5 Reasons My Pastor Loves VBS!

brown2Hey guys.

I’ve always been impressed with my pastor’s involvement in VBS, so I asked him if he would share a bit about why he, as Senior Pastor, thinks being involved in VBS is a good thing.

Here’s what he said:

1. VBS gives the pastor a chance to be directly and almost exclusively engaged with the children in ways that he can’t be on Sunday morning. Reflecting on Jesus’ blessing of the children, one of the easiest ways a pastor can be like Jesus is to be involved in VBS!

2. VBS gives children a chance to see a different side of the pastor which, for many of the children, may be a chance to see how God could call them one day to be a pastor, missionary, etc. This is why I try to be around for the worship rally and make myself available to visit classes to share a Bible story during the week.

3. Nothing can take the place of a pastor’s involvement in the evangelistic emphasis associated with VBS. This involvement is strengthened when the pastor has been a visible part of VBS throughout the week.

4. Pastors can become heroes to the kids in VBS. When an un-churched family member comes with the child for something like a Family night, an involved pastor who has already befriended the child has a better opportunity to connect with the adult family member.

5. When a pastor is involved with VBS he has a chance to interact with all of the adult volunteers who make up the VBS faculty. Again, this is going to be different from the typical Sunday morning interaction. Adults who are giving a week of their time to staff VBS will form a closer bond with their pastor and appreciate his love and attention for the children.

We’re thankful to Senior Pastor Frank R. Lewis of First Baptist Nashville for sharing his thoughts. Does your senior pastor love VBS? If not, maybe you can encourage him with these 5 reasons Pastor Lewis serves at his church’s VBS.

From the Archives: “Preparing for VBS” Part 1

wooley1 2013September 1, 1924 was a big day in the history of Vacation Bible School. It was the official start of LifeWay’s VBS Ministry Department. The department as such no longer exist, but the ministry of publishing VBS curriculum and training church leaders to use it is bigger and better than ever.

From time to time, over the next year, I’m going back to the archives to not only honor our past but to glean insight and wisdom from the ages.

Today’s wisdom comes from a 1997 training outline titled: 62 Ways to Prepare Yourself for A Galactic Good News Adventure. While some of the ideas were specific to the theme, here are six reminders that apply every year.

1. Pray (without ceasing).

2. Learn the Worship Rally music in advance by listening to its while running errands and picking up VBS supplies.

3. Enlist someone to be your personal VBS prayer partner.

4. Pray for the children, youth, and adults who will accept Jesus as Savior and Lord during VBS.

5. Ask someone who became a Christian during a previous VBS to share his/her story with you.

6. Keep a “To Do List” handy to jot down middle-of-the-night inspirations.

Trivia for the day: both Rhonda Van Cleave (VBS publishing team leader) and I served on the think tank that created A Galactic Good News Adventure. It was our first time to work together.

Put Your VBS T-shirts to Work for You

20140114-075705.jpgI love being in an airport or store and seeing a VBS t-shirt from years gone by. I have great memories that are uniquely attached to each theme, and seeing a shirt makes those memories come alive. But more important than the memories created by a VBS     shirt is the awareness and promotion value they can create. Churches often distribute shirts on the first day of VBS or at the conclusion of the week, but what if they were distributed prior to the week and intentionally used for promotion? They become moving billboards – especially when worn in mass.

Here are a few ways to put your VBS t-shirts to work for you.

  • Schedule a “Wear Your VBS Shirt to Church Sunday.” Not only will the shirts draw attention to your VBS but they can be used as a way to identify, recognize and honor workers.
  • Schedule a flash mob to appear at a shopping center, mall or park. Be sure to have VBS info ready to distribute.
  • Have everyone wear their shirts to a community parade or fair (July 4th). If a parade is not planned, create a neighborhood walk, bike and trike parade to create awareness and distribute information.
  • Ask kids and parents to wear their shirts on the last day of school. (Be sure to get approval in advance
We would like to hear how you use shirts to promote your VBS. Hope to hear from you soon!
Following Jerry on Twitter @vbsguy for more tips and ideas.

6 Things to Know About Teens Working in VBS

carol_editedTeens are ready to take on some responsibilities and leadership roles within the church. They can be great role models for younger children and preschoolers. However, before enlisting teens to serve in VBS, you might want to check out these tips to ensure a successful experience.

