VBS 2014 Tour Stop 5: 6 Step VBS Continued

wooley1 2013Last Tuesday I introduced you to the simplification and reorganization of the VBS 2014 Administrative Guide for Directors based on LifeWay’s 6 Step VBS. Age-group leader guides have also been simplified as well – you are going to love the cleaner look – beginning with Page 1 which includes a version of the 6 Step VBS designed specifically for teachers.

1. Prepare Your Heart

2. Get the Basic Facts from Your VBS Director

3. Plan

4. Gather and Prepare

5. Teach

6. Continue the Connection

Following is a brief explanation – at least in my words – of what each step means.

Prepare Your Heart: Great teachers are first great learners. Preparing our hearts to teach VBS means first allowing the message of each Bible story to speak to and transform us personally. The Bible content of Colossal Coaster World is a great example. Before I could teach others to face fear by trusting God, I had to first trust God with some of my own fears.

Get the Basic Facts from Your Director: Simple facts such as session time, room assignment, and a list of other activities and rotations planned for the day, are essential to the planning process. This may seem like a no-brainer, but regrettably I have been the teacher who was told, “Just show up a few minutes early and we’ll tell you what you need to know.” Can you say, “Mistake!”?

Plan: Take time to look over all five sessions to learn how each connects to the others. Once you have the big picture you can begin planning one session at a time, making lists of items to gather and prepare for each day.

Gather and Prepare: My favorite way to prepare for VBS is to create a master list of all the resources I need to gather, purchase, or prepare. With list in hand I like to make one raid on the church resource room, one shopping trip, and take one evening to put everything together. Then, using six boxes or bags, I separate everything by the day it will be used. The sixth box is for the resources that will be used every day. By taking time in advance to gather and organize I save tremendous time and anxiety the day of the session. Each morning I simply review the lesson, pick up the appropriate box, and head to church.

Teach: There is a little more involved here than just reading or telling a passage from the Bible. But with a little preparation and a little knowledge of why a variety of learning activities are important, transformational teaching will be much easier than you might imagine.

Continue the Connection: We spend all week getting to know and influence kids, and then on the last day of VBS we tear down the decorations, throw the resources in a closet, run to our cars, and consider the job done. VBS is one of the best opportunities the church has to connect with unchurched kids and their families, yet we so often cut the relationship off just as it is gaining momentum. Think of it as starting to build a bridge but then halting construction half way across the river. Continue the Connection (follow-up) is not the responsibility of the pastor, the VBS director, nor any one person or team. Continuing the connections started during VBS is the responsibility of every VBS worker and church member.

To learn more about these six simple steps check out Page 1 of a LifeWay’s VBS leader guide which will be available in December.

Next week, Tour Stop 6: Takin’ It Home

VBS 2014 Tour Stop 4: 6 Step VBS

wooley1 2013Is it really possible to boil VBS down to six simple steps? Well, maybe not, but you spoke and we listened! You said, “Make VBS simpler!” So LifeWay’s VBS team went back to the drawing board and looked for ways to make it happen.

The first thing we did was take a look at the way the Administrative Guide for Directors was organized. Actually the admin guide had already been reorganized for 2013 around six categories, and many of you enthusiastically responded that it was a great change. As we pondered (a favorite word and action of our VBS publishing team leader) these six categories, we realized they are the bases of six simple yet extremely necessary steps required for planning and conducting a successful VBS.

The Six Steps for VBS directors and pastors are:

1. Know Your Purpose and Theme

2. Start Planning

3. Enlist and Train Workers

4. Promote and Publicize

5. Register Participants

6. Continue the Connection

Like I said, simple!

Know Your Purpose and Theme: Most people assume they know why VBS is being conducted, but in reality there are typically as many different reasons as there are people on your team. Successful Bible schools are organized and conducted around a focused and unified purpose. I’m hoping the purpose of your VBS is evangelism!

Once you know your purpose you must know your theme, or better yet know the purpose of your curriculum. For example, is your curriculum and theme designed for evangelism or for something else? Look closely, you might be surprised!

