Being a VBS Director in One Simple Sentence

vancleave As part of the VBS team, I love hearing about everyone’s VBS. I thought you might like a glimpse into mine. I serve as the volunteer VBS director at our small church. (I really wish there was another “label” for the amazing, God-given ministry that gets the “small church” label, but that would be a whole other blog post!)

Like a lot of churches, our VBS is in the evening after most people have put in a full day’s work at their jobs. Because of that, we start with supper (or for my friends who live elsewhere, dinner). The bonus is that we pretty much have everyone there when we are ready to start Worship Rally.

One evening I was eating my meal with one of our second graders and her Bible study teacher. This little girl was new to our church and had really connected with her teacher. As we chatted over corn dogs and chips, the little girl looked at me and blurted out, “I know what your job is!” Amused, I smiled and asked, “Really? What is it?” With a big smile she replied, “You line people up!”

Lining people up! =)

Lining people up! =)

I start grinning every time I think about her comment. I loved it! VBS at my church, your church, and churches everywhere are filled with people who do so much to make VBS happen and reach out to kids who might not otherwise connect with our churches, even if no one notices.

So to all of you who share my job of “lining people up,” and the thousand and one things that go with being a volunteer VBS director, thanks for all that you do for the Kingdom.

What's Your Story?

thomasIt is SO exciting to hear about all the amazing things God is doing through VBS this summer! We’ve heard so many good reports from VBSs literally all over the world. Keep them coming! It is an honor to pray for and with you… and it’s certainly good to celebrate with you, too!

One great story this year comes from Texas. It’s about a lady who has attended church for years with her children. This lady volunteered to serve as “crowd control” in VBX. As she sat with the preteens to hear the gospel presented, she realized that the truth being spoken wasn’t just for those kids. This adult volunteer realized in that moment that what she had been searching for over many years was Jesus. She became a Christian that very day! And as if that wasn’t enough, one of her children also became a Christian during VBS! Talk about a celebration for that family and their church family!

So what’s your story? How is God moving and working in your church and in your community? We’d truly love to hear about it and celebrate with you!

Colossal Crafts Tips

carol-2I recently received these awesome craft tips from one of our dedicated VBS craft leaders, Mary Elizabeth Castles.  I love how the VBS community helps each other out and passes along ideas that may save someone else time and money! If you haven’t already conducted your VBS, check out these Colossal Tips.

Tip #1 for the Basket Toss on Day 2

Use applesauce cups instead of water bottles that are cut off. The applesauce cups work fine, fit on the stick, and if you can get people to eat the flavored kinds that come in little cups that look like  bushel baskets even better. We just had regular ones and the kids loved the game. We didn’t use the masking tape on the sides I had the kids glue on a strip about 6″ long of raffia that I had opened up. It was just the right width for the cups.

Tip #2 for the Fear Face Bookmark on Day 5
Use regular large colored paper clips ( pkg. of 80 at the Dollar Tree) and a pkg. of tiny rubber bands for hair (at Dollar Tree) to hold the yarn hair in place. Split a strip of clear scotch tape up the middle to put on to hold the tiny eyes. These were given to all of the staff attached to a bookmark of the books of the Bible. The staff loved it. (The strips of yarn for the hair were 3″ long and it took 4 pieces per clip.)  They were so cute!

Thanks, Mary Elizabeth, for these super tips.

What tips or adaptations worked for you in your crafts rotation? We would love to hear them!

Reunion Time!

wooley1 2013 By now more than half of all Bible schools for 2013 are over, which means the real work of VBS is just beginning – Continued Connections.

Follow-up has long been a term to describe the actions a church takes after VBS to stay connected with unchurched families who participated during the week of VBS. For many churches follow-up, if done at all, has become little more than a post card. That’s why we are changing the term to Continued Connections. Follow-up is more than one contact or one activity. To be successful the relationships begun during VBS must be nurtured and grown. It is an on-going process.

Last Tuesday I went back to the files and found a great birthday card idea, but again that is only one contact.

The file also revealed several suggestions for an end-of-summer or back-to-school VBS reunion. This is a great way to reconnect with unchurched families just as they are creating their fall routine. It is also the perfect time to introduce them to new Bible study groups or ministries that typically begin in the fall.

The great thing about a reunion is that it can be as simple or complicated as you desire.  The main thing is to connect it through decorations, music, recreation and snacks to VBS. There is power in building upon memories by bringing people to a time and place where they had a positive experience.

