6 Ways to Use Backyard Kids Club This Summer

bethanyOne of my favorite things about working on the VBS team is hearing about how people adjust VBS curriculum to meet the specific needs of their church and community. From different schedule combinations to innovative  solutions to decorating challenges, you guys are so creative and forward thinking! I’m always amazed by what you do.

Maybe because it’s already such a flexible curriculum, some of the most exciting innovations I’ve heard about this year come from churches using the Backyard Kids Club curriculum. In no particular order, here are a few favorites I’ve heard about recently, many of which will be happening this summer.

1. BKC curriculum used once a week with adult special needs students during a regular meeting time they already have at the church.

2. Using BKC Bible study folders on Wednesday nights with the regular church kids to make sure they don’t miss the content (at a church that exclusively does BKCs in local neighborhoods and has no regular VBS.)

3. Teachers doing BKC in a neighborhood where many of their students live in hopes that they can eventually grow it large enough to use the school building for BKC, making it a central feature of their children’s summer.

4. An Agency D3 themed bash for special needs kids.

5. Using BKC in homes, parks, and schools across the city to reach friends and neighbors who might not normally be comfortable in church, but are happy to have something fun for their kids to do on those boring summer mornings or evenings.

6. Taking the compact BKC Kit on a mission trip in a nearby community, or around the world.

Those are just a few ideas. I know there are many other ways to use Backyard Kids Club curriculum! Are you using BKC this summer? Comment to let us know how you’ll be doing it. If you’re not, be in prayer for those who are, as well as all those preparing to do VBS across the country in just a few weeks! We’re praying for you here at LifeWay. You’re our heroes!

Geek of Week Ann Flavin

  1. I am the VBS Director.  I have been directing VBS at the Conneautville Church of Christ since 2004.  I had one summer off when my family took a trip across the country so this year will actually be my 10th VBS.  Interestingly enough, by the time I finally agreed to direct VBS, I had been asked several times and said no.  My youngest son was barely a year old and I kept saying it wasn’t really my time, etc.  I have three older boys as well and they were only 8, 6 1/2, and 4 1/2 at the time.  I hadn’t even really volunteered at VBS yet.  When I was told that there would be no VBS because no one would take it on I felt the spirit nudging (OK pushing really hard) and I stepped up and took on the position of VBS director.  I had absolutely no idea what I was doing or what I was getting into but I knew with certainty that this was what God wanted me doing.  That year was a real learning process but I had some good mentors and great volunteers and we had a great VBS.  I have been hooked ever since.
  2. What was my “geekiest” moment?  Wow that is really hard because there are so many to choose from!  I think that when I spent our New Year’s Eve party planning, promoting and recruiting for VBS has to rank right up there though.  My friends certainly thought it was pretty geeky when I was all excited showing them the VBS preview videos.   Everyone jokes about how I find a way to bring VBS into most conversations all year round.   At VBS one of my most VBS geeky moments had to be last year when I allowed some of the volunteers to turn me into a human cotton candy!  Teased hair with pink and blue hair spray complete with a white cone wrapper.  It took me hours to get that out of my hair!!
  3.  My favorite VBS theme.  Every year the one that I am doing is my favorite theme!  (And I have to say I am super excited for Agency D3 this year.  It is going to be amazing!!)   However, I think that Boomerang Express is probably one of my all time favorites.  I love the tag line “It all comes back to Jesus”, that hit a home run with the kids.  They really seem to get the connection of Jesus with their lives.  The theme and decorations were a lot of fun too.  We are a very small rural community (if you Google Conneautville, PA it will tell you the population is less than 800 people.)  So at VBS, we took all the kids on a trip to Australia and it was an experience I don’t think they will forget.  It is hard to explain in words (I will send pictures) but we actually built a train out of 2x4s and cardboard that the kids would get into and with sound effects they would “travel” through Australia.  When they got out of the train (on the other side of the wall) they were in the Australian outback.  Talking about geeky VBS moments, I actually dressed in a Kangaroo costume that year at the closing program.  The kids met their Missions giving goal so I got the Kangaroo costume!
  4.  You might be a VBS geek if you and your family mark the passage of time based on VBS themes.   Something like, “That was the year of Artic Edge”.  You might also be a VBS geek if you get excited about cardboard and foam insulation board.  (Last year, when we did Colossal Coaster World, I got very excited about pipe insulation!)  Your most definitely a VBS geek if you feel like EVERYONE should get involved in VBS.  (You know being a geek is not always bad, everyone should have a role reaching our community for Jesus Christ.  You just have to figure out where their passion is and plug them in.)
  5. Honestly, the leading of God through his Spirit is what keeps me doing VBS.  Every year in the fall I wonder if I should do another VBS.  Can I put together another great week?  Will there be the volunteers?  Does my family want to go through this again?  But God does not provide the prompting for something he does not equip us for.  My family and closest friends are my greatest support (after my faith in Jesus Christ) and despite the fact that we practically live at the church for two weeks before VBS each year (pretty much all but sleep there), they continue to be supportive of my VBS ministry.  I am a blessed woman!  I feel very strongly about the power of VBS to reach the families of our communities for Jesus Christ.  I go big because I can and because that is what God puts in my heart.  I will not deny that I get excited when I think/talk/plan/execute VBS.  I love coming up with outrageous ideas for decorations and creative ways to show God’s love.  We try to give the kids in our community that may not have much, an experience of a lifetime each summer.  Each year it is an experience the families will remember and when they do it is my prayer that those memories are connected to the love Jesus Christ has for them.  When I first started VBS I thought it was for the children but as I mature and continue to serve in this ministry I am seeing that VBS is not just for the children but for the entire family.  We have extended VBS to 3.5 hours and added an adult discussion group and family lunches to our VBS over the last several years.  We also are very intentional about getting the tweens and teens involved in VBS.  All of this designed to give us an opportunity to meaningfully reach into the lives of the families in our communities.  I believe in planting seeds.  When I do VBS I may be a sower or the one who waters and possibly even a harvester once in a while.  But it does not matter to me which one I am as long as I am fulfilling my commission to love God and love people.  How long will I do VBS?  (I know you didn’t ask that question.)  I will continue to do VBS as long as I am able and possibly longer if that is what God directs me to do.

