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.

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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.

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.

 

6 Ways to Make Transitions Meaningful

maryVBS is full of transitions. Kids are constantly moving from activity to activity. Don’t lose that time! Train your volunteers now to make sure no moment of the day goes without intentionality!
Guide leaders to use every moment that they have with kids to develop relationships and provide teachable moments, even when they are traveling from place to place. Remind teachers that this may be the only time we get to pour into a certain child, and we want to make the very best of the opportunity.
Here are 6 ways to make every transition meaningful:
  1. Ask a get-to-know-you question that every child gets to answer to help you understand them a little more.
  2. Repeat the key verse in different voices as you transition to rotation sites. Guide kids to say it in a high, squeaky voice, a low voice, in slow motion, in hyper speed, or with country twang.
  3. Sing one of the VBS songs that reinforces the concepts that have been covered during the day.
  4. Ask a question about the day for each child to answer. This can be as simple as, “Tell me something you learned today” or as complicated as a different review question for each child.
  5. Guide kids to tell you one thing they can thank God for – this might be a person, a thing, or for a characteristic that God has.
  6. Ask kids to tell you their favorite part of VBS so far as they walk to a rotation site. Use their favorite moments to reinforce what they have been learning during the day.

Six Questions Every VBS Worker Should Be Able to Answer

20140114-075705.jpgWhile we never expect there to be emergencies during VBS, the very definition of emergency is an “unexpected” situation. An important part of VBS training is emergency preparedness that insures every member of the VBS team knows how to respond and who to contact.

Before the first day of VBS make sure every member of your team knows the answers to these six questions:

1. Where is the First Aid Kit and/or nurse located?

2. What do I do in case of a fire, tornado, or other emergency?

3. What is the church’s child and worker protection policy?

4. How am I expected to handle behavioral issues?

5. Who should I notify if a child becomes unaccounted for?

6. What are the proper dismissal procedures and expectations?

Join the conversation. What additional questions should every member of the VBS team be able to answer?

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

6 Things You Need to Know About Teaching Preschoolers

thomasTeaching preschoolers is THE BEST! No, seriously. It really is! There’s something incredibly rewarding about rooting spiritual truths in the minds and hearts of young children and then watching the ways they so naturally apply them to their every day lives. If you’re gearing up to teach babies, 1s, 2s, 3s, Pre-K, or kindergartners this summer in VBS, here are 6 things you need to know about teaching preschoolers.

 

  1. If you don’t have a plan, THEY will! Preschoolers are hands-on, experiential learners. In other words, they LEARN as they DO. Every preschool (Babies–Kindergarten) leader guide is filled with ideas and activities you can use to teach preschoolers in the ways God made them to learn. Get together with the other teachers in your room before VBS, go through the leader guide, and divvy up responsibilities. This will keep any one teacher from bearing the full weight AND will help create an environment where both learning and fun can take place!

  2. Teaching begins when the first child arrives. Preschoolers need routine, boundaries, and clearly defined expectations. If they walk into a room where teachers are waiting with fun things planned for them to do the moment they walk into the room, they will be less inclined to run wild. You’ll be able to head off a lot of behavioral challenges simply by being ready to go as soon as kids are in the room.

  3. Attention spans are SHORT! A child’s attention span is roughly equal to one minute for every year of age. Be prepared for kids to tire quickly and be ready to move on to something else. The good news is that preschoolers also love repetition… so even if they move to another activity before you feel like they’re done, they’ll likely be back before too long to finish up or take another turn.  This is the reason many preschool teachers like to set up activities in “learning spots” around the room and let kids move freely from activity to activity.

  4. The teacher is “the lesson.”  As a teacher, you use a variety of tools (music, games, play, activities, even Bible stories) to teach preschoolers Bible truths. Children are ALWAYS watching and listening… even when you think they are not. They will learn more from your actions than your words. Remember that everything you do (or don’t do) and everything you say (or don’t say) is teaching something.

  5. The process is often more important than the end result. Preschoolers are still developing their motor skills and are still in the discovery phase for many things. It may be more important to them to simply enjoying the experience of cutting or coloring or painting or stacking blocks than actually “making” something. Don’t stress if a craft project ends up less than Pinterest worthy. If kids enjoyed doing it, then it was a success!