Several VBS leaders shared that they pay attention during the week of VBS to the snacks and activities the kids enjoy most, and make sure they are part of the reunion. They also sing the VBS songs and recap the Bible content in a way that ties in with kids going back to school.

A VBS reunion is also a good idea for a fall festival. You already have the decorations in the closet!

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday from Your Friends at VBS

wooley1 2013Thousands of churches concluded VBS 2013 over the weekend, and for thousands more this is day two. Approximately half of all schools will be conducted during the first three weeks of June.

This news tempts many leaders to believe the work of VBS is over for another year, but in reality, just as VBS ends the real work begins!

Now is time to make continued connections a priority – not only for the next few weeks but for the rest of the year.

When an unchurched family filed out a VBS registration card you were given a gift. A precious gift that gives you everything you need to build on the relationship begun during the week of VBS.

I have gone to the archives, and for the next few weeks I’m going to share ideas for continuing the connection.

The following idea comes from Sue Owen in Wyoming:

At registration get the child’s date of birth as well as school grade. Ask a few members of the church who are good at sending cards to be responsible for mailing out birthday cards throughout the year.  Include a VBS bookmark, an ABC Memory Card, or other reminder of VBS, as well as information about upcoming events.

Since few children get mail addressed to them, the parent should be interested in who it is from and see the reminder of the great experience their child had at VBS.

As a middle school student I attended a Billy Graham Crusade. During the response time one of my friends asked if I would walk down with him. The lady who counseled him took the time to thank me for encouraging my friend and asked for my name, address, and birthday. I never met her again, but for the next ten years I received a note of encouragement and prayer from her on my birthday. She wrote the book on continued connections!

Preparing for VBS Means Preparing for Follow-up Contacts

wooley1 2013With the two biggest weeks of the VBS 2013 season just days away (more Bible schools are conducted during the first two weeks of June than any other week), we need to realize we are being given a rich gift – the gift of connecting with hundreds of thousands of unchurched families.

For many families the week of VBS is the first and possibly only connection they will have with your church or any Christian church. It is a new beginning for both the families and the church. Growing these relationships is not the responsibility of the unchurched families. It is our responsibility! It is the responsibility of the church!

Recently I wrote about the importance of replacing our way of thinking about follow-up – as a simple postcard or one-time phone call – with the goal of making continued connections.  This goes way beyond a simple “thanks for coming to VBS” into a series of actions resulting in ongoing life-impacting relationships.

While building a relationship is an ongoing process of connections built on top of connections, there must be a beginning. For most of us the beginning step is the age-old idea of follow-up – making that initial contact with guests and anyone making a salvation decision during VBS. The problem for most of us is that the initial contact is also the last or only contact.

As you start preparing for these contacts, consider the following four levels or types of contacts that need to be made. Each requires a unique message and response time.

Level 1: Individual making a salvation decision or asking questions

Response time for this contact needs to be given top priority and made within 24 hours aof the decision if at all possible. If it is a child making a decision or asking questions, the contact needs to be made with parents as well. The person making this contact needs to be able to review the decision or questions, help the individual confirm his or her decision, and then share information about next steps such as baptism and church membership.

Level 2: Individual with no church affiliation

Response time for this contact needs to be made within 48 hours of the last session of VBS or the last session the individual attends VBS. This contact needs to be made in person if possible, but in a relaxed and non-threatening way (i.e. a quick front porch visit instead of entering the home). The person making this contacts needs to be able to share about other ministry opportunities the church has available for each member of the family. The purpose of this contact is to deepen the relationship by connecting family members to on-going ministries such as other special events and weekly Bible study.

Level 3: Individual from another church

Response time for this contact needs to be made within the next week unless the individual also requires a Level 1 contact. The goal of this contact is not to entice the family away from their church, but to let them know their participation was welcomed and appreciated, and that they are always welcome to participate in other ministry events in the future. If the individual has made a decision or is asking questions her church should be contacted and made aware of the situation.

Level 4: Individual regularly attending your church

Response time for this contact should also be made within the next week. This contact can be a postcard, phone call, or home visit. The goal of this contact is to make sure those kids who attend every Sunday are not overlooked. They may not have been the primary focus of VBS, but they need to know they were noticed, loved, and appreciated.

