Beginning Well…Ending Strong Part 2

wooley1 2013Last Tuesday I listed three steps Pastors and VBS Directors need to consider to insure VBS begins well and ends strong. To briefly review, Step 1: determine the purpose of VBS, Step 2: establish dates and a budget that reflects the purpose, and Step 3: enlist a team to dream and implement the strategy.

Step 3 is actually two steps in one. The first, as I wrote about last week, is to enlist a dream team that will also become your core leadership team. This team will not only help you dream possibilities, but will help you turn the possibilities into realities.

Once you have enlisted your core leadership team it is time to enlist and train workers. I’ll share more about this topic in a future post.

Now that we have taken a second look at the three steps to beginning well, we’ll move on to three steps for ending strong.

Step 4: Put promotion/publicity strategies in motion. The key here is knowing your target audience. Who are you really trying to reach for VBS? Which segments of your community are you not only best able to reach, but best able to minister to once you have reached them? Once you know your target audience you can direct all of your energies and resources to reaching the people most likely to attend your VBS and your church. To learn more about creating a promotion strategy check out Six Steps to Reaching Your Target Audience.

Step 5: Stay focused throughout the planning stage and week of VBS. This might just be the hardest step of all. Back in Step 1 you determined the purpose (reason for conducting and desired goals) of your VBS. As you gained support from the congregation and enlisted and trained a team, you helped them understand and own the purpose. But now that VBS is in full swing it is easy to get caught up in the crunch of making IT happen and forget the very reason why IT is suppose to happen.

If IT (purpose) is building bridges to the unchurched, then everything – from registration to the final Amen – must remain focused on building bridges. Each Bible story, craft, and rec game should be used to build bridges to the unchurched kids, students, and adults who may be experiencing church for the first time. If the purpose of VBS is building bridges then sharing the Gospel message and nurturing relationships becomes the focus of every lesson, activity, and every minute. Ending strong means never letting anything get in the way of staying focused on the purpose.

Step 6: Put continued connection (follow-up) strategies in motion. To end strong we need go back to the purpose (Step 1) and change the way we think about VBS. Instead of VBS being “the event” in itself, it must become the catalyst to the event which I hope you will agree is continued connections. For many churches, more unchurched families are identified during VBS then any other outreach all year. When a child from an unchurched home attends VBS, a church hasn’t just discovered one unchurched person. The church has typically discovered – when parents and siblings are included – four unchurched people.

On average, ten percent of everyone enrolled in VBS claims to be unchurched. For a typical VBS of 100 people (both students and workers) this means 10 are unchurched. But in reality a church has just discovered 40 people who claim no church home or affiliation – yet were willing to allow their child attend your VBS!

A simple postcard saying, “Thanks for attending our VBS” is not enough. The postcard may allow you to check off the follow-up box on your to-do list, but it is not adequate if the purpose of VBS is building bridges with the unchurched. Building bridges requires continued connections far beyond the week of VBS, and continued connections requires a strategy. In the next few weeks I’ll share more about creating a strategy for continued connections. Until then, start working on the first three steps. It’s not too late to begin well and end strong!

 

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?

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.

Family Night???

img_5318We have been having a colossally (is that a word?) fun experience at the 2013 Previews in North Carolina, Texas, and Tennessee. This week LifeWay’s VBS Event team is taking Colossal Coaster World on the road to Kissimmee, Florida for the grand finale! There is still time to join us. Click here for more info!

During Preview Family Night breakout sessions the idea has surfaced that it might be time to change the name Family Night to something that speaks more to today’s purpose for the event – which is connecting unchurched families to the Gospel and to the church.

We would love to hear your ideas for a new name as well as the stories of what you do during your Family Night event to insure unchurched families are connected to the Gospel and to the church.

You can reply to this post or send your suggestions to me at jerry.wooley@lifeway.com.

 

Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Back to (Vacation Bible) School!

Where did the summer go? If you are like me, the last couple of months have gone by in a blur of events, wacky schedules and, well, just stuff! But the smell of new school supplies is back in the air! (I just love the crisp feel of a new notebook and the smell of a fresh box of crayons. Please tell me I’m not the only one.)

As families get back in the school groove, it’s a perfect time to reconnect with kids who came to your VBS.

Here’s an idea or two:

1. Send a letter or email to kids who attended VBS and tell them something fun their Sunday School class will be doing the next Sunday on in the coming weeks.

2. Put together a “Back to School Pack” (school supplies, snacks, and other fun items) and make a quick visit to drop off the pack and invite kids to a children’s event at your church.

3. Send a newsletter to the families you discovered in VBS with a list of “Fun Things Happening at _______ Church.” Describe the events and tell how to discover more information.

What are some great “Back to School” things you have done to reconnect with kids and their families? Please share! We love to pass along great ideas!

VBS Turned Their Church Around

One of the most rewarding aspects of providing resources for churches is hearing stories. God continues to bless through the ministry of VBS. A good friend sent in the following story written by Kiely Young of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board. Enjoy and dream big! VBS does turn churches (and communities) around!

Pastor Bob Hill has been at Roundaway Baptist Church “out from” Indianola, Mississippi about three years. He came out of retirement to be the Interim Pastor of this church. The Pastor Search Committee stopped looking and just asked Bro. Bob to stay a while. He has.

He looked at the church calendar and noticed they did not have Vacation Bible School on the summer calendar. When he asked why, the response was, “We don’t have any children, so we don’t need to have VBS.” They had not had VBS in twenty-three years. Bro. Bob reminded them there were still strong elementary schools in the area and they were full, so there must be children in the area. He asked them to consider VBS again. They reluctantly agreed.