Start Planning: Great planning follows a process that includes creating a calendar or work timeline, allocating dollars in a budget, and enlisting key leadership.

Enlist and Train Workers: An important aspect of enlisting workers is to outline expectations and responsibilities clearly and then turn the workers loose to do their jobs. A key expectation should be participation in training!

Promote and Publicize: Promotion, first to the congregation and then to the community, needs to begin early and reoccur often.

Register Participants: Registration seems like a no-brainer, yet many VBS leaders fail to capture accurate and adequate information for every participant. As a result, the ability to carry out the sixth step becomes limited.

Continue the Connection: For decades we have called it follow-up, but have come to realize that much more than mailing a thanks-for-attending postcard is needed if we are going to connect unchurched families to the Gospel and to the church.

Check out the VBS 2014 Administrative Guide for Directors for more detailed information on each of these six steps. This year you can implement these steps earlier than ever with the all-new VBS 2014 Jump Start Kit that will be available in October!

Next week, Tour Stop 5: 6 Step VBS Continued – introducing the six steps of the age-group leader guides.

 

Register Now For Kids Ministry Conference!

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Andy Dukes, Event CoordinatorIt’s hard to believe that October is almost upon us.  And that can only mean one thing here at LifeWay Kids – an awesome opportunity for you to get connected with our national Kids Ministry Conference! An annual conference hosted by our LifeWay Kids team, we build it to truly be a transformational experience for you and your children’s ministry team. We want to provide you with great training and content through our workshops, great worship, and inspirational messages, in addition to loads of fun!

We feel that this year’s event is going to be the best one yet. You need to act now because space is filling up fast. Some of the featured guests this year include Anthony Evans, Eric Geiger, JD Greear, Angie Smith, Jeffrey Reed, and Jennie Allen. And for 2013, your registration fee also includes a ticket to the historic Ryman Auditorium for a special concert on Tuesday night! That’s almost worth the price of admission right there! If that wasn’t enough for all you VBS fans out there, if you come to KMC 2013, you will get the chance to take part in an exclusive preview of our 2014 VBS theme, “Agency D3″!

So what are you waiting for? This is a great opportunity to network with others, be challenged in your own ministry, and be inspired by the Lord to continue following the call He has placed on your life.

For more info, check out our website HERE.

Don’t Delay! Register Today!

For more info or if you have specific questions, contact our Event Coordinator- Andy Dukes (andy.dukes@lifeway.com)

Downloadable Colossal Coaster World Devotional

Katie DeCilloNeed a little something extra to get your volunteers and workers prepared for Colossal Coaster World?  Our friend Aaron Summers, Pastor of First Baptist Church Perry, OK, shared five days worth of devotions he wrote especially for Colossal Coaster World.  Thanks, Aaron!

CLICK HERE to download the devotions!

Looking for a prayer guide for VBS?  Yesterday, I shared some things to pray for before, during, and after VBS!  CLICK HERE to read that post.

What does your VBS staff do to spiritually prepare for VBS?  Share with us!

 

 

6 Tips You Need for Leading VBS Training

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VBS training time is here! Are you a leader who likes to lead from behind-the-scenes and is a little intimated by training? Are you a leader who has been training people for years and years and just needs something to make it fresh? Maybe this is your first try at training your church leaders to lead VBS and you just need some tips to do so. Here are 6 tips to consider when leading a VBS training session… just to get the conversation going.