As I wrote earlier, these contacts are first steps within the process of continued connections. This is a critical beginning, but just a beginning.

 

VBS Workers Needed! Where Are They?

wooley1 2013Recently we asked our VBS Facebook friends to share their prayer needs. Overwhelmingly the requests were for additional workers. Although I wish it were not the case, this response did not come as a surprise. Time and again we hear from VBS leaders that one of their greatest needs is willing workers.

Here are six steps to consider during the final days of enlistment for VBS 2013.

Step 1: Put your strongest and most experienced workers in speaking or lead roles. This will take the pressure off apprehensive volunteers and well as scale back the pressure on you to find workers who already know how to teach or lead the different areas of VBS.

Step 2: Look beyond the usual list of workers. It may be that the very best VBX leader is someone you have not even considered. I write from personal experience here. We were desperate for workers willing to spend a week with sixth graders. We had a lead teacher but no one else had stepped forward.

One afternoon Dava (our VBS director) said, “I think we should ask Tim if he would help us with the sixth grade.” Obviously my response was, “I can’t see Tim saying yes. I really can not see him relating to sixth graders.”

Thankfully Dava won the day and asked Tim, who obviously said yes – otherwise there wouldn’t be a story here.

To put it simply, Tim was awesome! After VBS he came to me and said he would really like to continue the experience by working with sixth graders in Sunday School. How often does that happen?

Within a few months Tim became the director of the department, and within the year he had expanded his ministry to include an extremely successful community outreach basketball program for inner city kids.

Thankfully Dava looked beyond the usual!

Step 3: Realize that quiet often the problem with recruiting volunteers might just be you and your attitude about enlisting. It is not unusual to find a director who is uncomfortable personally asking people to help. As a result, the director depends on bulletin announcements – the lest effective way to enlist workers – and then is bewildered when few if any respond.

Typically there are more people then we realize who will say yes if personally asked, but will never respond to mass appeal. If you have a difficult time recruiting personally, enlist a team of people who are good at it. In this way you are recruiting only a few people who in turn will recruit the masses. Beside, getting more recruiters on the team will help take care of the issue of looking beyond the usual list of workers.

Step 4: You also need to realize that there are potential volunteers who are willing to help, but might never volunteer because they feel inadequate,or are afraid to volunteer only to be rejected because the position has been filled by someone else. Often a hesitancy to volunteer has more to do with fear of rejection then fear of the job.

Step 5: When you do ask someone to help, make sure you know what you are asking him to do. Give him a list of specific responsibilities using terminology that is self explanatory. For example, don’t ask me to be the lead teacher for the first grade class without telling me exactly what a lead teacher is expected to do. When people know exactly what they are being asked to do they are much more willing to agree.

Another aspect of Step 5 is don’t ask someone to just be a warm body to fulfill worker/student ratio in the classroom. No one – even if they say they do – wants to just be there with no responsibility or purpose. Believe me, I have been recruited as a warm body and it was the most boring and uncomfortable thing I have ever been asked to do. When you ask someone to be a helper, make sure you have at least a short list of expectations. People willingly serve when they recognize and identify with a purpose. Give every worker a purpose and show him how his job fits into the big VBS picture.

Step 6: Realize that no matter the size of your church, finding enough workers is not easy. It is all proportional.

While in seminary I served at a church of about 75 regular attenders. A friend served at a church of about 5,000. I desperately needed two additional workers for our preschool Sunday School. One day I whined that if I were at a church the size of her church I wouldn’t have a problem finding enough workers. She quickly informed me that while I desperately needed two preschool workers, she needed a new group of 250 preschool extended teaching time workers every Sunday.

Lesson learned! No matter the size of the church there is always a need for workers. AND no matter the size of the church God has placed just the right number of volunteers.

As we approach the Day of Prayer for VBS this Sunday (May 19), know that LifeWay’s VBS team is praying for you and the workers needed for the harvest in your community.

May 19, 2013 – National Day of Prayer for VBS

 

Rhonda small Have you ever flipped the switch on a lamp several times and nothing happened? Do you remember the frustration of, “Why isn’t this thing coming on?” during your fruitless flips up and down. What about that sheepish, “oh,” realization when you see the disconnected plug?

This is a pretty good picture of our efforts to spread the gospel without prayer. Prayer is the power source that enlightens and charges our efforts. We are less than a month away from what are typically the two biggest weeks of VBS. Even if your VBS is later in the summer, the time to begin praying is NOW!

