It’s Time to Report Your VBS

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VBS 2014 reports have been arriving in my office by the thousands. If quantity of mail is any indication I must have the most popular address on the 7th floor. Of course the envelopes are actually addressed to the VBS Report Desk – which you might find humorous to learn is nothing more than a FAX machine sitting on a small metal foot stool in a corner of my office. So actually it is the Report Desk that holds title to the most popular address.

If you have not already done so, it is time to file your report as well. Here are a few reasons why reporting your VBS is valuable to both your church and to LifeWay.

1. Filling out the report forces you and your VBS ministry leaders to take time to evaluate your goals, actions, and results. Were your goals realistic and achievable?

2.  Reporting VBS 2014 creates a bench mark for setting goals for next year and future years.

3. Creating a year-to-year record reveals the long-term health of your VBS ministry. Are the numbers increasing or decreasing? Are your efforts resulting in professions of faith and other decisions?

4. Your VBS report is a vital element of your continued connection (follow up) process. It helps you clearly identify the number of unchurched families who participated in VBS and who need to be connected to ongoing ministries such as Sunday School.

5. Your VBS report becomes a tangible part of your ministry’s story that should be shared and celebrated.

6. Your VBS report and evaluation helps the LifeWay VBS team create future resources and training opportunities. Your report helps us measure the evangelistic health and effectiveness of our ministry and curriculum offerings.

To report your VBS you can fill out the Director’s Evaluation found in the Administrative Guide and mail it in. Or you can submit it electronically here.

From the Archives: Telling Your Church About VBS Part 1

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VBS 2014 may be behind you, but it’s never too early to begin spreading the word about VBS 2015.

As LifeWay’s VBS team celebrates 90 years of providing trustworthy curriculum and training, I have been searching the archives for wisdom and tips that are as relevant today as when first published. Here are six ways to insure every member of your congregation is aware, energized, and on the team for VBS 2015.

1. Display photos from VBS 2014 to remind everyone of the fun and life-changing impact of VBS.

2. Make bulletin and newsletter announcements exciting and creative. Build expectation!

3. Conduct a Worker Enlistment Sunday complete with banners, displays, buttons, and prizes.

4. Give every volunteer an “I’m On the Team!” button, and ask that it be worn for three or four weeks before VBS.

5. Create eye-catching displays throughout the building.

6. Enlist volunteers to give VBS testimonies in every Sunday School class.

Celebrating 90: LifeWay Christian Resources began publishing VBS resources in 1925 under the leadership of Drs. Marion Frost and Homer Grice.

VBS 2014 Director’s Evaluation

I_Heart_VBSYou’ve finished your week of VBS, the decorations are down and stored, the rooms have been cleaned… it’s time to breathe a sigh of relief, right? Well, not exactly. There’s one more tiny little thing we would like to ask you to do. I promise it won’t take that long and the information you share is invaluable to our team at LifeWay.

We would like you to fill out the Director’s Evaluation found in the Administrative Guide and mail it in. Or if you would rather you can click here and submit it electronically.

You may be wondering what we do with the information we receive and why it is important that we hear from you. Here are just a few of the reasons we think it is important to hear from you:

1. We don’t want to change what’s working. If we don’t hear from you that you like something, we may assume incorrectly that it is not of value.

2. We do want to change what’s not working. Again we won’t know it’s not working if we don’t hear from you.

3. We want to make VBS easy for you. Some of our best suggestions have come from you, our customers.

4. We want to serve you in your mission of reaching the kids in your church and community for Christ.

Every year, I personally read each and every evaluation that is submitted. I forward all the data gathered on to the VBS team and management. If there is a suggestion that we are able to implement, we try to get it in for the following year depending on where we are in our production schedule. We truly value hearing from you, so please take a moment to share your VBS experience with us.

How Are You Connecting with Parents?

wooley1 2013Church leaders attending VBS Previews in January and February were challenged to make Connection Groups part of their VBS planning. A Connection Group is a Sunday School/small group class designed specifically for the unchurched parents identified during VBS, and scheduled to begin the first Sunday after VBS.

I have heard some great stories from churches who took the challenge. Now weeks after VBS these churches continue to connect with parents and families who might have otherwise been forgotten.

