VBS Missionary Updates


parrishsmallerIt’s past the middle of May, and that means final preparations for VBS is at full throttle in most churches. The VBS team is praying for churches in their final stages of planning and enlisting workers, praying for directors and church leaders who are working hard to be sure all the details are in place, and praying for kids who will come to VBS and their families. We are also praying for the missionary families that kids will learn about in VBS this summer and expecting God to do big things in the lives of these missionaries and their families.

Each year, we publish an update on the featured missionary families on the VBS website so that churches can have an updated look at what is happening in the lives of the missionaries since the videos were shot and the VBS Missions Rotation Leader Guide was published. This update includes additional photos of the missionary families, any updates on what the kids learn about their ministries in the videos, and their current prayer requests. You can find the updates for the Flooks and Pillays featured in VBS 2013 here. Click on Follow-ups and Helps on the left tabs and then look for Missions Stories Updates. You can download the “Flooks Update from Bolivia” and the “Pillay Update” to get the latest information from these missionary families. Kids will enjoy hearing the updates directly from the missionaries.

Another missionary update we wanted to give is related to Andrew Mann, who was featured in LifeWay’s VBS 2011 Big Apple Adventure along with Proof, a K-9 Assistance Animal trained as a professional therapy dog. Andrew and Proof serve at Graffiti 2 Community Ministries and Graffiti 2 Church in South Bronx. In a blog last November, you can check out here, we asked VBS leaders to join us in prayer as we discovered that Andrew had been diagnosed with cancer and was facing surgeries and treatments. In true missionary fashion, Andrew found ways to minister throughout his treatment and recovery process. To find out more about Andrew’s personal journey and the ministries of Graffiti 2, check out this video produced by Brianne Barry, a City University of New York Journalism student for the Mott Haven Herald here. The video includes Andrew’s story, along with photos, detailing Andrew’s surgeries and cancer treatments.

For more information about Graffiti 2 Community Ministries in the Bronx, visit their website at www.graffiti2ministries.org. Follow Andrew on his blog at cancerousjoy.wordpress.com.

One last exciting update to report on Graffiti 2 is that they will receive a portion of CentriKid Camp offerings from this summer’s camp weeks to support their ministries.






Think Tank: Lorie's Perspective

Here’s another look at Think Tank from Lorie Honeycutt. Lorie is no stranger to the VBS team. She has taught conferences for VBS Institutes and Previews and has written for past VBS. She’s always been a great supporter of VBS and so glad to have her join us this year for think tank!

What did you learn about the VBS theme development process that you wish everyone knew? The personal commitment and care each of the LifeWay VBS team members exhibits to get the best possible theme. Each are burdened with the impact their work has on evangelism in the local church. They do not take the job lightly and put forth every effort and much personal sacrifice to get it right.

What was the most surprising thing about VBS theme development that you learned by being part of the Think Tank? As part of our orientation, we did a scavenger hunt around LifeWay to see how each division works to make a VBS theme successful. Needless to say, we had to go to almost every department! VBS requires the involvement and synergistic relationship with almost everyone at LifeWay. Those who do not personally touch a VBS item are most definitely aware and in prayer for its success. Considering the number of employees at LifeWay, this is HUGE!

What advice would you give to anyone who is invited to a future VBS Think Tank? If you are invited, say YES! Bring as many creative ideas as you can, but don’t be married to one idea. There are many reasons why a theme doesn’t make it to print so go with an open mind, a willing heart, and the ability to think ‘outside the box.’ It is a blessing to have had a very small part in the big VBS picture.

Happy Quiznos Day!

We are privileged at the LifeWay office in Nashville to have an employee cafe  that is open for breakfast and lunch. The cafe is convenient (especially on rainy days), nutritious, competitively priced, and usually quick.

While the menu varies, most days are pretty much the same with a salad bar, pizza station, grill, and meat and vegetable station. It is good. It meets a need. It is safe and predictable.

But occasionally, on a day like today, it is Quiznos Day at the Cafe! Let the party begin!

On Quiznos Day you get to the cafe when they open the doors or else you stand in a line that snakes out the door and into the lobby. All it takes is one person to return to their office floor with a Quiznos sandwich and the word spreads. People shout the news down the hall. People talk about it in the elevator. People who never step foot in the cafe run with haste trying to be the first in line.

Is it that Quiznos is so much better than the daily fare? No, not really. It is just different and makes lunch seem a little more special.