1. Start and end when you say you will.
Build trust and respect with your teachers now.
2. Get to know your teachers.
If you want your teachers to learn how to build relationships with the kids in the VBS class, make sure to be building relationships with them.
3. Don’t be all business.
VBS is fun! Make sure to work some fun into your training!
4. Empower other leaders.
If you feel like it is important to talk through what will happen at recreation or during missions, allow those teachers to speak to that. Empower every teacher by giving them your expectations and what success at VBS looks like, which is spending time with kids teaching them about Jesus, so that they may see Him and desire to follow Him!
5. Give leaders specific ways to pray.
Pass out a prayer calendar that has a specific thing to pray for each day between training and VBS. Pray for teachers as they prepare, kids as they get excited to come, and parents as kids go home and tell them about what they learned.
6. Consider ways to include the entire church.
Allow your volunteers to help you think about as many ways as possible to get your entire church involved in VBS. Share your prayer calendar with the church, ask them to come to the week’s night of celebration and get to know some of the families, or have them prayer walk through the church the day before VBS begins. There are tons of ways to include your church, so think through some ways to do so and make it happen!

If you missed last week’s post about training, find it here.

What is the best tip you can share with us about leading a VBS training session?

Kids and Discipleship

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Prior to working with the VBS team, I was a CentriKid Camp Specialist. One of my favorite job responsibilities in this role was interviewing potential staff. However, after a few days of interviewing, I had a very clear picture of what discipleship in the church 10 years ago looked like. It seemed that four out of every five had a story that went something like this:

“I believed and prayed a prayer when I was (insert age between 6-12). I know that I truly believed then, but I didn’t really understand the decision I was making. It wasn’t until I got into youth and my youth minister really helped me understand what it meant to follow Christ that I think I my faith really became real.”

Heartbreaking. This is what I’m hearing: The Holy Spirit moved in my life and I believed in Jesus. I made a decision and asked Jesus to be in control of my life, but I didn’t know everything that I know now. I didn’t have anyone walking beside me, so I didn’t know that it’s ok to not know everything. No one explained to me how to trust Jesus or follow Him daily. No one taught me to have a quiet time. No one discipled me.

May this never be in your children’s ministry or the lives of the children that you parent! Here are 3 practical things you can do today to begin discipling your kids.

  1. Talk about Jesus and what He is doing in your life. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit should be frequent in your vocabulary.
  2. Follow up after Bible teaching. If your kids went to Sunday school, a Disciple Now weekend, or any other place teaching happens, ask questions. Help them process what they learned by asking them to rehash it for you.
  3. Most importantly, be a disciple yourself. One of my favorite quotes is from David Platt on discipleship: “Making disciples is a supernatural overflow of being a disciple.” Serve and teach your kids out of the overflow of what God is teaching you through your time with Him. I know you are so busy, but this is pivotal to make time for. You can do it! I believe in you. I know having 168 hours in a week is a staggering picture… but use yours wisely!

In case you missed it, here’s an earlier post about discipleship:
http://blog.lifeway.com/vbs/2013/02/28/training-parents-in-discipleship/

Beginning Well…Ending Strong Part 2

wooley1 2013Last Tuesday I listed three steps Pastors and VBS Directors need to consider to insure VBS begins well and ends strong. To briefly review, Step 1: determine the purpose of VBS, Step 2: establish dates and a budget that reflects the purpose, and Step 3: enlist a team to dream and implement the strategy.

Step 3 is actually two steps in one. The first, as I wrote about last week, is to enlist a dream team that will also become your core leadership team. This team will not only help you dream possibilities, but will help you turn the possibilities into realities.

Once you have enlisted your core leadership team it is time to enlist and train workers. I’ll share more about this topic in a future post.

Now that we have taken a second look at the three steps to beginning well, we’ll move on to three steps for ending strong.

Step 4: Put promotion/publicity strategies in motion. The key here is knowing your target audience. Who are you really trying to reach for VBS? Which segments of your community are you not only best able to reach, but best able to minister to once you have reached them? Once you know your target audience you can direct all of your energies and resources to reaching the people most likely to attend your VBS and your church. To learn more about creating a promotion strategy check out Six Steps to Reaching Your Target Audience.

Step 5: Stay focused throughout the planning stage and week of VBS. This might just be the hardest step of all. Back in Step 1 you determined the purpose (reason for conducting and desired goals) of your VBS. As you gained support from the congregation and enlisted and trained a team, you helped them understand and own the purpose. But now that VBS is in full swing it is easy to get caught up in the crunch of making IT happen and forget the very reason why IT is suppose to happen.

