From the Archives: “Preparing for VBS” Part 2

wooley1 2013We’re Celebrating 90! That’s 90 years of publishing VBS curriculum, and I’ve been digging through the archives.

Today’s wisdom is obviously a continuation of Part 1, and comes from a 1997 training outline titled: 62 Ways to Prepare Yourself for A Galactic Good News Adventure. While some of the ideas were specific to the theme, here are six reminders that apply every year.

1. Conduct a prayer walk around the church campus.

2. Prepare meals for the week of VBS ahead of time and freeze them (double your recipe and share with another VBS worker).

3. Pray that other churches in your community will catch a vision for the evangelistic opportunities provided by VBS.

4. Make sure you know how to lead children to Christ by studying the inside cover of your VBS leader guide.

5. Enlist a homebound member of your church to be your personal VBS prayer warrior.

6. Search your closet, garage, and second-hand stores for your theme-related costume.

Today’s Trivia: LifeWay Christian Resources began publishing VBS resources in 1925 under the leadership of Dr. Homer Grice, a pastor from Dallas, Georgia.

From the Archives: “Preparing for VBS” Part 1

wooley1 2013September 1, 1924 was a big day in the history of Vacation Bible School. It was the official start of LifeWay’s VBS Ministry Department. The department as such no longer exist, but the ministry of publishing VBS curriculum and training church leaders to use it is bigger and better than ever.

From time to time, over the next year, I’m going back to the archives to not only honor our past but to glean insight and wisdom from the ages.

Today’s wisdom comes from a 1997 training outline titled: 62 Ways to Prepare Yourself for A Galactic Good News Adventure. While some of the ideas were specific to the theme, here are six reminders that apply every year.

1. Pray (without ceasing).

2. Learn the Worship Rally music in advance by listening to its while running errands and picking up VBS supplies.

3. Enlist someone to be your personal VBS prayer partner.

4. Pray for the children, youth, and adults who will accept Jesus as Savior and Lord during VBS.

5. Ask someone who became a Christian during a previous VBS to share his/her story with you.

6. Keep a “To Do List” handy to jot down middle-of-the-night inspirations.

Trivia for the day: both Rhonda Van Cleave (VBS publishing team leader) and I served on the think tank that created A Galactic Good News Adventure. It was our first time to work together.

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 .

6 Actions That Express Appreciation

 

20140114-075705.jpgIf you are like me you might struggle with expressing appreciation to your VBS team. It’s not that we don’t appreciate the work and contributions of others. It’s not even that we don’t think about expressing appreciation. While we are extremely grateful we just do a poor job of expressing it.

Here are a few ways to make sure members of your VBS team know they are appreciated and their efforts have not been taken for granted.

1. Public recognition is possibly the easiest way to express appreciation because everyone can be recognized and thanked at once, and there is no chance – unless you try to call everyone by name – of overlooking someone. Public recognition also insures the entire congregation is aware of the many hands required and that everyone can have a part to play on proclaiming the Good News through VBS.

2. Provide training may seem like a strange suggestion for expressing appreciation but in many ways it is the highest compliment. By providing training you tell your team you appreciate them by investing your personal time in them, and you appreciate them by wanting them to feel the joy of confidence and success.

3. Provide resources, like providing training, says “I appreciate you and want you to have the resources needed to successfully accomplish your tasks.” By providing resources you are also telling your team you appreciate their time and want to make preparation and the gathering of supplies as easy as possible.

4. Provide volunteers to help unload cars on the day everyone is decorating and preparing their rooms. Another way to tell a worker they are appreciated is by providing childcare 30 minutes before and after VBS, during training, and preparation days.

5. A smile, a hug, or a pat of the back is always appreciated – especially when it comes from your leader. In the midst of VBS chaos it is often the small gestures that reenergize both the receiver and the giver.

6. And most of all, just say thank you.

 

Involving Teenagers as Leaders in VBS

20140114-075705.jpgMy first VBS “worker” assignment was at the ripe old age of 12. My aunt was the teacher of the five-year-old class and she desperately needed a helper. We conducted VBS in the morning, ate a sandwich, and then spent the afternoon getting ready for the next day. We had 10 kids in an 80-square-foot room. For me the week was a huge lesson in flexibility!

