Random Tip 1412: Make Relationships a Priority

20140114-075705.jpgA few weeks ago I shared that years ago Vacation Bible Schools were conducted for four weeks, then shortened to two, then one, and now we are beginning to hear of more churches scheduling three day schools.  In the previous post I wrote that as we shorten the number of days and hours it becomes even more important to connect everything – including snacks – to the daily Scripture and Biblical theme. As we decrease time we must increase the intentionality of everything we do from promotion to continuing the connections after VBS. This goes for being intentional about relationships as well.

One of the reasons VBS has continued to result in a high number of professions of faith is the concentrated time spent over multiple days getting to know the kids and the kids getting to know the leaders. As relationships grow so does the trust factor that allows kids to embrace the Gospel.

This is why we traditionally reserve the Gospel presentation and opportunity for response to the third or fourth sessions.  Although we may clearly present the Gospel during the first session (as we do in the Agency D3 resources) we typically wait until relationships have been established before presenting the opportunity to respond. We want to give time for the trust factor – both in the Gospel message and with the leaders presenting it – to develop.

As we decrease the days of VBS we also decrease the opportunity for relationships to grow. When you add this to a rotation process that often places kids with a different leader ever 30 minutes relationships become even more difficult. There is already some (inconclusive) evidence that Bible schools of three days or less result in fewer professions of faith then schools of five days or more.

So how do we meet this challenge? By making relationships a priority! From the moment families arrive at the registration table until they are back in their cars for the ride home we must concentrate on getting beyond the basic acknowledgement of their existence to truly establishing a relationship. Actually we must make relationships a priority far beyond the VBS experience but that is a topic for another blog.

This means the registration lady’s job is to do more then get ink on paper and fill in every blank. Her first priority is to try (as best as time allows) to get the know both the kids and their parents. The snack team has to do more than pour lemonade and pass out cookies. They must also interact with the kids and try to get to know them.

This also means your church may need to enlist more volunteers with the primary assignment of getting to know the kids and their parents. The fewer days you conduct Bible school the lower the kids to worker ratio needs to be. This may mean creating smaller classes or it may mean enlisting more adults to travel with kids to each rotation and actually interacting with them during the rotation.

If VBS is the biggest evangelistic outreach of your church year you can’t afford to sabotage the possibilities by decreasing the opportunities to build and grow relationships.

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.

A–aware

  • 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.

G-give

  • 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.

E-enable

  • 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.

N-navigate

  • 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.

C-connect

  • 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.

Y-yield

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

D3

  • 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?

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!

 

New Testaments – Life after VBS!

brown2Hey guys. After loading the 25 boxes of VBS New Testaments into the trunk of this lady’s car, I asked, “So what are you going to do with all these New Testaments?”

“We put them in treat bags at our church’s Fall Festival!” she said brightly. “We invite lots of folks from the community. Many don’t attend church, so it’s a great way to introduce kids and their parents to the Word of God!”

She went on to explain how excited she was about the activity pages and 30 days of devotionals included in the NTs. “They’re so fun and colorful, too!” she added.

Another church drops a New Testament into food bags that they put together for folks in their community. “Its a great way to ‘spread the Word’ to folks who may not even own a Bible!”

Let us know how you and your church use the VBS New Testaments during VBS – and after! We’d love to hear!

VBS 2014 Tour Stop 6: Takin' It Home

wooley1 2013The newest addition to LifeWay’s family of VBS resources is the VBS 2014 Takin’ It Home CD. You may have read about it back in June.

Takin’ It Home is truly one of the most exciting aspects of VBS to come along in years. VBS leaders and pastors are constantly trying to figure out ways to connect with parents, and this is it!

Takin’ It Home CD is designed for families to listen to in the car on the way home from VBS. A segment for each day not only serves as a review for the the kids, but introduces the content, life application, and memory verse to the parents as well. Each day families will be challenged to have intentional conversations with each other. Families will also be challenged to pray together and return the following Sunday for Bible study and worship.

We tested Takin’ It Home with four churches this summer and have heard great stories such as the parents in Florida who made professions of faith as a result of interacting with their kids and the CD. Or the mom in Tennessee who rushed into the church office wanting to know where she could get a copy for a neighbor family. We also heard from a mom who said she had never had such meaningful conversations with her kids.

We believe so much in this resource that we have done everything we can to make it possible for every family to have a copy of their own. Every church will receive a copy in the Jump Start Kit, along with permission to make as many copies as needed. In a few weeks  there will also be free downloadable files at lifeway.com/vbs. Again, make as many copies as you wish.