VBS Geek 7

VBS Geek 9

VBS Geek 8

VBS Geek 3

VBS Geek 2

Six Tips for First Time Teachers

VanCleave - new (1)So, you are teaching VBS for the first time? Or the first time in a long time? You are in great company! All of us were first timers at some time! Here are a few tips that might help you:

  1. Don’t Panic! You can do this! Page 1 of your leader guide has a quick outline of the steps you need to take from preparing yourself to teach through keeping the connection with kids alive long after VBS.
  2. Pray! It’s hard to realize just how important this step is. Pray before you start, while you are preparing, while you are teaching, and for the families after VBS is over. And don’t forget to ask people to pray for you.
  3. Choose what works for you. You don’t have to do everything that’s in the book. Options are provided on purpose. No two situations are alike, so choose the activities that you feel will work for you as a teacher, with the age group you will have, and in the setting where you will teach.
  4. Ask questions. I promise you will NOT “look dumb.” Questions are evidence of someone who is thinking! So, ask those questions of your director, your fellow teachers, or whoever might be able to help you get the information you need.
  5. Don’t stress. There is no such thing as a perfect classroom experience. You will always think of things you want to “do better next time.” Enjoy today’s experience, love on the kids, and trust God. He is the One who ordains our steps and causes things to work together for His good.
  6. Remember, you are not alone. The Holy Spirit will come alongside you and help you. You may find at the end of that day that you learned more than the kids. And that is pretty awesome!

6 Ways to Continue the Connection

Screen shot 2014-01-23 at 9.51.12 AMMany times VBS is the catalyst that brings people into church when they otherwise would not step in the door. However, many times when the week is over things go back to business as usual. When this happens we miss out on a great opportunity to reach out and bring people into the fold and help them build a relationship with their Savior. Consider some to these ideas to help build on the foundation set during VBS.

  1. Offer a “next step” for VBS guest and their families. Utilize the parenting workshop included in the Adult VBS curriculum or host other needs based classes for parents.
  2. Follow up with visitors personally. Use the steps in the Administrative Guide for Directors for making quick at home visits, phone calls, or mail contacts. Or use the Transition From VBS to Sunday School outline on the Administrative Guide CD-ROM.
  3. Send a VBS 2014 Takin’ It Home CD or VBS 2014 Family Headquarters Guide home with each family. Either of these products will encourage families to dive deeper into the biblical content studied during VBS.
  4. Make the connection with the VBS 2014 Family App. Kids and parents can continue to discover, decide, and defend the hope that is in them.
  5. Create a follow-up strategy when you first begin planning VBS. Share the strategy with your entire congregation and encourage them to participate in the process. Continue until a contact has been made with every home and every parent has been met.
  6. Report and celebrate efforts with the congregation