My favorite story so far is from a VBS leader who reported their Connection Group now has eight people attending. She said when challenged at Preview to create a Connection Group she just couldn’t make the commitment because she was concerned that her church would not support the idea. She said her trip back home was consumed with guilt from not making a commitment, yet the conviction that intentionally reaching parents was the right thing to do.

Once home, this leader made the decision to meet with her pastor and present the challenge and opportunity. She was overjoyed that he realized the potential and gave her the green light to enlist leadership for the group. However, her joy began to diminish  as her attempts to find leadership produced no results. She said she finally gave up and concluded that the creation of a Connection Group was not going to happen.

Two weeks before VBS she was invited to attend a Sunday School workers meeting to share VBS plans and needs. While planning to share craft supply and snack needs she had no intention of talking about the Connection Group. She felt it was too late and that obvious it wasn’t meant to be. During her presentation she sensed God telling her to lay out the challenge to intentionally connect with the parents of unchurched kids attending VBS. She shared the idea of creating a Connection Group and her attempts at finding leadership.

At the conclusion of her presentation a teacher of an adult class said someone else could teach his class and he would accept the challenge to start the Connection Group the first Sunday after VBS.

At first only a couple of parents attended, but four weeks later attendance has increased to eight!

I love this story because the leader didn’t give up. She remained faithful to the challenge of connecting with unchurched families, and she was sensitive to God’s leading and timing.

How about you? What are you doing to intentionally connect with the unchurched families discovered during VBS?

Jerry Wooley has served as LifeWay’s vbsguy since 2006. He would love to hear the stories of your Connection Groups.

VBS – Not Just for Kids!

VanCleave - new (1) LifeWay’s VBS provides resources for ALL ages. This year our church had a great experience tapping into this great family resource.

Adult VBS – For the five “night” services (two Sunday nights and three Wednesday nights) prior to kids VBS, we had adult VBS! This helped give all of our leaders a great biblical foundation as they prepared to teach.

Youth VBS – Our youth leaders used the Student VBS during a Friday night lock-in prior to the start of our kids VBS. The youth had a blast while they discovered the biblical truths that were part of this year’s study. Our youth help with VBS, so this also was a time to prepare them for their roles during VBS.

Kids and Preschool VBS – Our VBS runs Sunday through Thursday nights with a family celebration on Friday night. The adult and youth helped and, with so many involved, our attendance was great. We packed the house on Family Night.

Through the years we have used Student VBS for retreats, one-day-a-week Bible studies, or during traditional VBS times. We had used adult VBS as a Bible study during VBS for parents who bring their kids to VBS or for senior adults.

The resource offers so many possibilities. What are some ways you have used VBS for different age groups? We’d love to hear from you!!

5 Ways to Stay Connected with Preschool Families from VBS

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Connecting with new families is one of the main reasons for conducting Vacation Bible School in your community.  If it’s not, you might need to take a closer look at why you’re doing it!  And because we most often target elementary aged kids with VBS, you might be overlooking an important group that needs your connection – families with preschoolers.  Here are five ways to consider how you can reach those families and keep them connected to your church.

  1. Pair up the child’s future Small Group or Sunday School teacher with the VBS leader when making a follow-up visit to a preschooler’s home.  The child has bonded with the VBS teacher during the week, and chances are, so has the parent! That transition on Sunday morning should go a lot more smoothly once they’ve met.
  2. Enlist parents with similarly aged kids to connect with a specific preschool family. Give a gift card to help pay for a quick meal at a local kid-friendly restaurant to encourage them to make a play date.
  3. Offer classes on parenting, finances, marriage and other family issues that would benefit preschool parents.  Now that they know you’ll take great care of their children, and made new friends of their own, they’ll be more likely to attend.
  4. Make sure they know you have other activities! Put together a calendar of future events and classes—include your Sunday morning services—and invite them to come.  The number one reason people attend is because they were invited!
  5. Promise to meet them at the front door on their first Sunday morning. Show them where their children’s classes are, take them to your small group, and sit with them during worship! Everything is easier when you do it with a friend!

My prayer is that these will just get you started. Keep that connection going all year long. Love on these parents and their children.  Let them know that your church cares, not just the week of VBS, but the other 51 weeks as well.

Let us know how your church connects! Blessings, friends!

