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

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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/

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.