Random Tip 1413: Advertise! Advertise! Advertise!

20140114-075705.jpgWith the first day of VBS just around the corner (for some of you the corner is a mere 75 days away) it is time to advertise, advertise, advertise! In other words, it is time to let the community know what you are up to.

In VBS terminology we usually refer to advertising as promotion, so here are six tips to keep in mind as you make plans to promote VBS 2014.

1. Start early. Promotion needs to be planned and put into action at least thee months in advance so for most of us that means NOW!

2. Put someone in charge. Do not leave promotion to chance or assume you personally will have time to put a plan together. Promotion is too important not to have someone responsible for it.

3. Know your target audience. Who are you specifically trying to reach? I know you say everyone, and while true, effective VBS promotion means choosing a target audience and putting all your efforts towards promoting to that audience in a way that grabs their attention.

4. Use a variety of techniques or methods. A banner is great but most people who drive by will never see it. Postcards are awesome but become one of many pieces of mail a family receives each week. Posters in store windows are fantastic providing everyone who walks by is not distracted by something else at the time. Effective VBS promotion requires all of these methods and more. No one method is so good it can stand on its own.

5. Be creative. The purpose of promotion is to attract and hold attention which means your information has to be presented in a way that is more creative than the next guy – and I’m not just talking about the Bible school at the next church down the street. Your VBS message is competing with every other message in town whether it be the little league car wash or the daily special at McDonald’s.

6. Make quality a priority. First impressions do make a difference and your promotion will be a powerful reflection of the quality of your event.

 

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

Freebie Friday

Who’s ready for a giveaway??? Last week we asked you to tell us the special skills your watch would have if you were a real special agent. Your answers did not disappoint! From seeing through walls to teleporting (to get all that VBS Director work done!) to a Scripture app to a Needometer that would allow a director to know what people need, there were a ton of fun answers! Our randomly selected winner said she would record clues with her special agent watch!

This week is another great giveaway… how would you like your very own VBS 2014 Inflatable Camera?!? (Cute kid not included.)

camera

All you need to do to enter is log in below and submit your answer to this week’s question: “What do you do with pictures taken during VBS?” Do you create any kind of keepsake for kids? Class pictures? Scrapbooks? We want to hear your great ideas!

A winner will be chosen at random from all of the submissions. You have until Thursday at 24:00 hours to enter. Good luck, agents!

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Random Tip 1412: Make Relationships a Priority

20140114-075705.jpgA few weeks ago I shared that years ago Vacation Bible Schools were conducted for four weeks, then shortened to two, then one, and now we are beginning to hear of more churches scheduling three day schools.  In the previous post I wrote that as we shorten the number of days and hours it becomes even more important to connect everything – including snacks – to the daily Scripture and Biblical theme. As we decrease time we must increase the intentionality of everything we do from promotion to continuing the connections after VBS. This goes for being intentional about relationships as well.

One of the reasons VBS has continued to result in a high number of professions of faith is the concentrated time spent over multiple days getting to know the kids and the kids getting to know the leaders. As relationships grow so does the trust factor that allows kids to embrace the Gospel.

This is why we traditionally reserve the Gospel presentation and opportunity for response to the third or fourth sessions.  Although we may clearly present the Gospel during the first session (as we do in the Agency D3 resources) we typically wait until relationships have been established before presenting the opportunity to respond. We want to give time for the trust factor – both in the Gospel message and with the leaders presenting it – to develop.

As we decrease the days of VBS we also decrease the opportunity for relationships to grow. When you add this to a rotation process that often places kids with a different leader ever 30 minutes relationships become even more difficult. There is already some (inconclusive) evidence that Bible schools of three days or less result in fewer professions of faith then schools of five days or more.

So how do we meet this challenge? By making relationships a priority! From the moment families arrive at the registration table until they are back in their cars for the ride home we must concentrate on getting beyond the basic acknowledgement of their existence to truly establishing a relationship. Actually we must make relationships a priority far beyond the VBS experience but that is a topic for another blog.

