Three Simple Statements

carol-2Three simple statements, yet they are key to helping you be successful in leading VBS. Have you noticed them? Take a look in your Bible Study Leader Guide, they are right there on the first page of each session. Right along with the Bible story information and the life application. See them now? Good.

Allow me to explain, these three simple statements will help you know if the kids you are leading have made the connection during your lesson. Think of them as objectives, if you will. These statements let you know exactly what you want kids to know when they walk out the door each day. As you are teaching, you can use these statements as a check point to be sure you are reinforcing the main ideas of the day with the kids.

Generally the first statement will be a recall or reminder of information found in the Bible story. The second statement will move kids into applying what they have learned to their own lives. And the third statement generally involves the daily challenge. Each age-group Bible Study Leader Guide includes these statements in leader guides for grades 1-6 they are called “Connection Points” and in the preschool guides they are titled, “What Kids Need to Know.”

All the activities and discussion have been written with these three objectives in mind. By staying focused on the objectives throughout each session, you can maximize the limited time you have to reach kids for Christ!

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!

 

I scream, you scream, we all scream for VBS??

katie2aIf you’ve been around kids for any amount of time, you know they can be LOUD!  What’s more fun than to be a little loud during VBS?

This year, make sure you don’t miss these super fun Screamer Balloons.  They’re long balloons that make a crazy “screaming” noise when you let the air out!

Check out this funny video of some of our LifeWay Kids team trying them out for the first time.

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.

Catching a New Vision: VBS 2013

photoHappy Thursday, VBS friends!

I love Thursdays, don’t you?  If you’re anything like me, (busy!) you’re looking forward to the weekend and a couple of days of rest, but you’re thankful to still have two more days in the week to get everything on the “to-do” list done!

How’s your planning coming along so far?  What are you working on right now?

I’ve got a couple projects on my plate right now (including a brand new social media feature for sharing ideas you guys are gonna LOVE!) that I’m really excited about seeing come to fruition.

Speaking of seeing… do like my new specs?

Even though these Fun Glasses don’t have special lenses, I think wearing them is helping me catch a new vision for the work ahead. Maybe you could use a pair to help your team catch the vision for VBS 2013?

And of course, if YOU have them, your kiddos are going to need a pair for themselves, too!

 

Building the Swing Ride

Materials:swing1

  • Cardboard carpet tube (often free from carpet/flooring suppliers)
  • Hammered, silver metallic spray paint
  • Yellow spray paint
  • Optional: painters tape
  • 2” thick rigid insulation foam
  • Jig saw with fine tooth blade
  • Colored duct tape
  • Circle punch (scrapbooking tool)
  • Holographic scrapbook paper (with adhesive back is ideal)
  • Large Styrofoam ball (Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, or JoAnn’s)
  • Medium diameter dowel rods
  • Small diameter dowel rods
  • Red latex house paint
  • Paint brush and roller
  • Blue spray paint
  • 11×17” heavyweight paper
  • Swing template from Decorating Made Easy (CD-ROM)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Rotating Christmas tree stand (ours was purchased online here)
  • Dowel rod to fit Christmas tree stand
  • Scrap lumber
  • Screw gun & screws

 

1. Spray paint a cardboard carpet tub with silver metallic spray paint. Wrap with colorful tape (or painters tape and then spray paint again, then remove tape) to get a “barber pole” effect.

2. Trace a hula hoop onto 2″ foam TWICE to get 2 matching circles for the swing ride. Cut these out with the jig saw and line them up so they fit together. Glue together, paint, and then hide the seam with colorful duct tape. (This gives you a 4″ thick foam circle.) Embellish with holographic circles (cut from scrapbook paper) to resemble lights.

3. Trace the diameter of the outside edge of the carpet tube and then transfer it to the center of the 4″ circle. Cut all the way through so that it can fit snugly around the carpet tube. Slide into position on the top third of the carpet tube.

ball4. Paint a 10″ Styrofoam ball (or as large as you can find). Press it down onto the top of the carpet tube to mark where it needs to sit. You’ll likely need to “carve out” a place for it to fit over the tube. I used a paint can opener for that and it worked quite well.

