assume the class should be structured like a typical Sunday School class or Wednesday night Bible study. Don’t venture down that path! VBS for all ages is designed to be a unique experience that is fun, engaging, and a little – if not a lot – out of the box.

 

In truth I have taught more adult VBS classes then I have taught classes for kids. Following are six keys to teaching adults I have personally learned through the years:

 

1. Adults like to have fun – make it enjoyable. A session of Adult VBS does not need to be a standup comedy routine, but it does need to be fun, upbeat, and a stimulating break from the routine of the day – especially if it is an evening session. Adult leaders are often tempted to skip over suggested icebreaker activities and go straight to deep Bible study. Icebreaker activities are purposely designed to facilitate relationships and lighthearted fun.

2. Adults require a variety of learning styles. Thankfully God  made each of us unique – including the way we learn. Teachers tend to teach the way they personally learn best, which means they are discounting the learning styles of others. Only the person giving the lecture wants to sit through a 90 minutes of lecture. Similarly, not everyone will respond to a 90-minute discussion or non-stop paper and pencil activities. Attention spans are getting shorter and shorter – even for adults – and a great way to hold attention is by using a variety of learning styles. LifeWay’s Adult VBS intentionally includes a variety of learning activities in each session that are designed so that every adult can engage the content in the context of their unique learning style.

3. Adults enjoy crafts, recreation and music. People always react with a nervous laugh when I tell them LifeWay’s Adult VBS resources include suggestions for crafts, recreation, snacks, and worship. They see amazed that a class designed for adults would include activities other than Bible study. But take another look at Statements 1 and 2. Adults really do want to have fun and part of the fun is learning in different ways. Just like VBS for kids, recreation and crafts are part of the learning experience and should include direct links to the Scripture passage and theme for the day. Some of the best application of all takes place around a craft or snack table and recreation is a perfect way to apply Biblical truths to life. If you are a little nervous concerning how adults will respond to crafts and recreation just remember, the leader sets the pace and tone. If you are enjoying recreation so will class members.

4. Don’t assume adults are familiar with the Bible or church language. If you are truly conducting Adult VBS for unchurched adults, you need to lead each session with them in mind. Church language abounds in most adult classes, yet terms such as Deacons, Lord’s Supper, and the Letter of the Romans are as foreign to an unchurched adult as Greek is to you.

5. Don’t assume adults have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Obviously this is true if you are reaching unchurched adults, but it may be just as true if you have a room full of active church attenders. Never miss an opportunity during Adult VBS to make a clear Gospel presentation part of the session.

6. Don’t assume adults understand how to continue the learning experience at home. Adult VBS is an excellent opportunity to not only study God’s Word during sessions, but to also inspire adults to continue learning at home by introducing reading plans and providing resources for continued study. Adult VBS is also a great opportunity to connect unchurched adults with ongoing Bible study groups (Sunday School) and ministries. Invite ministry leaders to drop by during snack, recreation, and craft portions of the session to introduce their ministries and to build relationships.

 

Jerry Wooley, @vbsguy, has served as LifeWay’s VBS Ministry Specialist since 2006.