Vacation Bible School is like (or at least can be like) Quizos Day. Most churches offer great Bible student 52 weeks of the year. It is not that the Bible stories and study offered during VBS are better than those offered each Sunday. They are just different and as a result seem just a little more special.

To all of you who love VBS like to make it special, a very Happy Quiznos Day!

2014, Here We Come!

Discovering what our next VBS is going to be is one of my favorite activities as a member of the VBS Team. I have no doubt that God directs our path as this decision is made each year. I send a big shout-out to our terrific VBS 2014 Think Tank participants! After a lot of dreaming, discussing, and praying, we have our general idea (and I love it!). Now, we are working on what the exact title should be and looking at Bible content possibilities. I’m very excited about the theme! I think you’ll love it!

Please pray for our LifeWay VBS Team as we begin to dream what this should look like and what God would have us bring to children, youth, and adults in 2014.

We are enjoying a holiday, and hope that you are as well. (At least I hope all my team members are able to be off today, enjoying time with family and friends or perhaps a little downtime for themselves!) We look forward to seeing many of you in January and February!

The Blessing Known as Tommy Keown

Picture this: As the event coordinator, the hectic pace of the first day of VBS Preview begins at 7:00 a.m. The day is non-stop. Even meals are eaten standing. It is now approaching 9:00 p.m. You have been on your feet the entire time making sure no detail has been left unattended. You are ready to head to the hotel for a much-deserved rest, but people visiting the VBS EXPO are still going full steam and you can’t leave until the last light is turned out. Evidently there is nothing left to do except find the nearest floor and take a nap!

Today I’m using this space to honor a man who has spent thirty-plus years serving churches in their mission of making disciples through the ministry of LifeWay Christian Resources. I am proud to say that part of this time was spent coordinating our national VBS Preview events.

Tommy Keown came to LifeWay (formerly The Sunday School Board) in 1982 as a small church music consultant. He traveled the nation teaching and equipping both professional and volunteer music leaders, and making friends all along the way. Tommy eventually moved from the music department to events where he became the lead event coordinator. At one time or another he has coordinated just about every event LifeWay has offered, including Sunday School Week, Black Church Week, Collegiate and Church Recreation events, and VBS Previews.

Tommy’s retirement at the end of this week is not only a great loss to LifeWay, but to me personally. The years we spent as a VBS team will always be some of the most enjoyable – and down right fun – years of my adult life. Even on the longest days – as the picture above proves – you kept us focused and laughing. Your humor, especially your willingness and ability to laugh at yourself is a true gift.

Your dedication, professionalism, skills, and passion for any assignment given have been a tremendous inspiration and example to me and others. You are the consummate teacher, event coordinator, co-worker, and friend.

Thanks for adding your special touch to the world of VBS! You have been, and are, a blessing!

VBS – Is It Worth It?

When you plan for months and then pour your heart and soul into a week’s worth of VBS, you’ve might sometimes ask yourself, Is it worth the effort?

Well, I attend Lakewood Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and my church’s VBS was held this year from July 16-20. I was assigned to work with 5 year olds, so I started out on Monday morning with 9 well-behaved students. But because there was an abundance of 4 year olds, my class was quickly adjusted. Five of my 5 year olds were “promoted” to the kindergarten room, leaving me 4 of my original students, but then I received 10 more 4 year olds. As the week went on, we picked up two more students. Three of the younger boys were pretty rambunctious, and they required constant attention. With only one other teacher (and an additional one, at times), this did not make for the perfect teaching situation. However, we did have fun, and the kids learned a lot about the Bible and how Jesus takes care of us in all that we do. But there were still times that I asked myself, Why am I here?

The Reason for VBS
VBS is the biggest and best evangelistic outreach event in the life of most churches. LifeWay’s curriculum is designed so that each day’s activities will help girls and boys learn more about God and Jesus. Through Bible stories, VBS encourages children to understand the Bible and apply those Bible truths to their lives, making God’s Word both real and meaningful. But VBS also provides many unexpected benefits.

Unexpected Benefits of VBS
The Church Becomes Unified
During VBS, lots of workers are needed, probably more than any other single event at church. Through this one event, teachers and students get to see the church functioning as the body of Christ that it was meant to be. All participants have a different job; all do their job; and in working together, the lives of children are changed.