If you do not have a way to make copies, or if you would just enjoy the convenience of having them made for you, we have taken care of that as well. You can choose to purchase Takin’ It Home CDs in 10 packs.

For a few extra dollars you can have the message of Takin’ It Home customized especially for your church. Our actors will record the segments specifically for your church, along with a message of invitation to attend future services and events. You will receive a master copy and permission to reproduce as many copies as you need.

VBS continues to be one of the very best ways to connect with unchurched families, and now Takin’ It Home makes it easier than ever to connect with parents.

 

 

VBS 2014 Tour Stop 5: 6 Step VBS Continued

wooley1 2013Last Tuesday I introduced you to the simplification and reorganization of the VBS 2014 Administrative Guide for Directors based on LifeWay’s 6 Step VBS. Age-group leader guides have also been simplified as well – you are going to love the cleaner look – beginning with Page 1 which includes a version of the 6 Step VBS designed specifically for teachers.

1. Prepare Your Heart

2. Get the Basic Facts from Your VBS Director

3. Plan

4. Gather and Prepare

5. Teach

6. Continue the Connection

Following is a brief explanation – at least in my words – of what each step means.

Prepare Your Heart: Great teachers are first great learners. Preparing our hearts to teach VBS means first allowing the message of each Bible story to speak to and transform us personally. The Bible content of Colossal Coaster World is a great example. Before I could teach others to face fear by trusting God, I had to first trust God with some of my own fears.

Get the Basic Facts from Your Director: Simple facts such as session time, room assignment, and a list of other activities and rotations planned for the day, are essential to the planning process. This may seem like a no-brainer, but regrettably I have been the teacher who was told, “Just show up a few minutes early and we’ll tell you what you need to know.” Can you say, “Mistake!”?

Plan: Take time to look over all five sessions to learn how each connects to the others. Once you have the big picture you can begin planning one session at a time, making lists of items to gather and prepare for each day.

Gather and Prepare: My favorite way to prepare for VBS is to create a master list of all the resources I need to gather, purchase, or prepare. With list in hand I like to make one raid on the church resource room, one shopping trip, and take one evening to put everything together. Then, using six boxes or bags, I separate everything by the day it will be used. The sixth box is for the resources that will be used every day. By taking time in advance to gather and organize I save tremendous time and anxiety the day of the session. Each morning I simply review the lesson, pick up the appropriate box, and head to church.

Teach: There is a little more involved here than just reading or telling a passage from the Bible. But with a little preparation and a little knowledge of why a variety of learning activities are important, transformational teaching will be much easier than you might imagine.

Continue the Connection: We spend all week getting to know and influence kids, and then on the last day of VBS we tear down the decorations, throw the resources in a closet, run to our cars, and consider the job done. VBS is one of the best opportunities the church has to connect with unchurched kids and their families, yet we so often cut the relationship off just as it is gaining momentum. Think of it as starting to build a bridge but then halting construction half way across the river. Continue the Connection (follow-up) is not the responsibility of the pastor, the VBS director, nor any one person or team. Continuing the connections started during VBS is the responsibility of every VBS worker and church member.

To learn more about these six simple steps check out Page 1 of a LifeWay’s VBS leader guide which will be available in December.

Next week, Tour Stop 6: Takin’ It Home

VBS 2014 Tour Stop 4: 6 Step VBS

wooley1 2013Is it really possible to boil VBS down to six simple steps? Well, maybe not, but you spoke and we listened! You said, “Make VBS simpler!” So LifeWay’s VBS team went back to the drawing board and looked for ways to make it happen.

The first thing we did was take a look at the way the Administrative Guide for Directors was organized. Actually the admin guide had already been reorganized for 2013 around six categories, and many of you enthusiastically responded that it was a great change. As we pondered (a favorite word and action of our VBS publishing team leader) these six categories, we realized they are the bases of six simple yet extremely necessary steps required for planning and conducting a successful VBS.

The Six Steps for VBS directors and pastors are:

1. Know Your Purpose and Theme

2. Start Planning

3. Enlist and Train Workers

4. Promote and Publicize

5. Register Participants

6. Continue the Connection

Like I said, simple!

Know Your Purpose and Theme: Most people assume they know why VBS is being conducted, but in reality there are typically as many different reasons as there are people on your team. Successful Bible schools are organized and conducted around a focused and unified purpose. I’m hoping the purpose of your VBS is evangelism!