This means the registration lady’s job is to do more then get ink on paper and fill in every blank. Her first priority is to try (as best as time allows) to get the know both the kids and their parents. The snack team has to do more than pour lemonade and pass out cookies. They must also interact with the kids and try to get to know them.

This also means your church may need to enlist more volunteers with the primary assignment of getting to know the kids and their parents. The fewer days you conduct Bible school the lower the kids to worker ratio needs to be. This may mean creating smaller classes or it may mean enlisting more adults to travel with kids to each rotation and actually interacting with them during the rotation.

If VBS is the biggest evangelistic outreach of your church year you can’t afford to sabotage the possibilities by decreasing the opportunities to build and grow relationships.

Random Tip 1411 – Create a Recycling Center

20140114-075705.jpg Now that VBS is over, (possibly in your dreams if not in reality) what do we do with all the stuff?

The first temptation and the quickest answer is, “throw it away!” The second answer is, “pile it in the resource room and someone else can take care of it.”

Instead of letting VBS leaders trash everything (curriculum, decorations, extras supplies) or pile it haphazardly in the resource room, a simple solution is to create a recycling center.  This makes clean up a breeze and takes the guess work out of what is trash and what is good stuff.

The best place is a hall or spare room near the resource room or storage area. You want to leave the resource room as free of clutter as possible plus you want space to be able to sort and group supplies before storing.  Much like you separate paper, glass, and plastic for home recycling, create four areas (piles, boxes, tables, etc.) with the following clearly marked labels: Supplies, Share, Questionable, and Trash.

If needed add a description such as the following to each label:

Supplies – Unused and reusable resources such as markers and paper.

Share – Decorations and curriculum to share with other churches.

Questionable – Anything you are not sure about.

Trash – Hopefully no definition needed here.

Make sure to include recycling instructions as part of worker training. If workers know what is expected ahead of time cleanup becomes easier for both you and them.

 

The Heart of VBS—Evangelism

carol_editedBack in 1996  the VBS team felt God leading them to revisit the format and principles of “doing” VBS. In 1997 the new VBS was rolled out with The Wild and Wonderful Good News Stampede. Many of you could probably sing the theme song and have fond of memories of attending or leading VBS that year, but you may not have been aware that one of the driving principles of VBS was and is evangelism.

VBS is meant to be more than just a fun event for your church kids, more than just a summer diversion from the norm, more than just another program to check off the list. At the heart of VBS is evangelism. It’s that one chance you may have at getting those who might not otherwise step foot in a church to have an encounter with the Lord.

Recently at our Preview events Kelli McAnnly led a session outlining why we do VBS and strategies for embracing the true heart of VBS—reaching people of all ages, leading them to know and respond to Jesus Christ as led by the Holy Spirit. Kelli was gracious enough to allow me to share how she used the acrostic AGENCY D3 to help conferees be intentional about evangelism.

A–aware

  • Be aware of those around us that do not have a personal relationship with Christ.
  • View those in our churches and community who are hurting, lost, sad, and in need of Christ through His perspective and become aware of their lost souls.

G-give

  • Offer VBS as a reason to intentionally invite lost people to your church
  • Give people a bridge to the spiritual orphans in your community.
  • Give people an opportunity to clearly present the gospel
  • Give people an opportunity to respond to Christ in a public way.

E-enable

  • Enable your church to work together towards the Great Commission.
  • Enable VBS directors, leaders, parents, and staff to share the love of Christ with kids and their families.

N-navigate

  • Being evangelistic navigates an entry point for unchurched people.
  • Attract people to your church with programs like VBS for their kids. Then you can help them navigate the gospel and how it connects to their lives.
  • Remember the gospel makes VBS relevant. Without the gospel, it is just fun and games.

C-connect

  • Connect with families. The initial follow-up contact should be the discovery of the family network.
  • Pass information discovered on to the follow-up team and to age group classes.
  • Invite each member of the family to the appropriate Bible study class and other ministry opportunities.
  • Plan to have multiple contacts with the family over the following months.