While using teenagers – or in my case a pre-teenager – is not ideal for multiple reasons, mature teenagers can be the solution to a worker shortage, plus the week is an excellent opportunity for teens to begin serving and exploring their gifts and interest. Following are six tips to involving teenagers as leaders in VBS .

 

1. Training is of utmost importance. Failure to train results in frustration for teenagers and adult workers alike.

2. Training begins with the enlistment process. Establish expectations and accountability early and clearly.

3. Make sure teens are looked upon as full members of the team. If teens are mature enough to be enlisted for the team they are mature enough to be treated and respected as a member of the team.

4. Teens are more likely to become discipline problems when they are not given meaningful ministry tasks and the opportunity to contribute to the team.

5. Adult members of the team should assume a mentoring mentality as they work along side the teen leader, respecting the teen’s ability to make decisions with some guidance.

6. Give teens opportunities to grow and stretch in their abilities. With a little discretion on the adult leader’s part, teens should be allowed to experience what are sometimes seen as “adult” roles.

Jerry Wooley, @vbsguy, serves on LifeWay’s VBS Team as a Ministry Specialist responsible for training and events.

Why Missions Study Should Be Included in Your VBS

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In addition to Bible study and a large-group experience we call Worship Rally, LifeWay’s VBS includes resources for crafts, recreation, music, missions and snacks. Each activity – including snacks – is designed to have a direct tie or application to both the Biblical passage and theme for each day.

Due to time restraints, space restrictions, or worker shortages, VBS leaders are often faced with the decision to trim back some of the traditional components of VBS. The first component to be chopped tends to be missions. But, before you start cutting consider these six reasons why missions study should be included in your VBS.

1. An emphasis on missions results in decisions for vocational ministry. As a result of VBS – and specifically mission studies – approximately 2,500 kids, teens and adults make decisions each year to pursue careers in vocational ministries such as pastors and missionaries.

2. An emphasis on missions challenges kids to think outside of themselves and their community. During VBS mission studies kids are exposed to people, cultures and needs outside of their known world and are challenged to think globally. Kids are challenged to realize the world does not revolve around them individually.

3. An emphasis on missions provides kids with examples of Believers living out their faith. During VBS mission studies kids meet missionary families who are following God’s call to “make disciples of all nations.” Through the practical experiences and stories of real-life missionaries, kids are challenged to become missionaries themselves and see every place they go – including school and the park – as their mission field.

4. An emphasis on missions connects VBS with other ministries and mission endeavors of the church. Quiet often kids – even kids who attend church every week – are unaware of the outreach and benevolence ministries of their church. Through VBS mission studies kids get a glimpse into the far-reaching impact the church has on their community and the world. Kids are challenged to not just be the recipients of ministry but to also be providers of ministry.

5. An emphasis on missions provides an opportunity for kids to participate in hands-on projects and to give of themselves and their money. Kids love to create, get involved, and do something with their hands that makes a difference. VBS mission projects gives them an opportunity to put their talents and energy to productive use and experience the fun of helping others.

6. An emphasis on missions shows kids they do not have to wait to be adults to make a difference. As already stated, kids love to get involved, but are often told – either through actions or implications – they must wait until they are adults to make a true difference. VBS mission studies challenges kids to make a difference now, where they are, and with the resources they have.

Jerry Wooley, @vbsguy, serves you as LifeWay’s VBS Ministry Specialist. A little known fact about Jerry – upon leaving his church staff position in 2006, the church (Park Place Baptist Church, Houston) commissioned him as a missionary to LifeWay Christian Resources and the world beyond.

 

6 Ways to Continue the Connection

Screen shot 2014-01-23 at 9.51.12 AMMany times VBS is the catalyst that brings people into church when they otherwise would not step in the door. However, many times when the week is over things go back to business as usual. When this happens we miss out on a great opportunity to reach out and bring people into the fold and help them build a relationship with their Savior. Consider some to these ideas to help build on the foundation set during VBS.

