Awesome and Amazing!

This morning I complete an awesome and amazing week of CentriKid Camp at Ridgecrest Conference Center in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

I say “awesome” and “amazing” because just like VBS, this week we have truly witnessed an Awesome God and His Amazing Power. Last night we celebrated as a child who earlier in the week voiced disbelief in God, made a complete turn around and confessed Jesus as his Lord and Savior. He was one of many life transformations this week!

Can you tell we sang “A-M-A-Z-ING” this week?

I can also say “awesome” and “amazing” about this place – Ridgecrest Conference Center – and the surrounding Black Mountain and Asheville area. This week has afforded me a few hours to explore, both by foot and car, God’s amazing wonders. There may not be a Grand Canyon or Victoria Falls near by, but the majesty of God’s creation is in every stream and mountain peak.

I’m already looking forward to my next visit in October, and I sincerely hope you will join me right here at Ridgecrest October 8 – 10 for LifeWay’s Kids Ministry Conference. As awesome and amazing as this place is in the summer, I can only imagine the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Fall. I’m usually here in January, so this October will be my first time to experience North Carolina’s Fall wonders.

Sadly, camp ends this morning, but not the fun! For the afternoon I’m thinking about checking out the shops and terrific restaurants of Black Mountain, the Billy Graham exhibit at The Cove, a hike up Chimney Rock (I hear the view is truly one of God’s amazing wonders), a visit to the awesome and amazing Biltmore mansion in Asheville, or maybe just a leisurely drive to take in the sights of the Swannanoa Valley. So much to experience, so little time! I just may have to plan another visit before October!

One thing is for sure, you do not want to miss the awesome and amazing experience of Kids Ministry Conference. The worship leadership of Travis Cottrell, the tremendous speakers and breakout leaders, the terrific relationships, and Fall in the Blue Ridge Mountains all combine for one awesome and amazing experience!

Looking forward to seeing you October 8 – 10!

In Honor of My Good Friend, Jeff

I’m so glad to have the honor of writing about my good friend, Jeff Slaughter. As many of you have heard, or perhaps you read the blog post here on December 1, VBS 2012 will be the last VBS with Jeff as our songwriter. Jeff and I began working together when LifeWay’s VBS was redesigned in 1996. Our first project was VBS 1997: The Wild and Wonderful Good News Stampede™. It was Jeff who suggested that we provide choreography videos for our customers. So, we began to produce those with VBS 1999: Mt. Extreme™. We’ve come a long way since then! When our budget would allow, we were able to shoot the choreography segments on location along with the video dramas. My favorite on-location shoot was in Israel in 2008. We shot the songs for Club VBS: Truth Trek™ and the ballad for VBS 2012: Boomerang Express™ (“Because”).

Shooting at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem

We also had the great fortune of shooting the ABCs of Becoming a Christian segment at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem. Very, very special.

Since the December 1 blog post shared about Jeff’s great work with our team, I thought it would be fun to let Jeff do the talking this time. So, we sat down for lunch and I asked him the following questions.

Me: What was your favorite VBS theme?

Jeff: Boomerang Express™. First of all, I got to travel to Australia! And we shot the ballad in Israel . . . in front of the Garden Tomb. I loved that the biblical content was about a relationship with Jesus and about Peter’s relationship with Him. I think it’s great that LifeWay’s VBS is all about helping kids know how to become Christians, but I especially liked that this one focused on showing kids how to go beyond that and build a friendship with Jesus.

Me: What was the most challenging song to write?

Jeff: “We Believe” (VBS 2005: Ramblin’ Road Trip™). My daddy passed away in March of ’03 and later that same year we began working on Ramblin’ Road. I couldn’t write though. Since he’d passed away, I hadn’t written anything and I just felt stifled. I couldn’t find that creative place anymore. I didn’t know how to begin. Then, I heard the Lord say to me, “Go back to the basics. What do you believe about me? If you could put the most important things you believe about me in a song, what would you write?” As I began to focus on the truths about Him that I had learned throughout my life I could feel Him gently leading me back to that sweet place of creativity. I went to the piano and began to play for the Lord . . . pouring out my sadness as I pressed into the keys. Memories of His faithfulness and love flooded my mind . . . along with memories of things my daddy had taught me about the Lord. All of a sudden I began playing the opening melody of “We Believe.” As soon as I heard it, I began to cry. I wrote the rest of the song in about 30 minutes . . . crying the whole time. “We Believe” went on to become the first VBS song to cross over into the church as an adult choir anthem. It was one of the most challenging to write, but it will always be one of my favorites!