Y-yield

  • Yield and surrender your heart to God’s plan
  • Use bold, creative strategies to teach people about Christ.

D3

  • Display—display the gospel. Be people who are evangelistic.
  • Demonstrate—demonstrate a life that follows Christ. Do things that bring Him glory.
  • Declare—declare the gospel. Tell people about Christ.

There are an estimated 313 million people living in the US. 98 million of those have accepted Jesus as their Savior. 43% of those accepted Jesus before reaching the age of 13. According to George Barna, evangelism is most effective among kids. Where is your heart?

Was Jesus Really God’s Son?

maryThis summer at VBS, we will work through some very difficult questions… questions that can make or break a person’s faith…questions that can build a solid foundation for giving a defense for what you believe. It may scare you to death to introduce these questions to your VBS goers, but these concepts are absolutely pivotal to kids developing a faith of their own that they will carry on with them throughout their lives.

5 Reasons Your Kids Need To Answer Hard Questions:
1. Your kids may not be asking you these questions, but they are hearing them from their friends or maybe thinking about them in their minds. We all have probably had a time when we had to wrestle through these questions ourselves. Is God real? Was Jesus who He said He was? Did Jesus really raise from the dead? Give kids the Truth to hold on to when they are faced with doubt or questions from others.
This will require kids to decide for themselves what they believe and how to defend it when they are asked.

2. You want to be the one to introduce and address these questions before they hear them from people who don’t believe in Jesus. There are lots of versions of “truth” out there. Give kids the defense they need for their faith proactively to help them build correct filters for determining what is True.

3. These questions are an amazing way to convey truth to unchurched kids. These kids will get a clear picture of who Jesus is and what the Bible says about Him through the content at VBS this year. The questions that we will seek to answer this year are a strong evangelical tool for introducing Jesus to kids who have never heard about Him.

4. There is no time like to today to build relationships with kids. Use this content to help kids know that they can ask hard questions and get answers from people who love them at church. Encourage kids to talk about the questions they have now, so that as they get older they will feel comfortable seeking truth from adults who follow Jesus.

5. This content will challenge you with how you talk to others about Jesus. As a teacher, you will be challenged to face the hard questions that the world is asking of Christians and give an answer for your faith. This content is a review of what you know to be true and a challenge to truly participate in the Great Commission in your job, networks, and friendships.

What do you see as the greatest benefit of answering the hard questions that the world has about Jesus this summer? What excites you about this?

Random Tip 1410 – Connect Everything – Even Snacks – to Scripture

20140114-075705.jpgDid you know that once upon a time churches conducted VBS for four weeks? Hard to imagine isn’t it?

Even more recently the typical VBS was 10 days. While I do not personally remember attending a 10-day school I know many people who did.

A four week or 10-day school provided the luxury of time we no longer enjoy. Can you imagine what Bible truths you could teach if you had 60 hours? Or even 30?

Like far too much of life, VBS is often described as a rush. A VBS leader recently lamented, “We rush kids to worship rally so we can rush them to Bible study. Then we rush them to crafts so we can rush them home.”

Today, at best, we have 15 hours to do all the things that make VBS not only educational but fun and entertaining. (An evening Bible school typically included only 10 hours.) With this limited amount of time we have to make sure every minute counts and every activity is connected to the Biblical emphasis for the day.

I recently shared during a training session that even snack time needs to be used to reinforce the Biblical truth for the day. One leader replied that her church does not use the snacks suggested by LifeWay so they do not try to connect the snack to the Bible story. I reminder her that it is not the snack that is important but what is done with the time while the snack is being served and eaten.

As many of you know, my all-time favorite VBS snack is fruit punch and butter cookies (the kind shaped like a flower with a hole in the middle). Nothing fancy or even theme related about this snack, but the time allotted for the snack is still a perfect time for a review of the lesson, the sharing of life application points, or work on Scripture memorization.