  1. Offer a “next step” for VBS guest and their families. Utilize the parenting workshop included in the Adult VBS curriculum or host other needs based classes for parents.
  2. Follow up with visitors personally. Use the steps in the Administrative Guide for Directors for making quick at home visits, phone calls, or mail contacts. Or use the Transition From VBS to Sunday School outline on the Administrative Guide CD-ROM.
  3. Send a VBS 2014 Takin’ It Home CD or VBS 2014 Family Headquarters Guide home with each family. Either of these products will encourage families to dive deeper into the biblical content studied during VBS.
  4. Make the connection with the VBS 2014 Family App. Kids and parents can continue to discover, decide, and defend the hope that is in them.
  5. Create a follow-up strategy when you first begin planning VBS. Share the strategy with your entire congregation and encourage them to participate in the process. Continue until a contact has been made with every home and every parent has been met.
  6. Report and celebrate efforts with the congregation

6 Things You Need to Know About Working with Adults During VBS

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Adult VBS? Really? Yes!!! You read it correctly! When we host VBS for kids only we are missing a tremendous opportunity to share God’s Word and the Gospel with older siblings and parents. If the truths being taught during VBS are important for kids then they are just as important for teens and adults. LifeWay creates VBS resources for the entire family – babies through adults – because we believe VBS remains one of the most successful ways to evangelistically reach families and not just kids.

 

When planning for adult VBS you might assume the class should be structured like a typical Sunday School class or Wednesday night Bible study. Don’t venture down that path! VBS for all ages is designed to be a unique experience that is fun, engaging, and a little – if not a lot – out of the box.

 

In truth I have taught more adult VBS classes then I have taught classes for kids. Following are six keys to teaching adults I have personally learned through the years:

 

1. Adults like to have fun – make it enjoyable. A session of Adult VBS does not need to be a standup comedy routine, but it does need to be fun, upbeat, and a stimulating break from the routine of the day – especially if it is an evening session. Adult leaders are often tempted to skip over suggested icebreaker activities and go straight to deep Bible study. Icebreaker activities are purposely designed to facilitate relationships and lighthearted fun.

2. Adults require a variety of learning styles. Thankfully God  made each of us unique – including the way we learn. Teachers tend to teach the way they personally learn best, which means they are discounting the learning styles of others. Only the person giving the lecture wants to sit through a 90 minutes of lecture. Similarly, not everyone will respond to a 90-minute discussion or non-stop paper and pencil activities. Attention spans are getting shorter and shorter – even for adults – and a great way to hold attention is by using a variety of learning styles. LifeWay’s Adult VBS intentionally includes a variety of learning activities in each session that are designed so that every adult can engage the content in the context of their unique learning style.

3. Adults enjoy crafts, recreation and music. People always react with a nervous laugh when I tell them LifeWay’s Adult VBS resources include suggestions for crafts, recreation, snacks, and worship. They see amazed that a class designed for adults would include activities other than Bible study. But take another look at Statements 1 and 2. Adults really do want to have fun and part of the fun is learning in different ways. Just like VBS for kids, recreation and crafts are part of the learning experience and should include direct links to the Scripture passage and theme for the day. Some of the best application of all takes place around a craft or snack table and recreation is a perfect way to apply Biblical truths to life. If you are a little nervous concerning how adults will respond to crafts and recreation just remember, the leader sets the pace and tone. If you are enjoying recreation so will class members.

4. Don’t assume adults are familiar with the Bible or church language. If you are truly conducting Adult VBS for unchurched adults, you need to lead each session with them in mind. Church language abounds in most adult classes, yet terms such as Deacons, Lord’s Supper, and the Letter of the Romans are as foreign to an unchurched adult as Greek is to you.

5. Don’t assume adults have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Obviously this is true if you are reaching unchurched adults, but it may be just as true if you have a room full of active church attenders. Never miss an opportunity during Adult VBS to make a clear Gospel presentation part of the session.

6. Don’t assume adults understand how to continue the learning experience at home. Adult VBS is an excellent opportunity to not only study God’s Word during sessions, but to also inspire adults to continue learning at home by introducing reading plans and providing resources for continued study. Adult VBS is also a great opportunity to connect unchurched adults with ongoing Bible study groups (Sunday School) and ministries. Invite ministry leaders to drop by during snack, recreation, and craft portions of the session to introduce their ministries and to build relationships.

 

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

 

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.

super

super duper

visual

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.