  6. YOU are their example of what God is like. As you talk with and listen to them, play alongside them, hug them, protect them, help them work through challenges, and meet their basic needs, you are demonstrating God’s love in practical, tangible ways. So pour everything you’ve got into your kids during VBS!

6 Ways to Build Relationships

maryVBS is an unbelievable opportunity for adult leaders to build discipleship relationships. There may be kids who come to VBS that you have never had in your church group before, and building relationships with those kids is of utmost importance so that they feel comfortable and want to come back and continue learning about God long after VBS.

As you train your teachers and helpers, communicate the importance of connecting with kids by giving them these 6 ways to begin building relationships:

  1. Find common interests. Ask kids what they are interested in and build a relationship around the things you have in common. Ask kids what they love about those interests, what is hardest, or what has been their biggest success.
  2. Ask kids about their family and their home life. You will be amazed how much you can learn simply by asking kids what they like to do when they are at home or what their families are like. Use these as jumping off points to develop relationships that will point kids to Jesus.
  3. Talk with them as you walk to and from rotation sites. Every moment is a teachable moment and a moment that can be used to point kids to Jesus.
  4. Make connections to the Bible content and applications to life with each activity, game, snack, and craft. Discuss with kids how the content applies to their lives specifically. Ask questions and be flexible and discerning as kids may lead the conversation somewhere you hadn’t planned to go, but that they need to hear. Asking questions instead of simply stating the connection helps kids process the application and helps you begin a discipleship relationship with them as they realize that you really care and want to help them understand.
  5. Be available. Tell kids frequently that they can talk to you and ask questions. Explain that you can answer questions to and from rotations or another time during the week. Make sure that you train helpers and teachers to always be in sight of another helper or teacher when talking one-on-one with a child. Invest in kids by going out of your way to answer questions and get to know them.
  6. Connect with their parents. Learn more about each child that you are coming in contact with during VBS by touching base with their parent. It’s always a good idea to ask what the child gets most excited about so that you have a great jumping off point the next day!

Six Things Everyone Needs to Know about Presenting the Gospel

20140114-075705.jpgI’ll admit up front that I’m terrified to share the Gospel with kids. In truth, I experience tremendous terror no matter the age of the person. It’s not that I haven’t been trained or haven’t had enough experience.

My terror comes first from – believe it or not – a real fear of one-on-one conversations with people I do not know extremely well. And then there is the fear the person will ask a question from left field that I can’t answer.

Of course I know I can not let fear stop me from doing what must be done. After all, VBS 2013 was about more than roller coasters. Remember, VBS 2013 was about “Facing fear, trusting God!”

So as you join me in facing my fear (and probably yours too) keep in mind these six things everyone needs to know about presenting the Gospel:

1. Evangelism is the responsibility of every member of the team – not just the pastor.

2. Evangelism is the heart and soul of VBS. Be alert for every opportunity.

3. The likelihood of a profession of faith declines rapidly after age 12.

4. Be sensitive and never pressure. Let the Holy Spirit do the work.

5. It is Jesus Christ who saves. It is Jesus Christ who is rejected.

6. Admit you do not have to have all the answers.

Join the conversation.  What would you add to this list?

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

 

Six Tips for Increasing Training Attendance

20140114-075705.jpgA common frustration expressed by many VBS leaders is low attendance and enthusiasm for training events. As stated yesterday, no matter when or how far in advance you schedule training there is always going to be conflicts that prevent some of your team members from attending. But instead of giving up and deciding not to provide training opportunities, consider these six tips:

1. Provide Food. Besides the reality that we church people assume food is an essential part of every meeting, lack of food – especially for evening sessions – can be a deterrent to attendance. A lite dinner that just happens to be theme related can be a fun way to begin a training session. A meal is also a great benefit for the after work crowd. In addition to suggestions found in LifeWay’s VBS 2014 Snack Rotation Recipe Cards, did you know the VBS 2014 Adult Starter Kit has themed snack and meal suggestions perfect for adults attending a training event.

2. Provide Childcare. If we expect parents of young children to volunteer it is important to consider ways childcare (and meals) can be provided for training and room setup.