I often hear that recreation leaders want to choose their own activities instead of using the games that connect to the theme and Biblical truth. Again, no problem as long as rec leaders connect their games to the daily theme.

Too often we enlist workers without stressing that every thing that happens during VBS – from the moment the kids arrives until they return home – must be connected to the Biblical content for the week and each day. Failing to insure that crafts, recreation, snacks and music connect to Scripture is a lost opportunity that will never be retrieved.

Back when VBS leaders needed to fill 60 hours it might have been fine to play a game or sing a song that was not relevant to the content, but not when we only have 10 to 15 hours. Help your workers see the value of every minute and the lost opportunity of not connecting everything – even snacks – to Scripture.

Agency D3 for Preschoolers & Kindergartners

thomasFoundational Bible teaching is always the goal with LifeWay’s preschool VBS, and this year is no exception. Agency D3’s Bible content sets up a firm foundation for preschoolers and kindergartners to build upon for the rest of their lives. As you teach them who Jesus is and what He did, kids will learn the basics about why we want to love and follow Jesus.

Every single day of VBS, kids will discover that Jesus is who He says He is (God’s Son) through an example from His life. Day 1 uses the story of Jesus’ baptism to show kids that God, in dramatic fashion, declared audibly to everyone present that Jesus is His Son. John told people the same thing everywhere He went for the rest of his life! On Day 2 kids will discover that Jesus is unlike anyone else who ever lived. He is God’s Son so He can do things no one else can do! On Days 3-4 preschoolers will hear how much Jesus loves people as they hear about His death & resurrection. (Younger Preschoolers will use the Bible stories of Jesus’ last supper with His helpers and His post-resurrection meeting with two men on the road to Emmaus.) On Day 5 kids will learn that they can tell others the things they know about Jesus, just like Peter did in the Bible.

In other words, the entire week for preschoolers answers one singular question: Who Is Jesus? This is the perfect Bible content for preschoolers coming to VBS who may have never even heard of God, much less of His Son. It’s all about Jesus… and that’s a great reason to be excited about Agency D3!

Random Tip 1409 – Use Grades 3 & 4 for Broadly Graded

wooley1 2013One of the most exciting characteristics of VBS is that it is a ministry that every church can make uniquely their own. LifeWay provides a wide variety of resources tailored for specific age groups from babies to adults, but we know that every church has unique needs and limitations that often requires adapting the resources to fit.

Broadly graded (either having all 1st through 6th graders in one class or having the same teacher rotate to different age groups) is a great example of a church needing to adapt the resources to fit the need.

When faced with the need to adapt LifeWay’s VBS Bible study resources, consider using the resources designed for Grades 3 & 4. Since the age-appropriate learning activities are designed for the middle group, they will be easier to adapt up or down to fit all kids in grades 1- 6.

Random Tip 1408 – Make Worship Rally a Time for Parents

wooley1 2013For most churches worship rally is the first – or sometimes the last – thing that happens in the VBS day. It is a perfect time to invite parents to participate and see their kids having fun at church.

Parents sit for entire days on hard bleachers under broiling sun, endure endless hours of music and dance recitals, and thrill at seeing their son or daughter dressed as a tomato in the school play. Why? Because they want to be supportive and involved!

Yet when it comes to VBS at times we actually discourage parents from involvement. Once the kid has been dropped off at the curb we often have little use for the parent until it is time to once again return to the curb for the trip home.

Worship Rally is a great opportunity for parents to be supportive while experiencing just a little VBS for themselves. Parents can be invited to sit and participate in music motions with their kids, or a place can be reserved just for them where they can observe without straying far from their comfort zones.

Worship Rally becomes a friendly, non-threatening, place for parents to get to know church members and leaders. It is also a great way for unchurched parents to become acquainted with each other and leaders of ministry they might be attracted to.

Encouraging parents to participate in Worship Rally also sends the message that your church is interested in the entire family and not just the kids.

If Worship Rally is at the beginning of the day, you might even plan a short debriefing time for parents once the kids rotate out to Bible study and other activities.