Once you know your purpose you must know your theme, or better yet know the purpose of your curriculum. For example, is your curriculum and theme designed for evangelism or for something else? Look closely, you might be surprised!

Start Planning: Great planning follows a process that includes creating a calendar or work timeline, allocating dollars in a budget, and enlisting key leadership.

Enlist and Train Workers: An important aspect of enlisting workers is to outline expectations and responsibilities clearly and then turn the workers loose to do their jobs. A key expectation should be participation in training!

Promote and Publicize: Promotion, first to the congregation and then to the community, needs to begin early and reoccur often.

Register Participants: Registration seems like a no-brainer, yet many VBS leaders fail to capture accurate and adequate information for every participant. As a result, the ability to carry out the sixth step becomes limited.

Continue the Connection: For decades we have called it follow-up, but have come to realize that much more than mailing a thanks-for-attending postcard is needed if we are going to connect unchurched families to the Gospel and to the church.

Check out the VBS 2014 Administrative Guide for Directors for more detailed information on each of these six steps. This year you can implement these steps earlier than ever with the all-new VBS 2014 Jump Start Kit that will be available in October!

Next week, Tour Stop 5: 6 Step VBS Continued – introducing the six steps of the age-group leader guides.

 

Happy Birthday from Your Friends at VBS

wooley1 2013Thousands of churches concluded VBS 2013 over the weekend, and for thousands more this is day two. Approximately half of all schools will be conducted during the first three weeks of June.

This news tempts many leaders to believe the work of VBS is over for another year, but in reality, just as VBS ends the real work begins!

Now is time to make continued connections a priority – not only for the next few weeks but for the rest of the year.

When an unchurched family filed out a VBS registration card you were given a gift. A precious gift that gives you everything you need to build on the relationship begun during the week of VBS.

I have gone to the archives, and for the next few weeks I’m going to share ideas for continuing the connection.

The following idea comes from Sue Owen in Wyoming:

At registration get the child’s date of birth as well as school grade. Ask a few members of the church who are good at sending cards to be responsible for mailing out birthday cards throughout the year.  Include a VBS bookmark, an ABC Memory Card, or other reminder of VBS, as well as information about upcoming events.

Since few children get mail addressed to them, the parent should be interested in who it is from and see the reminder of the great experience their child had at VBS.

As a middle school student I attended a Billy Graham Crusade. During the response time one of my friends asked if I would walk down with him. The lady who counseled him took the time to thank me for encouraging my friend and asked for my name, address, and birthday. I never met her again, but for the next ten years I received a note of encouragement and prayer from her on my birthday. She wrote the book on continued connections!

The Best Time to Pray for VBS

Katie DeCilloMany of you have finished up VBS already– the first week of June is THE busiest week for VBS! Some of you are in the midst of VBS, and some of you are still planning.  The best time to pray for VBS?  Always!

While we love the fun of decorating for VBS and preparing crafts and snacks for the kiddos, our most favorite thing about VBS is that it is an amazing opportunity to share Christ with kids and their families.

So whether you’ve finished VBS, are in the middle of one, or are still planning, don’t forget to stop and pray.

If you’ve finished VBS:

  • pray for the seeds that were planted– that God would continue His work in the lives of those children
  • pray for the kids who accepted Christ and their families– that God would help parents disciple those children at home as they continue to strengthen their relationship with Christ
  • pray for the VBS director and volunteers, that they would receive an extra dose of rest and refreshment to continue ministry through the summer
  • pray for VBS follow-up– that you’ll be able to connect with unchurched families in the coming weeks and months to form an ongoing relationship
  • pray for other churches who have not yet had their VBS– that they make much of Jesus in the coming weeks

If you’re in the middle of VBS:

  • pray for the children who have been attending– that their hearts would be softened to the message of Jesus
  • pray that other children and families nearby would learn about your VBS and be able to attend and hear the good news of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior
  • pray for your VBS director– that he or she would have extra rest, energy, and strength to get through the week
  • pray for the volunteers– that they would experience the hand of God this week and would have wisdom in leading kids to Christ

If you are still planning your VBS:

  • pray that many children and families would learn about your VBS so they can hear the good news about Christ
  • pray for the VBS director– that he or she would have all the help necessary to get VBS off the ground in the coming weeks
  • pray for the volunteers at your church– that they would experience God while preparing lessons, music, snacks, decorations, etc. and that they would have wisdom in leading kids to Christ

If your church isn’t doing VBS:

  • pray for outreach opportunities
  • pray for wisdom in discipling children and families within the community
  • pray for churches in your area who are hosting VBS or other outreach events

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/