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.

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.

From Derailed to Teachable Moment

carol_editedWe’ve all had them, those moments when some little something derails our whole lesson. We’ve prepared, recited in our minds how things are going to go, imagined how we’ll see the “lightbulbs come on” when the kids get it, then Wham one kid derails the whole shebang. This happened to me recently. I actually even anticipated that the picture of Baby Jesus that  looked like a picture of Charlie Brown could cause problems. I decided to head things off at the pass and find a more realistic picture of Baby Jesus to use. Armed with my picture and lesson, I set off to church feeling quite confident that the lesson I had envisioned would come to fruition. Only one little problem, I had forgotten that the Charlie Brown picture would show up again later in the lesson. And as predicted, when the pictures were handed out for the last activity, my one rambunctious child immediately yelled, “Hey, it’s Charlie Brown!”

Then a discussion ensued as to whether or not Charlie Brown had hair because the baby in this picture had a little hair. And in God’s infinite wisdom, He saw fit to send one little girl to the library before coming to church. Guess what book she checked out. Yep, it was a Snoopy book. Yes, she did indeed bring it to class instead of leaving it in the car, so she could show an actual picture of Charlie Brown and put the matter to rest. He does indeed have a little swirl of hair. So what to do now that all the kids were labeling their pictures “Charlie Brown” instead of “Baby Jesus?”

We tried reminding the kids that this was just supposed to be a picture to help them remember that Baby Jesus was special even though He looked and acted like all the other babies. We told the kids that Jesus was better than Charlie Brown ever could be. We asked if Charlie Brown would die on the cross for us. Now some kids reasoned that he might die on a cross for us. At this point we reminded the kids that even if he did, it would never be enough. Only the sacrifice of a sinless person, only Jesus would ever be enough. And then they began to focus less on Charlie Brown and more on the true meaning of how special Jesus is and how we need Him to be our Savior.

So in that moment when your lesson is derailed, do not fear, do not feel defeated, this may just be the teachable moment God has planned.

Tips for Moving from Derailed to Teachable Moment

1. Anticipate and plan for things that could derail your lesson. It can be something as small as the artwork you use, but know that kids will pick up on the small things.

2. Turn the moments around by asking questions and guiding discussion. Lead the kids back to the biblical truth that you are trying to drive home.

3. Take a “time out.” Stop for a moment, take a deep breath, regroup, and start again. The more flustered you get about the situation, the more kids will want to continue the distraction.

4. Remember that this may not have been in your plan, but it very well could have been in God’s plan.

Share with us your tips that get you moving from a derailed moment to a teachable one in the comments.

Random Tip 1406 – Create a Plan Before the Emergency

20140105-190812.jpg You may have noticed my photo looks a little different today. That is because I am FROZEN!!!

In case you are not aware, Nashville experienced a temperature drop of 50 degrees in 12 hours. While this might not be an unusual experience for you, it definitely was for this boy from Houston, Texas! To be honest I had no idea how to prepare my house, car or mind. I’m sure I am giving you Northerners a good laugh with my lack of preparedness.

In Houston the threat of a hurricane was real, but could typically be managed with a stock of supplies, a generator, and an emergency evacuation plan. I was prepared. I still have a hurricane supply box in the garage even though the threat of a tidal wave is not likely in Nashville.

What does all of this talk of weather have to do with Bible School? Glad you asked. Just like unexpected weather situations, a week of VBS is an emergency just waiting to happen. You may not experience tidal waves or plunging temperatures, but extreme heat or a sudden down pour can scrambled even the best orchestrated plans.

Make emergency planning part of your VBS planning and training. Know in advance what you will do if rain makes it impossible to have recreation on the front lawn, a fire alarm sends everyone running, or an injury requires immediate medical attention. What will you do if the air conditioner chooses the week of VBS to take a vacation, or a worker becomes ill and is unable to finish the week.

Another potential emergency lets us end on a brighter note – more kids than expected. I once had 60 teenagers show up on the first day for Youth VBS when we only expected 10. Talk about an emergency!

The definition of emergency is an unexpected situation that becomes top priority and requires immediate attention. With a plan in place emergencies become expected and manageable.

Something I always thought a little funny – the years we enlisted a nurse as a member of the VBS team her skills were never needed. The years we didn’t have a nurse we needed one every day.

Unpacking the New VBS 2014 Starter Kits

VanCleave - new (1)

They are here! We are so excited about the new Kids Starter Kit (for Grades 1-6) and the new Preschool Starter Kit (Babies through Kindergarten). We’ve listened to your comments that you want “everything you need to get started” in one box, so here it is.

