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.

April Is for Training

20140114-075705.jpgJust as April showers result in a profusion of May flowers, VBS training results in a bounty just as beautiful and rich.

Spring can be hectic at best. If Easter, graduations, weddings, and little league do not fill your calendar there is always the flurry of activity in preparation for VBS! It is tempting to push training aside – especially this year with Easter so late in April.

Chances are you might be asking yourself, “is training really that important?” After all, most VBS workers have been doing the same thing for years and could successfully lead VBS in their sleep. Right?

The truth is, many VBS workers do have tremendous experience and need very little help or instruction. AND, getting workers to attend a training session can be challenging enough. Then there is the time and energy required to prepare and promote the training event. There is no wonder you might be tempted to just hope for the best and hope workers find everything they need to know in the leader guides.

But training is important – even for the person who has worked in VBS every year since LifeWay first published VBS resources in 1925.

To highlight “April Is For Training,” LifeWays VBS team has created a series of posts containing six tips for your personal training or to use as you train VBS workers in your church. (By the way, six tips work great with LifeWay’s six-sided Giant Inflatable Game Cube.) We begin with -

6 REASONS WHY VBS TRAINING IS ESSENTIAL

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1. Training creates and builds teams. When everyone comes together for training, individuals realize they are part of something bigger than just the part they play. They are given a glimpse of the big picture and purpose of VBS and the importance of participating not as an individual but as a team.

2. Training empowers workers and turns them into leaders. VBS volunteers rarely see themselves as leaders, yet that is exactly what they are. Training that empowers (gives a volunteer permission and knowledge to lead) helps a volunteer to begin assuming the role and responsibilities of leadership.

3. Training creates evangelistic urgency. Training gives workers the tools and confidence they need to present the Gospel boldly. It produces a challenge to make sure every minute and aspect of VBS is focused on presenting the Gospel.

4. Training produces a sense of assurance. Most VBS volunteers only work with kids once each year. Leader guides may provide the content but it takes training to confidently use it.

5. Training challenges the status quo. While very few people truly enjoy change, a VBS that never changes quickly becomes predictable and boring. Training challenges workers to dream big and do the work of VBS with excellence.

6. Training dots the i’s and crosses the t’s. Everyone needs to know the who, what, when, where, why and how of VBS. Training provides an opportunity to answer all the questions and get everyone on the same page.

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

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.

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?