If IT (purpose) is building bridges to the unchurched, then everything – from registration to the final Amen – must remain focused on building bridges. Each Bible story, craft, and rec game should be used to build bridges to the unchurched kids, students, and adults who may be experiencing church for the first time. If the purpose of VBS is building bridges then sharing the Gospel message and nurturing relationships becomes the focus of every lesson, activity, and every minute. Ending strong means never letting anything get in the way of staying focused on the purpose.

Step 6: Put continued connection (follow-up) strategies in motion. To end strong we need go back to the purpose (Step 1) and change the way we think about VBS. Instead of VBS being “the event” in itself, it must become the catalyst to the event which I hope you will agree is continued connections. For many churches, more unchurched families are identified during VBS then any other outreach all year. When a child from an unchurched home attends VBS, a church hasn’t just discovered one unchurched person. The church has typically discovered – when parents and siblings are included – four unchurched people.

On average, ten percent of everyone enrolled in VBS claims to be unchurched. For a typical VBS of 100 people (both students and workers) this means 10 are unchurched. But in reality a church has just discovered 40 people who claim no church home or affiliation – yet were willing to allow their child attend your VBS!

A simple postcard saying, “Thanks for attending our VBS” is not enough. The postcard may allow you to check off the follow-up box on your to-do list, but it is not adequate if the purpose of VBS is building bridges with the unchurched. Building bridges requires continued connections far beyond the week of VBS, and continued connections requires a strategy. In the next few weeks I’ll share more about creating a strategy for continued connections. Until then, start working on the first three steps. It’s not too late to begin well and end strong!

 

3 Ways to Equip Parents to Prepare Kids for attending VBS

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Spiritual formation does not happen in one week at VBS, however, they can grow in leaps and bounds during a week of VBS with the right support and discipleship at home. Kids need to know that Jesus is not just for church or VBS. Following Jesus transforms the entire life of a believer, and kids need to see that Jesus is an integral part of each piece of your life, including your home life. Here’s three practical ways that you can equip parents to prepare their kids for attending VBS, all while establishing or continuing discipleship in the home:

1. Send home an outline of what kids will study each day. 

Guide parents to ask their children what they know about the Biblical characters that will be studied. Ask parents to get a good feel of where their kids are on understanding the Bible stories and the Gospel message prior to VBS so they can ask similar questions afterward and evaluate their learning, clearing up any misunderstandings or questions they may have.

2. Even now, you can begin to discuss with them what to expect out of the experience.

Meet with parents or send home some information about what a normal day at VBS looks like. The more comfortable a child new to VBS or new to specific teachers, the more receptive they will be to the message being taught. Tell children that you know the Bible is true. Tell children that they will learn more about Jesus at VBS and explain why you follow Him and what it means to do that.

3. Explain the phrases they may hear at VBS.

Train teachers well to not use confusing statements like, “ask Jesus into your heart,” and “Jesus lives in me.” Children, especially younger children, are very concrete in their thinking. These phrases sound scary — Does that require surgery? Communicate with parents what they may hear like “asking Jesus to be in control of your life” or “following Jesus.” Explain what these mean prior to VBS and your child will have a better grasp on the message that is being presented…and who knows what great conversations may come of it!?

How do you prepare the kids at church or your own kids for VBS?

Beginning Well…Ending Strong

Purple Shirt PhotoAs a piano student – way back in the dark ages – I disliked recitals even more than the dreaded daily practice sessions. Compositions I knew well enough to play in my sleep would mysteriously and instantaneously vanish as I stepped on the performance stage.

In prep for these moments my teacher would always say, “Jerry, begin well, finish strong, and everything in between will take care of itself.”

In explanation, she told me the confidence gained by beginning well would carry me through the entire performance, and the confidence gained by finishing strong would get me back on stage for the next performance. I know I never had a perfect performance, but I learned a valuable life lesson that I believe applies to VBS.