6 Simple Ways to Quickly Decorate for VBS

  1. Stack a few copy paper boxes or office file boxes and label each one with the words “Top Secret,” “Property of Agency D3,” or “Evidence.” Not only are file boxes ready-made decorations, they also pull double duty as easy storage for supplies.
  2. String red yarn between two hallway walls to create a maze of “laser beams” which kids have to crawl through and/or climb over.
  3. Attach sections of dryer vent hose to drape across ceiling tracks or to arc out from walls to give any room an “industrial” feel.
  4. Dust off those old computer monitors, keyboards, and old cell phones (batteries removed) and set up a “control desk” in one area of the room.
  5. Rope off restricted areas of the room with caution tape or VBS 2014 Agency D3 Investigative Tape.
  6. Hang one of the ready-to-use backdrops for Agency D3—the Supersized Backdrop (which looks like a control desk), the Super Duper Sized Backdrop (which fits together or can be used separately), or the Visual Pack posters.


super duper


6 Safety Tips


Part of loving kids and teaching them about the gospel is making sure they have a safe place in which to learn during Vacation Bible School. Show kids and parents that you value them and their safety by making sure that church staff and volunteers adhere to these safety tips:

  1. Screen volunteers. – Use lifeway.com/backgroundchecks to screen each volunteer, even ones who have been at your church a long time. This may offend some helpers, but encourage them to remember that this is for their protection and for the confidence of parents and kids who are new to the church and is therefore important. Consider also using the 6/2 Rule: each volunteer should have been a member of the church for six months and there should always be at least two adults with minors.
  2. Teach in a safe environment. – Aspects of this will look differently in a church VBS than in a Backyard Kids Club. Regardless of the space, get on a child’s eye level and look for potential hazards such as exposed plugs, breakable objects, swimming pools, playground equipment and bee hives. Make sure that the space is not only safe but free from distractions that would keep kids from learning.
  3. Have a First Aid Kit handy somewhere near where the majority of your Vacation Bible School is being held and make sure you know where it is. If you are a director make sure that all teachers know where the First Aid Kit is and how to use it.
  4. Know the number of kids in your class on any given day and count them often to make sure no one has gone missing. If you are a director, stress to teachers the importance of keeping up with all kids in their group.
  5. Establish a bathroom procedure that allows one teacher to supervise younger children from the bathroom door while always within sight of another adult. A teacher should never be alone in the restroom with a child. Remind teachers that this is for their protection as much as it is for the children.
  6. Follow your church’s drop off/pick up plan. This plan should include ways to keep kids safe and occupied while cars are coming in and out of the church parking lot and ways to be sure that an approved adult picks up each child.

What other safety tips can you think of to add to these? We’d love to hear them in the comments!

To shop for VBS supplies, click here.

6 Challenges for the VBS Registration Team

20140114-075705.jpgThe VBS Registration Team is often overlooked when it comes to training. After all, their task is simply to sit at a table and put ink on paper. But is that really their only task?

The work of the registration team is vital to everything else that happens during VBS. Without gathering adequate information a day of VBS can quickly dissolve into chaos. In many ways the registration team holds the keys, or at least the details, to the VBS kingdom. If I were training the registration team at my church today I would definitely want them to know how important and valued they are. I would also want them to know these six things:
1. The registration team creates the first human impression many parents and kids experience, not only of VBS but of the church. (I say human impression because in reality first impressions are made by the promotional materials and methods used to publicize VBS and the exterior appearance of the church campus as families arrive.) As the first human impression the registration team becomes the first church members to connect with unchurched guests. Even though they may spend only a few minutes with the families they will create a lasting impression.

2. The registration team must relationally connect with kids AND parents. When there are dozens of families waiting in line to register it is easy to become so involved in getting ink on paper – my term for filling at the registration form – that members of the registration team fail to  relationally and emotionally connect with the parents. Since registration team members are typically seated it is easy and sometimes expedient to never look up beyond the eye level of kids. It is important for the registration team to not only acknowledge the parent as the source of information needed to complete the form, but to acknowledge them as individuals who also need to connect to the Gospel and the church.
3. The registration team needs to have at least a summary knowledge of the daily Biblical content. I want the registration team at my church to be able to not only assure parents their kids will have fun at VBS, but I want them to be able to let parents know some of what their kids will be learning about Jesus Christ.