Me: What’s a favorite video shoot memory?

Jeff: The trip to Israel. Habakkuk 2:2-3 was Scripture that meant so much to me as a child and as a teenager. I know some people have heard me tell the story about being an outcast at school because I was overweight, I wore funny glasses, and I was in the band. But, that Scripture helped me know that God had a plan for me, and it would be revealed to me in His time. When we were in Israel, some of the crew and I got to visit The Shrine of the Book. [That’s where the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed.] We all were walking around on our own, looking at everything. I stopped to read an ancient manuscript that was on display. I couldn’t believe it! It was an original handwritten manuscript of Habakkuk chapter 2! When I shared it with you, you told me that this particular exhibit was on display only that year in celebration of Israel’s 60th anniversary! It was amazing.

Me: I remember that. It was amazing. That was a great experience.

Me: Is the rumor true that you’re a good cook?

Jeff: Yes! I am a good cook!

Me: Any dishes you’re known for?

Jeff: One time I fixed this dish called “Pistachio Crusted Chicken with Coconut Ginger Chili Sauce.” It was awesome!

Me: Tell us where kids can connect with you at CentriKid camps this summer.

Jeff with a fan

Jeff: I’ll be at Lee University and at Ridgecrest Conference Center. You can find the dates on my web page: Camp has been such a vital part of my life for 26 years and I still love it! I’m looking forward to seeing everybody and seeing what the Lord has in store for us!


VBS 2012 Music – A-M-A-Z-I-N-G

One of the favorite parts of VBS is music! We consistently receive comments from workers, parents, and children telling us how much they enjoy the songs. I am constantly amazed how well people can recall the words and tunes of VBS songs from 10 to 15 years ago. In reality they are not just remembering tunes, they are remembering and quoting Scripture.

Recently I had the great privilege of spending two weeks with 21 college-aged adults at CentriKid Camp at Louisiana College. One evening someone started singing a VBS song and before long a large number of the team joined in the trip down memory lane. With ease they were recalling VBS songs they had learned as children. Not only did they remember the words and tunes but the motions as well!

With VBS 2012 – Amazing Wonders Aviation – just around the corner I thought you might enjoy listening to excerpts from the five daily songs. Enjoy!

A-M-A-Z-I-N-G excerpt
If God – excerpt
In Your Power – excerpt
Remarkable – excerpt
Worthy – excerpt

LifeWay Kids and LifeWay VBS Twitterers

I’m gonna admit that a year ago, I didn’t like twitter. I didn’t understand twitter, and I thought it was kind of self-indulgent – I mean, who really wants to know that much about me (except my mom!) I also thought it was kind of a substitute for real community. Then I started using it on my blackberry and I became hooked! I’ve witnessed firsthand how it’s not really a substitute for community, but a catalyst. I’ve had many conversations with people I follow on twitter where I’m able to talk to them about something they tweeted about, which helps build deeper conversation and deeper community!

At LifeWay, we have some twitterers – Here’s a link to the list of official accounts

Here’s a list of LifeWay Kids official twitter accounts:

And here are some LifeWay Kids employees who twitter (some more than others!):

@mkhunt – Mary Katharine Hunt, Director of LifeWay Kids
@jerryvogel – Jerry Vogel, Director of Childhood Ministry Publishing
@lrholmes – Landry Holmes, Managing Director of Childhood Ministry Publishing
@sxwiley – Scott Wiley, Editorial Project Leader (Preschool)
@tpollard – Tim Pollard, Editorial Project Leader (Children)
@jeffland – Jeff Land, Editorial Project Leader (Preteens)
@jskulley – Jodi Skulley, Editor (ParentLife)
@NanaVancleave – Rhonda VanCleave, Editoral Project Leader (VBS)
@darparr – Darlene Parrish, Editor (VBS)
@canpowell – Candace Powell, Production Editor (VBS)
@lynnevbs - Lynne Norris, Editor (VBS)
@VBSKeith – Keith Tyrrell, Graphic Designer (VBS)
@vbscandy – Candy Gibson, Product Costing Specialist (VBS)
@lhowert – Lance Howerton, Director of Children’s Training and Events
@bemeott – Bill Emeott, Lead Childhood Ministry Specialist
@adukes – Andy Dukes, CentriKid
@CoachEchols - Jeremy Echols, CentriKid
@MeredithBMay – Meredith May, CentriKid
@LauraFillingim – Laura Fillingim, Children’s Training and Events
@lifewayvbsgirl – Becky Loyd, Marketing Strategist (that’s me!)