Most likely you have already started planning for VBS 2013, but whether you are knee-deep into the process or just getting started, here are six steps to insure you begin well and end strong.

Step 1: Determine the purpose of VBS: When first asked, this question often sounds ridiculous. Of course you know the purpose! But in reality there are many reasons or purposes for VBS. It is possible that every member of your team will give a different reason for why VBS is being conducted. To begin well it is important that every member of the team have a common purpose for why your church is spending the time, money, and people resources to conduct VBS.

I hope your purpose is connecting people to the Gospel, and connecting people to the church.

Step 2: Establish dates and a budget that reflects the purpose: The long, lazy days of summer have almost vanished and it is getting harder each year to schedule VBS at a time that does not conflict with other major events – both on the church calendar and the community calendar. If your purpose is to connect with unchurched families it is vital to make sure your VBS is not the same week as a major city-sponsored sports camp or at a time when a large number of your target audience is involved in summer school. You get the idea – check the community calendar as well as the church calendar.

Knowing your purpose will also help you budget appropriately. If your goal is connecting with the unchurched then you will want to make sure you have adequate budget dollars for both publicity and for making continued connections following the week of VBS. I’ll share more about this in a future post.

Step 3: Enlist a leadership team to dream and implement the strategy: If you are truly going to connect with unchurched families you are going to need to do more and do it better then you did last year. Invite four or five people to join you for coffee and spend a few hours dreaming. Start by saying, “If money were no object what would we do to identify and connect with unchurched families?” Of course money, or the lack thereof, is a debilitating obstacle, but until we have given ourselves the freedom to dream without limitations we will never identify the very best ways to reach out to the community – which are often the lest expensive!

Once the group of four or five have helped you dream, enlist them to help you implement the dreams. People are always more willing to commit to something they have helped create, plus the dream team has already acknowledged their interest by agreeing to participate in the dream session.

The first three steps are enough to get you started on the road to beginning well.  I’ll return next Tuesday with the next three steps for ending strong.

Training Parents in Discipleship

DiscipleshipThere are 168 dots in this image, one for every hour of the week in a child’s life. Many of those hours are spent sleeping or at school, but what about the other hours during the week?

As church leaders, we are lucky if we get to see kids 2 hours per week. In a lot of cases, this is the only spiritual investment that kids receive. This is not only true in those households where church is just a place that parents drop off their kids so they can have some peace and quiet, but it is even true in the most Bible-believing, church-going families.

Why? Here are 3 misconceptions most parents in the church hold:

  1. Most parents believe kids will learn all they need to know at church. Two hours is plenty of time to build foundations and understandings of the biggest spiritual concepts. Teaching children to follow Jesus is the church’s responsibility anyway.
  2. Most parents believe they aren’t capable. They think that if they don’t teach Sunday school or preach, they don’t have the skills or don’t know enough about the Bible to teach their children to follow Jesus.
  3. Most parents fear failure. If their child falls away from the church later in life they are afraid that they will be responsible.

Why does this matter to you?
Whether you are a parent, a VBS director or volunteer, a children’s minister, or a Sunday school teacher, the spiritual development of children is something that you have a direct hand in both in the classroom and through the relationships that you have with their parents. Discipleship is not something that parents will learn to do in a quick training session. As you seek to train parents to disciple their children, here are a few good starting points:

  1. What can you send home that can start a conversation about Jesus?
  2. Encourage parents. Help them understand that they don’t have to have all the answers. They don’t have to have a family devotion time. That fits some families and doesn’t fit others. Do what fits your family. Ask them to start by trying to point to Jesus in one conversation that they have with their kids each day.
  3. Remind parents that failure is not a possibility. Their job as a parent is to point their children to Christ. It is the Holy Spirit’s working that calls them to Jesus and creates a growing relationship with Him.
  4. Create ways for parents to network and direct them to talk about how they are pointing their kids to Christ. Hold each other accountable and partner with each other.
  5. Pray, pray, pray. Raising kids is hard work. Pray for parents and remind them that they are not alone.