Bro. Bob enlisted two people, a VBS Director and a VBS Prayer Leader. He wanted to meet with them and ask God what to do. The church averaged about 40 in Sunday School. He wanted them praying for VBS. They determined they needed to do three things: Pray, Prepare, and Promote. Their story is amazing.

As they prayed they were impressed to enlist workers for at least fifty children, maybe more. They needed to contact every family in a five mile radius of the church and estimate how many children to expect. They did. They enlisted more workers. They promoted in the elementary schools, in grocery stores, convenience stores, everywhere they thought they might get the attention of children and parents of children.

They were not disappointed. They had 80 children for their first VBS in 23 years. Ten of those children were led to Christ and their families began coming to church and Sunday School. They grew from 40 to 60 in Sunday School! VBS worked. They followed up with every family who visited their VBS within the next week.

I asked Bro. Bob what he considered to be the more important thing they are doing. He said Vacation Bible School turned their church around. This year he brought twenty new leaders to our VBS training. They went back and trained the other leaders in their church. He said we keep VBS before our people year round. Oh yes…They had 80 children the second year and twenty came to Christ.

______________

Kiely Young is the Director of the Sunday School Department for the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board.

Reserve These Dates Now!


Last week I encouraged you to begin working on your VBS 2012 budget now – using 2011 records and projecting forward for anticipated growth.

The second thing you need to do now is get all of your dates on the church calendar. Schools seem to be starting the first week of August – at least here in Middle Tennessee – and calendar planning has become a competition won by the dog that barks first and loudest! I’m not calling anyone a dog, but you get the idea – you snooze, you lose.

Obviously you need to schedule the week of VBS, but what other activities need to be on the calendar now?

How about the following:
**Enlistment (beginning and completion target dates)
**Training (both church and associational sponsored opportunities)
**Promotion activities such as flyer distribution, parades, registration events
**Family Night
**Follow-up events
**Worker appreciation event

Can you think of others?

Make the Connection From VBS to Bible Drill

Got any Big Apple Curriculum laying around? Want to help your kids learn Bible verses in a fun way? If you answered yes to those questions then why not pull those leaders guides back out and find some ready made activites that you can adapt with any Bible verse.

Oh, what’s that? You already gave away your curriculum. No worries, Sue Harmon with the South Carolina Baptist Convention recently contacted us about an article on their site that connects activities from the Big Apple to use with Bible Drill. Check it out here.

As you can see,  there are lots of great ideas for adapting VBS teaching resources to be used with Bible Drill, Wednesday night fillers, or anytime you need a great way to reinforce Bible skills. Share with us how you have used VBS teaching materials at other times.

It Ain't Over Til It's Over

Wait! Don’t pack away that inflatable Statue of Liberty or all those little yellow inflatable taxi cabs decorating your church.  Just because the teaching, singing, craft making fun of VBS is complete, doesn’t mean we’re done. There’s still lots left to do to connect all those prospects discovered during the week to an on going relationship with your church and our Savior and Lord. Remember that small little tag line that comes after Big Apple Adventure—Where Faith and Life Connect? Well, now is the time to help “connect” the biblical truths taught during VBS with real life! Following up with  those who visited during VBS is a vital part of successfully completing your VBS experience.

Check out Chapter 4 in the VBS 2011 Administrative Guide to find Follow-up Strategies and helps. Or check out some of these tips from previous posts here, here, and here.

What are some of your favorite Follow-up Strategies? We would love to hear them!

5 Action Steps for the Day After VBS

This guest post is from Tony Kummer at Ministry-To-Children.com

You feel tired and your feet hurt.

Your ears are still ringing.

You’re feeling a little sad it’s over, but it’s to move on.

Wait-wait, it’s not over yet! We have a few details to cover before the VBS books are closed. These last five tasks matter just as much as all the work you’ve already done. Simply print off this list and cross the finish line with a smile.

1. Pray through your attendance and volunteer rosters.

Don’t forget to thank God for the children and adults who showed up. Pray for each of them by name and look for where God is working. This is the time to discern where you should focus your outreach efforts.

2. Send a simple (paper) thank you note to every volunteer.

Keep it simple and just write a few honest lines. “Thanks so much for serving in our Vacation Bible School. There are no small jobs in the Kingdom of God. I hope this week inspired your faith and helped you grow closer to Jesus.” If you’re busy, or the list is too long, get help addressing the envelops.

3. Send follow-up letters to guest families.

Now is the time to carry out the final stages of your outreach plan. At a minimum, send a basic letter saying thanks for coming and letting them know about other ministry offerings. If you’ve posted VBS pictures or video online, let them know where they can find that too.

4. Gather and dispose of VBS materials.

Don’t let those items sit idle for weeks and months after the program. Seek out other churches that are using the same VBS theme. Arrange for the transfer as early as possible. Anything not passed on, or saved for reuse, needs to be in the dumpster by Tuesday. Clutter is your enemy.

5. Debrief and evaluate improvements for next year.

Take a few minutes to write down obvious strong points and failures in your VBS plan. Think through each station and brainstorm what to improve. At this point, lay aside any ego and just figure out what worked and what was broken. Ask a few trusted volunteers or your leadership team to do the same. File all this away in the file for next summer’s Vacation Bible School.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, come see Tony at the 2011 LifeWay Kids Ministry Conference.