Starter Boxes

Special packaging created just for the Starter Kits makes the VBS Director’s job super easy. Let’s unpack those kits and take a look.

Preschool Box open

Inside the Preschool Starter Kit, the three age group resources have been carefully packed together and labeled for your “Amazing” Babies to 2s teaching team, your “Fantastic” 3s-PreK teaching team, and your “Incredible” Kindergarten teaching team. As your teams meet, the label also explains what additional resources will be needed based on the number of classes, teachers, and preschoolers you will have. The 3s-Kindergarten Rotation Pack is included for easy distribution to your preschool rotation leaders. A sample set of craft packs and a “mystery” bag of fun items for preschoolers is also included.

Preschool Mystery

Ok, ok … I’ll tell you what’s in the mystery bag. =) A sample picture frame, samples of the sticky foam shapes, one sheet of the new Agency D3 Stickers, a set of the Daily Mission Insignias (for ages over 3), and a fun pair of the Special Agent Rearview Glasses!

Kids box open

Now, let’s take a peak in the Kids Starter Kit. The three Bible study age group resources have also been carefully packed together and labeled for your “Marvelous” Grades 1-2 teaching team, your “Fabulous” Grades 3-4 teaching team, and your “Phenomenal” VBX teaching team. Once again, as the teams meet, the labels will help them know how many additional leader guides, leader packs, and Kids Evidence Kits they might need. Individual rotation leader guides for Missions, Music, and Crafts are included plus Recreation Rotation Leader Cards and Snack Recipe Cards.

kids mystery

A sample set of craft packs and a “mystery” bag of fun items for kids are included. The kids fun items bag includes a sample picture frame, one sheet of the new Agency D3 Stickers, a set of Daily Mission Insignias, the cool glow-in-the dark ABC Wristband, and a fun pair of the Special Agent Rearview Glasses!

You are ready to grab a kit and get started! Have fun!

And don’t forget Jump Start Kits are also available.  Check out this post where we unpack them!

Random Tip 1405 – Missions and Snacks in One

wooley1 2013As I pointed out last Tuesday, churches that conduct VBS at night often find it difficult to get in a full three-hour schedule each night. As a result these churches have to make decisions concerning which aspects of VBS they will either delete or condense.

Given that the middle word of this time-honored ministry is Bible, I truly hope Bible study is not something you would choose to delete or shorten too severely. This means that one or more of the typical rotations (crafts, missions, music, recreation and snacks) must be restructured.

One option is to combine two rotations into one, and my favorite combination is missions and snacks. To make this combination work it is best to serve snacks that are either prepared in advance by the snack team or pre-packaged. Kid-step snacks (where ingredients are provided and kids are encouraged to create their own snack) typically requires too much time when snacks are combined with another activity.

It is best to have simple snacks ready for kids to pick up as they enter the room or have them arranged at each place setting before kids are seated. To minimize distractions and to insure everyone can easily see the videos, kids should be seated – either on the floor or at tables – in semicircles around the television or projection screen.

This combination creates a simple dinner theater that gives kids the opportunity to learn about missions and cultures while they enjoy their snack.

Did you know that each year, as a result of the VBS missions rotation, between 2,500 and 3,000 kids, teens, and adults respond to a call to vocational ministry? Missions and snacks – a winning combination!

Random Tip 1403 – A Job For Everyone

wooley1 2013Although it is typically the least effective, the most common way to enlist workers is to place an announcement in the church bulletin or make a passionate plea from the pulpit.

While this type of enlistment will result in a few volunteers, it is often the volunteers who say, “I’m happy to help but I can’t teach and don’t want to be in a classroom with kids.”

So now you have a dilemma. You just made an “all-hands-0n-deck” plea, but you don’t know what to do with people who made the above statement.

Before you ask for volunteers, make a list of all the possible ways someone could make a director’s life easier both before and during the week of VBS. Keep the list with you at all time and be ready (AND WILLING) to delegate a project the moment someone even hints at volunteering.

A few of the things on my personal list would be:

  • Decorating the common areas such as foyer, halls, and registration area
  • Making copies both before and during the week of VBS
  • Being available to make the daily last minute run to the store
  • Picking up trash and helping the facilities crew prepare rooms for the next day
  • Resetting the auditorium after worship rally
  • Parking lot security

Let me know what jobs you would add to the list.