The VBS 2013 Administrative Guide has great prayer resources from prayer calendars to prayer walk brochures. And, this Sunday, May 19, 2013, is the National Day of Prayer for VBS.

I started thinking about praying for VBS and it occurred to me that V. B. S. is a great acronym for praying for VBS everywhere.

V – Volunteers! Recently on our Facebook we asked people to share their prayer requests. (Our team prays for you!) One of the most requested prayer concerns was for volunteers to help. Jesus told His disciples to pray for workers (Matthew 9:36-38). It is still an urgent prayer. The harvest is ready!

B – Bible! God’s Word changes lives. God promised that His Spirit would be our Teacher (John 14:25-26). We need His power and guidance as we teach Bible truths to others.

S – Salvations! VBS is still one of the strongest evangelistic efforts made by many churches. Prayer, concentrated Bible teaching, and the forging of relationships set the stage to share the gospel in a powerful way. Pray that hearts are prepared to respond to the gospel of Jesus.

I hope you’ll join me this Sunday, as we pray together for VBS!

 

 

Top 10 Ways to Use the Kid’s Activity Pak Books

ruth smallYou just never know what you are going to learn at our VBS Preview Events! This past January, I got to hear Kelli McAnally share some creative ways to use the kid’s activity paks with preschoolers. Kelli wrote the 15-page storybooks for the VBS 2013 Kid’s Activity Pak: Babies–2s and the VBS 2013 Kid’s Activity Pak: 3s–Kindergarten.

vbs13-3-k-act-pak-cover

 

 

  1. Act out the book—kids choose colored craft sticks to determine which character they will be.
  2. Match colors in the book—kids draw pieces of colored paper out of the VBS 2014 Inflatable Coaster Car.
  3. Match letters and words—match foam letters, clothespins with letters, or tiles with letters to those in the book. Easy words (such as “God”) also can be matched.
  4. Listen for a word—kids clap or raise hands when they hear the word.
  5. Make up a finger play or hand motions.
  6. Create cards with review questions on one side and answers on the back. Use with a flip chute.
  7. Record the book on your phone—Play the tape while kids follow along in the book.
  8. Put the story in order—talk about what happened first, next, and so on.
  9. Make a flap book using sticky notes.
  10. Count items—use craft sticks to tally.

Kelli also gave us some great tips for reading with preschoolers.

  1. If preschoolers are on the floor, you should sit on the floor.
  2. Hold the book so kids can see it as you read.
  3. Encourage children to talk about the pictures during the reading.
  4. Allow a child to turn the pages.
  5. Guide children to ask questions about the book.
  6. Respect the child who chooses to look at the book alone.
  7. Provide time after a book is read for kids to respond to the plot and characters of the book.
  8. Read a book many times for kids to connect with the characters.
  9. Encourage children to play out the story from a book.
  10. Allow a younger child to skip around in the book if he wants.

Thanks, Kelli, for the books you’ve written and for teaching us how to use them!

Happy reading with your kids at Colossal Coaster World!

VBS New Testaments

thomasLooking for a special gift for new Christians, a meaningful “souvenir” from VBS for kids, or something to take into the home of an unchurched family who visited your VBS? The VBS New Testaments with Psalms and Proverbs fit the bill perfectly! There are lots of things to love about these New Testaments, but my personal favorite feature is that the very first pages of these Bibles feature 30 days worth of kid-friendly, kid-centered devotions. So not only are you putting the Word of God in a child’s hands, you’re also helping him learn how to read the Bible and apply it to every day life.

devotions

 

Another nice feature is that the plan of salvation is clearly outlined throughout these Bible’s pages. Key verses are highlighted to make them easy for kids to spot and directions to “turn to page # and read ____ verse” make it easy for a child to use his own Bible to share the Gospel with a friend. There’s even a section that deals with questions kids have about what being a Christian means and what happens next.

 

The back of each Bible contains fun games and activities that encourage children to use their Bibles and reconnect with the things learned at VBS. These activities can even be used during VBS for those times when you need a little something extra to fill the time.

activities

 

The VBS New Testaments are available in HCSB and KJV to match the VBS curriculum. Take a look at them for yourself at your local LifeWay store or on the Web at www.lifeway.com. Got a great idea for using the VBS New Testaments? Feel free to share it with others by posting a comment here.

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