4. Since the registration team is the first church members some families will meet, team members need to be about to give information and answer questions not only about VBS but about the church in general. It creates a poor first impression when a parent ask what time and where they should pick their kids up and the registration doesn’t know the answer.

5. The registration team is vital to the process of continuing connections with unchurched families following VBS. It is important to capture as much information as possible and not just fill in the blanks. I want my team to know they have permission to record additional information such as parent’s occupation, how long the family has lived in the area, and other information they might learn while registering the kids. Information that is not formally requested on the registration form is often some extremely valuable when making continued connection (follow-up) contacts.

6. Once registration is complete I want my team to know they are still needed. While it is important for at least one or two members to remain in the registration area to care for late arrivers, I want the rest of the team to transition other areas such as the prayer team. What a great gift for other workers to know there is a dedicated team praying for them as they are teaching God’s Word in Bible study or assisting kids in making Scriptural applications during crafts and recreation.

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

Introducing Explore the Bible: Kids and a Giveaway!

April21curtisI’d like to take a quick break from our regularly scheduled VBS programming to let you know about something really exciting.  We all want our kids to be fully grounded in Scripture, right?  Of course!  We want them to be so immersed into Scripture that they “discover” who Jesus really is and see how God can transform their lives.

That’s why we are so excited about Explore the Bible: Kids, the newest curriculum from LifeWay Kids! This book-by-book study of the Bible will take kids on a journey into Scripture where they’ll see the Bible in a way that makes them want to dig deep. Explore the Bible: Kids will help build a strong foundation that can lead to life transformation. That foundation will help them stand strong when they have to answer hard questions and “defend” their faith.

You can sign up to preview the first four sessions free! And better news, if you register before 11:59 PM on Thursday, April 24 you’ll be entered to win a year of Explore the Bible for your entire church!

Click here to enter and get a first look at how you can help your kids experience the Bible like never before. The winner will be announced on Friday, April 25.



6 Truths From the Agency D3 Scriptures


There are so many wonderful truths in the Scriptures that are a part of this year’s VBS. Here are the ones that jumped out at me as I reflected on them.

  1. Jesus is God’s Son. – Matthew 3:17 – It’s true! Jesus is the Son of the God of the universe. The One who created everything. The One who sent His Son to Earth because He takes a personal interest in whether we know and love Him or not. How incredible that you and I and the kids we minister to can have a relationship with God’s Son!
  2. Seeing Jesus act invokes wonder. – Mark 6:2, 42-44, 51 – Whether it was the unbelieving friends and neighbors in Nazareth, the people who ate miraculous loaves and fishes, or the terrified disciples in the boat, everyone who saw what Jesus did was astonished. Mark 6:51 says the disciples “were completely astounded.” I do not stop in amazement often enough at what He has done. What has He done in your life?
  3. The crucifixion was truly horrific. – Mark 15:22-47 – I read this passage with a new shudder this week. As Easter approaches, I see clean pictures of empty crosses and puzzles with words like crucifixion, resurrection, and nailed. And I realize how often I see the cross like that. A simple activity reduced to a few words. But this year the picture is vividly before me. He went through the worst death imaginable, for us. For me. For all my sins. Let my wonder and thanks and praise never fade.
  4. We forget. ­– Luke 24:5-7 – The disciples shared amazement at Jesus’ wonderful miracles, and they heard Jesus’ words about His future. But they forgot pretty quickly. Their astonishment at His rising makes me chuckle. The angel asked the terrified women at the tomb if they had forgotten what Jesus said about rising from the dead. The answer was yes. Unfortunately, I forget Jesus’ words and promises all too often. Lord help me be more mindful of your words and your power.
  5. Jesus is Alive! – Luke 24:5-7 – Woohoo! Celebrate! Jump up and down!!! On Easter Sunday I’ll barely be containing myself with this knowledge, wanting to run and scream and shout the news. But I’m afraid the news doesn’t infect me that way all year round. That’s something I’d like to change in my life this year. Do you have any suggestions for how to keep the wonder of this fact alive year round?
  6. Being with Jesus changes everything – Acts 2:14-42 – Wow did those disciples change after Jesus’ death and resurrection. From mousy guys who ran to hide during Jesus’ trial and death, they sure turned bold once they saw the power of His hand over the grave. I’ve seen those kinds of changes stir in my own heart. And I’m thankful that now that I know Him, even on the days when I fail to acknowledge the wonder of His power and love, I’ll still never be the same because I have been with Him.

How about you? Share with us your own reflections on these Scriptures in the comments.