  1. Partner up. Always have an adult leader in the room with the teen helper at all times. This is for the safety and protection of your church, kids, leaders, and the teens themselves. Teens should not be given the sole responsibility for leading a class. Partnering them with a mature adult also provides an opportunity for adults to serve as role models and mentors for the teens.
  2. Communicate clear expectations. Let teens know that this is not the time to be on their cell phones or socializing with other teen helpers in the room. Clearly communicate what their responsibilities will be and the manner in which you expect them to carry out those responsibilities.
  3. Provide training. Either require the teens to come to your church wide VBS training, or hold a training session especially for them before VBS. Go over the Bible content, schedule, safety procedures, and other information pertinent to your church. Consider using the Student VBS material to familiarize students with the week’s Bible content. This can be done on Wednesday or Sunday nights leading up to VBS or host a Student VBS the week before children’s VBS.
  4. Find their passion. Ask teens what they are passionate about and allow them to serve in an area where they can use their passion to help kids learn about Jesus. For example, if a teen is passionate about soccer, allow her to serve in recreation.
  5. Show appreciation. Teens need to feel valued for the contribution they are making. Include the teens in any appreciation you are showing the adult leaders. Find a strength that each teen demonstrated during the week and send him a card complimenting him in that area.
  6. Continue the connection. Offer teens opportunities to continue to develop the relationships they have forged during VBS. Perhaps they can serve on Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights with the age-group they helped in VBS.

 

From Derailed to Teachable Moment

carol_editedWe’ve all had them, those moments when some little something derails our whole lesson. We’ve prepared, recited in our minds how things are going to go, imagined how we’ll see the “lightbulbs come on” when the kids get it, then Wham one kid derails the whole shebang. This happened to me recently. I actually even anticipated that the picture of Baby Jesus that  looked like a picture of Charlie Brown could cause problems. I decided to head things off at the pass and find a more realistic picture of Baby Jesus to use. Armed with my picture and lesson, I set off to church feeling quite confident that the lesson I had envisioned would come to fruition. Only one little problem, I had forgotten that the Charlie Brown picture would show up again later in the lesson. And as predicted, when the pictures were handed out for the last activity, my one rambunctious child immediately yelled, “Hey, it’s Charlie Brown!”

Then a discussion ensued as to whether or not Charlie Brown had hair because the baby in this picture had a little hair. And in God’s infinite wisdom, He saw fit to send one little girl to the library before coming to church. Guess what book she checked out. Yep, it was a Snoopy book. Yes, she did indeed bring it to class instead of leaving it in the car, so she could show an actual picture of Charlie Brown and put the matter to rest. He does indeed have a little swirl of hair. So what to do now that all the kids were labeling their pictures “Charlie Brown” instead of “Baby Jesus?”

We tried reminding the kids that this was just supposed to be a picture to help them remember that Baby Jesus was special even though He looked and acted like all the other babies. We told the kids that Jesus was better than Charlie Brown ever could be. We asked if Charlie Brown would die on the cross for us. Now some kids reasoned that he might die on a cross for us. At this point we reminded the kids that even if he did, it would never be enough. Only the sacrifice of a sinless person, only Jesus would ever be enough. And then they began to focus less on Charlie Brown and more on the true meaning of how special Jesus is and how we need Him to be our Savior.

So in that moment when your lesson is derailed, do not fear, do not feel defeated, this may just be the teachable moment God has planned.

Tips for Moving from Derailed to Teachable Moment

1. Anticipate and plan for things that could derail your lesson. It can be something as small as the artwork you use, but know that kids will pick up on the small things.

2. Turn the moments around by asking questions and guiding discussion. Lead the kids back to the biblical truth that you are trying to drive home.

3. Take a “time out.” Stop for a moment, take a deep breath, regroup, and start again. The more flustered you get about the situation, the more kids will want to continue the distraction.

4. Remember that this may not have been in your plan, but it very well could have been in God’s plan.

Share with us your tips that get you moving from a derailed moment to a teachable one in the comments.

Reset Friday

maryAs you reset for another year and wind down after all the holiday crazy of planning meals, gifts, and decorating, I hope you have a chance to sit back with a cup of coffee and your Bible and just rest in Him.
I pray that you get a little bit of silence in your day today, even as you are probably back at work, back to getting kids to school and to activities, and running around handling all kinds of situations.

It may be three days into the new year, but there’s never a bad time to reset and rest in the Lord for even just a few minutes. You are probably already thinking about all the teachers who you will need for VBS or Sunday School, all the decorations and planning you need to do for all your summer events, and all the preparation that you wish you had already done for things that are coming up. So, I hear-by declare all following Fridays as the day to reset. Put it on your calendar and put all those things aside for a few minutes and really get some quiet time to reset in the craziness of our lives.