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3. Create Energy & Excitement. Your team members will be just as energetic and excited about VBS and training as you are. You set the pace and create the atmosphere, and it all begins with the way you promote and generate excitement for enlistment and training.

4. Make It Meaningful. Simply said, “if you are expecting me to give up another evening or Saturday morning away from home it better be worth my time.” Plan the agenda to insure the content has depth and meaning that is relevant and inspiring to even the longest tenured VBS worker.

5. Honor the Time.There is an Italian phrase that says it beautifully – “il tempo è denaro”  (time is money)! In other words, start on time, end on time, and stay true to the purpose of the session.

6. Award Prizes.  A friend in Georgia says there are three actions required to insure a good training session: “Make them laugh. Make them cry. Give them a door prize.” Prizes that can be used to decorate a VBS classroom or to wear as a themed costume are especially appreciated.

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

Six Ways to Provide VBS Training

20140114-075705.jpgAs stated yesterday, April Is for Training! LifeWay’s VBS team is celebrating (I’m not sure celebrating is the correct word here but I can’t think of anything more appropriate) this month of training by posting daily tips and ideas for your personal training as well as to use as you train others. Actually, now that I think about it, celebrating is the appropriate word!

Enough with the preliminaries. Check out these six ways training can be provided for your VBS team:

1. State and Associational Training Events. The first and easiest way to provide training is to let someone else do it for you. In Southern Baptist life most churches are related in some fashion to both a local and state-wide association of churches. Every state association or convention provides VBS training each year as well as many local associations. Typically these events provide age-specific training using LifeWay’s VBS resources. While most state training events were conducted in February and March, most of the local association events will be held in April and May. Contact your local association of Southern Baptists to discover a training event near you.

2. Bible Content and Theme Overview. Whether you take your team to an associational training event or not, you still need to provide an opportunity for everyone in the church to understand the Bible content and theme. While this is essential training for your team, the entire congregation needs to be exposed to this information as well. By doing so you help the congregation understand why VBS is such an important evangelistic opportunity. You can find suggestions for Bible content and theme training on pages 32 and 33 of the VBS 2014 Administrative Guide for Directors.

3. Assignment-specific Planning. The majority of VBS workers do not spend time with kids on a daily or weekly basis. Even though they may not be trained teachers they willingly journey out of their comfort zone for one week each year. An assignment that seems extremely simple to you can be overwhelming to a VBS volunteer. One or two hours of training and planning not only reduces anxiety but can make a tremendous difference in the quality of your VBS. Training plans for each age group are located on pages 34 through 40 of the VBS 2014 Administrative Guide for Directors.

4. Evangelism Boot Camp. If you think being responsible for crafts creates anxiety for an inexperienced worker, ask your team how they truly feel about the prospects of sharing the Gospel. While VBS is the most evangelistic outreach conducted by many churches, it is conducted by people who are often terrified by the reality of sharing the Gospel. Evangelism training is an essential part of VBS preparation. Priority needs to be given to helping every member of the team – even the snack lady – become familiar with and comfortable using the ABC Memory Card (005557456) or ABCs of Becoming a Christian Tract (005125105). Guidance for sharing the Gospel is also found on the inside cover of each of LifeWay’s VBS leader guides.

A good resources for stepping evangelism training up a notch is LifeWay’s Leading a Child to Christ Training Pack (005125104). Leading a Child to Christ provides a step-by-step method of sharing Jesus with kids.

5.  Online Articles & Videos. No matter how far in advance you schedule your training opportunities it is typically impossible for every member of the team to attend. Scheduling conflicts happen, but that doesn’t mean training can not be provided. With online possibilities your team members can receive training at the neighborhood coffee shop or in their favorite recliners. In addition to LifeWay’s VBS and Kids Ministry 101 blogs, check out hundreds of video training sessions at LifeWay’s Ministry Grid.

6. Team Handbook. No matter how many training sessions you offer there is still room for a facts sheet or handbook that spells out the details. I’m not sure a handbook is considered training but it will go a long way towards curbing anxiety. Over the years I have seen everything from a one-page sheet covering all of the dos and dont’s to a handbook roughly the size of War and Peace. While something that extensive is most likely counterproductive, a facts sheet is essential.

 

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