Men Volunteer for VBS
At our church, men who are retired or work alternate shifts are eager to volunteer. This has proven to be a positive thing, especially for our school-aged boys, many of whom do not have positive male role models. Whether teaching, leading crafts, or overseeing recreation, men seem to make an impact on the lives of kids at VBS. This year, men even organized and ran our teacher’s lounge (where teachers enjoy “snack” at the same time as their kids, but in a separate location).

New Leaders Are Discovered
Adults and youth who have never held a leadership role will volunteer for VBS because it is a short-term commitment, and it allows them to work with children on a trial basis. Many excellent Sunday School teachers and leaders of other children’s ministries have been discovered through VBS.

New Prospects Are Discovered
VBS provides an outlet for meeting new children and families in your community, whether they be unchurched, looking for a new church home, or already church members elsewhere. Every year, it seems that new families are added to our church at the conclusion of VBS. However, follow-up is essential to keep these “jewels” from slipping through your fingers. People need to know they are needed and feel welcome when they return to your church for other functions.

The Ultimate VBS Benefit
You may not think your job at VBS is very important, but when all is said and done, the research numbers are staggering. We have not yet received statistics from VBS 2012, but here are the results from VBS 2011: 24,941 SBC churches reported that they conducted VBS (a 496 church and mission increase from 2010). Their enrollment of both students and workers was 2,832,379 (a 74,403 person increase from 2010). There were 79,876 professions of faith, with 2,281 decisions to pursue a vocational ministry. There were 231,213 prospects discovered and 39,390 prospects added to Sunday School programs
(a 6,092 person increase from 2010).

So, you see, VBS is not only “worth it,” it is essential to the life of a functioning, growing church and community. I, myself, came to know and serve Jesus Christ as my personal Savior as a 12-year-old at VBS, so it is extremely important to me. My prayer is that as long as there are children and summer vacations, there will be VBS and the freedom to attend. And I thank God for allowing me to do the kind of work I do and partner with Him to change the lives of children now and forever.

“Let the little children come to Me, and don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I assure you: Whoever does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:16, HCSB®)


VBS Follow-up

After a great week of VBS, most leaders are tired and exhausted and think they are done! But wait, there’s one more thing to do. You guessed it! It’s time to follow up with all the kids who came to VBS. It’s important to make contact with those who made a decision or those who were visiting and do not have a church home. In the Administrative Guide for Directors, there’s a great chapter on follow-up. Follow-up does not have to be hard or intimidating for those who don’t feel comfortable talking to people they do not know! Put someone in charge of follow-up and make sure you have an organized plan. You do not want to wait to long to put the plan into action because you do not want the kids you are ministering to to have already forgotten the great experience they had at your VBS.

Follow-up can take just an hour of your time and will make a huge impact. Have a team that makes phone calls, a team that sends letters, and a team that does doorstep visits. Don’t give any person more than three people to contact and have all the supplies they need ready for them. Give them a script if they are making phone calls, have a letter drafted if they are sending letters, and have an information packet ready if they are making visits.

Follow-up can be a fun and rewarding experience when you are able to share with a family the decision their child made at VBS. Or when you meet a new family who has no church home and you can invite them to your church. There are so many ways to follow-up. Find what works best for your church and make those contacts!

VBS 2014

VBS 2014? Yes, you read that right. This week is a big week for the VBS team here at LifeWay. It is time for us to start planning for VBS 2014. The VBS team along with guests from outside of LifeWay will start the process to determine the 2014 VBS theme. While we can’t tell you much at this point, we do ask for your prayers. We know that putting God first is the only way to begin this process. We ask for His guidance in every decision we make. We thank you for your prayers as the planning begins and we can’t wait until we get to share it all with you!

Dream On!

Some days, the most profound speech (or blog post) is found in the fewest number of words. Today is such a day –

“It isn’t a calamity to die with your dreams unfulfilled. It’s a calamity to die with no dreams.” – Harry M. Piland


Harry Piland, respectfully known as Mr. Sunday School, spoke these words to LifeWay employees during a 1991 chapel service. He directed LifeWay’s Sunday School Division from 1978 to 1994.

Get Your Way Paid to All 4 VBS Previews Update

On June 4 I announced that we are looking for a person to teach music motions and lead in the worship rally for our VBS 2013 Previews. The deadline for submitting videos was yesterday, but it appears several people just read the post in the last couple of days and have asked for an extension. Since I will be out of the office for a few days and will be unable to view videos until July 16, we have decided to extend the deadline until then – Monday, July 16.

You can read the original post for all the details. Remember, we are looking for HIGH ENERGY!!!