Shining in Your Sweet Spot

VanCleave - new (1)A couple of years ago we had one of “those” VBS weeks. Unexpected illnesses and surgeries and countless other things derailed our VBS plans. Thankfully people rallied and jumped in to do things outside of their norm. We “accidentally” discovered something great. We found a lot of people’s VBS sweet spot. One lady who “always” teaches jumped in to run the kitchen (we do a full meal each night of VBS). She doesn’t want to do this particular job all the time, but for one week she loves it!

Leaders who teach preteens throughout the year have a blast with kindergartners during VBS. Many couples have found that they enjoy being a team during VBS. Each year since that “accidental” year, we have discovered one or more people who have found their VBS sweet spot in an unexpected role.

The bonus of all this is that we are almost fully staffed for next year because people want to keep “their” jobs. And, a couple of people who did not see themselves as “good with kids,” now have a regular role in our kids ministry.

While this year is fresh in your mind, make of note of people who seemed to really enjoy what they did and enlist them now! Then, as you look to fill the rest of your slots for next year, give people a chance to try something different. The results can be … well, SWEET!

Agency D3 Missions Update

BlogDDDWe hope your kids enjoyed learning about Liam and his family and Mary and Abraham during their time in the Map Room at VBS. You can learn more about what Liam has been up to by clicking here.  And if you want to hear more about the work at Connexxion click here for an update.

During the week of VBS we challenged kids to go out and complete their own “Special Assignment” as part of their Missions experience. We would love to hear about any reports you received from your special agents (kids) during the week. Share your updates with us in the comments below.

Recycling Ideas that Increase the Value of Your VBS Resources

20140114-075705.jpgAs a recovering pack rat who once had the task of cleaning out an accumulation of 85 years from a church resource room, I have come up with six ways of recycling and organizing selected VBS resources for later use. By doing so you will not only appease your pack rat tendencies, but become a better steward by increasing the value of the resources that truly are too good to throw away.

1. Find a church or organization that can put the resources to good use. Based on the size of your VBS you might be able to supply multiple churches with everything they need to conduct VBS. When donating resources, I have learned from experience, it is best to establish a specific date and time for the resources to be picked up.

2. Create files for the Recreation and Snack Rotation Cards. VBS games and snacks never go out of style and are a great resource when planning other activities. You may not wish to call your next party Outrigger Island but the games and snacks for that VBS are perfect for a luau or pool party. (You might want to check out LifeWay’s I Heart VBS Card Box – 005466928.)

3. Create a learning activities file by clipping or scanning the Bible study activities kids enjoyed most from Leader Guides. Your activities files will become a great idea generator for future Bible studies and events.

4. Use VBS songs throughout the year. I often meet young adults who can still sing VBS songs from their childhood. The songs have great meaning that live beyond the five days of VBS.

5. Incorporate unused materials such as additional mission rotation and Bible study activities into other ministry events such as Wednesday nights.

6. Use resources for Backyard Kids Club or mission trips. Your workers have already been trained and have experience using the resources. Utilize this experience by taking VBS on the road and using the additional resources for Backyard Kids Clubs and mission trips

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

Evaluating After is as Important as Planning Before

20140114-075705.jpgWe all know how important planning is to the success of VBS. But why take the time to evaluate after it is over? After all, what is done is done! 

I once had a boss who was so convinced of the value of evaluation he held evaluation sessions to evaluate the evaluation sessions. While this may seem extreme, what he taught by example is that we can never stop learning or improving, AND the only way to truly learn and improve is to evaluate the previous event before planning the next one.
Here are six aspects of evaluation I learned from my boss.
1. Evaluate as soon after the event as possible.
2. Evaluate with your entire team, with just your leadership team, and finally by yourself.
3. Insist that every critical statement be followed by a positive statement. Otherwise your goal of constructive evaluation can disintegrate into a grip session.
4. Take great notes, capturing every statement and suggestion. What seems like a ridiculous opinion at first may turn out to be the best takeaway of the entire process.
5. Don’t take negatives personally. You will never grow and improve personally, and your team will stop giving feedback, if you take offense at negative evaluations.
6. Review evaluation notes regularly as you plan the next event.
Jerry Wooley, @vbsguy, serves you as LifeWay’s VBS Ministry Specialist and event planner .