Here are a few ways to take time out to reset throughout the coming months:

1. Set goals, but don’t let those goals rely on your ability to manage every moment of your time, get more done than is really even feasible, and create way more stress than they create inspiration.

2. Carve out some “me” time each week. If that means getting up an hour before everyone in your family once a week, hiring a babysitter once a month so you can head out to your favorite coffee shop, or spending an extra afternoon hanging out with a good friend, make the time and the arrangements to get a little time that you get to decide what you do.

3. Simplify. It’s ok to say no sometimes. Use the time you already have wisely by spending time with the Lord while you shower or drive, and so forth. In our world of crazy busy schedules and applause for doing more, free yourself us to remember that less really is more.

How do you reset? How are you planning for time to reset throughout 2014? What goals have you set that will help with this?

On the Ninth Day of Christmas…

Nativity2

On the ninth day of Christmas ——– I turn into a child.

It’s around this time each year that I get incredibly excited over putting the ornaments on the tree, being with family, reading the Christmas story, going to the Christmas Eve service, and driving around to look at lights. I even like the fruitcake cookies that seem to show up at every Christmas church potluck. I especially love opening up my ornament from my mom for this Christmas and placing it on the tree.

(Sidenote: Parents – my mom started an ornament series when I was born and gives me one each year. It was such a cool piece of my childhood to now put on my tree at my house! Do this for your kids. Start a series or choose an ornament that signifies something about them for that year and write the year on it! It’s never too late to begin.)

Most of all, I love blaming my excitement over Christmas for what has become one of my favorite traditions: helping the wise men move east. I would guess that my mom probably doesn’t love this tradition as much as I do, since it means that the wise men from her beloved nativity scene end up all over the house – in drawers, on counters, in closets, on the top ledge of the shower, on the floor marching through the dining room.

Guys, it took the wise men a LOOONNNG time to get to Jesus. Most scholars think He was a few months old when the wise men came to Him. It is only fitting that they make a LOOONNG journey throughout the house toward Jesus. Every morning I move them and wait for others to find them. It’s almost like Elf on a Shelf, but way better because you don’t have to clean up the mess that you made while the kids were sleeping and it gives you another opportunity to talk about Jesus! As the wise men travel through your house, remind kids that the wise men traveled hundreds of miles to see Jesus because they knew that He was God’s Son and that He had come to save the world. The wise men may not have made it to the manger, but they still traveled a long way to Jesus’ house to worship Him!

What is your favorite tradition that your family does during the Christmas season?

On the Eighth Day of Christmas …

VanCleave - new (1)On the eighth day of Christmas I’m thinking about traditions. Well, at least what have become traditions when Christmas is different every year.

My husband is a pastor and our traditions have had to be very flexible so we could work around church events. As our kids were growing up, Christmas time also meant an eight to ten hour trip back to Tennessee to visit grandparents. We tried to “choose” our Christmas day rather than letting the calendar demand that it was December 25. Sometimes Christmas and church times were too close to make the Tennessee trip until after Christmas. That was when our son and daughter began their own tradition of staying up all night to watch the 24-hour marathon of “A Christmas Story.” They tell very different stories about who would finally fall asleep first. But for two very different siblings who were almost five years apart, it is still a memory that bonds them.

One tradition we began was called “The Feast.” My son describes it as a meal where, “we eat things we wouldn’t ordinarily eat at a meal.” Even that makes me laugh. It’s basically “name your very favorite things” and, no matter what it is, we’ll put it in the feast. Combined with laughter, family time, and a Christmas movie, it is something we still do even though they are both grown with homes of their own.

And then we have “The Snowman.” It began as a joke between my husband and me. He used to grumble about “plastic things to set out in the yard during Christmas.” I started picking up every $1 giant plastic thing I could find at yard sales. “The Snowman” was the first. We had quite a collection after about 15 years. When we moved back to Tennessee, it was hard to give up “the collection,” but “The Snowman” was part of the family! Even years when sad things have happened at Christmas, including the year we didn’t even manage to get a tree up, “The Snowman” glowed near our front door.

I came home late a couple of weeks ago and there was Mr. Snowman glowing in the front yard. I started to grin. It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Snowman

On the Second Day of Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Thankful for VBS. Thankful for You!

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

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

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

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