5. Paint varying lengths and diameters of wooden dowels and then push them randomly into the Styrofoam ball all the way around… these will look like spikes. Position the ball (with spikes) on top of the carpet tube.

spokes

6. Paint long, thin dowel rods (2 per swing). Print the template from the CD-ROM in the Decorating Made Easy book and create as many swings as you need from heavyweight paper. Decorate as desired. Hot glue 2 rods to each swing and then carefully press them into the bottom of the 4″ inch foam circle. Tip: Push the rods in at an angle to make the swings look as if they are moving fast.

swing3

7. Find a dowel rod roughly the same diameter as a Christmas tree and screw it into the tree stand with the provided screws.

8. Trace the inside diameter of the carpet tube and then transfer it to a scrap piece of wood. Cut out with a jig saw then screw it to the top of the dowel rod (think “T”). Slide the tube over this and as the rod turns in the tree stand, so will the whole carpet tube!

stand

Building the Ferris Wheel

As an exclusive to our faithful blog readers, today and tomorrow we will post instructions to two decorating items that cannot be found anywhere else! These instructions are not even in the Decorating Made Easy book! We know you’ve been asking for them, so here they are… up first is the Ferris wheel. Be sure to check back tomorrow for the swing ride!

WR_set

 Materials:

  • 4×8’ rigid insulation foam board (½”thick)
  • Scrap pieces of ½” foam board
  • Scrap pieces of 2” foam board
  • Small scrap piece of ½” PVC pipe
  • Gorilla tape (stronger than duct tape)
  • Construction adhesive
  • Latex house paint and craft paint
  • Painters tape
  • Holographic/reflective scrapbook paper
  • Circle punch (various sizes)
  • Hot knife or heat gun
  • Jig saw with fine tooth blade
  • Optional: Low RPM (8 or so) DC motor, coupling, & housing (for bracing)

 

1. Use a makeshift compass to trace 2 identical half circles onto 2 pieces of thin foam board and cut out using a jig saw. Tape together from behind to make an 8’ diameter wheel.ferris wheel 1

2. Paint the wheel using either latex house paint or craft paint. Lay out your design with painters tape, then remove the tape after painting (see Decorating Made Easy for sample diagram). Tip: Purchase the blue insulation board instead of the pink and then you won’t have to paint a base coat… it’ll just look like blue sky behind the spokes/design!

3. Simulate lights around the wheel and spokes with holographic/reflective scrapbook paper. Use a circle punch to cut various sizes of circles, then attach wherever desired to the wheel.

4. If you want the wheel to move, make a small hole in the exact center by pressing the rod (attached to the motor) through. We attached our wheel directly to the rod with Gorilla Tape so that it would spin as the rod was spinning. If you don’t need your wheel to spin, simply tape it flat against the wall at whatever height you wish and attach the front pieces to it (building on in layers).

5. If the wheel will spin or be freestanding, it will need to be braced from the rear. Cut a scrap piece of 2″ foam into a circle (approx. 9-12″ in diameter) and push the rod (from the motor) all the way through the center to make a hole. Move it around a little to make the hole a little bit bigger than needed. Then cut a scrap of 1/2″ PVC pipe to approx. 2″ length and push it down inside that hole (needs to fit snugly). Use a little construction adhesive to hold it in place. This will help the wheel turn better because the rod didn’t squeal against the foam as it turned and it didn’t wear away or misshape the foam after hours of turning. Tip: Make sure the rod coming out of the motor slides easily through the PVC pipe. You don’t want that pipe too big or too small. Tape this foam circle to the back of the Ferris wheel. Make sure the holes line up exactly on top of each other. Then cut 4 “spokes” out of scrap 2″ foam (each approx. 2′ long). Round one end of each spoke so that it fits snugly up against the circle in the center. Be sure to place 2 “spokes” along the seam where the 2 pieces of the Ferris wheel fit together. This will give that seam stability. Then place the other 2 “spokes” on the opposite sides. Tape everything well to the Ferris wheel. When you get ready to put it in place vertically, be sure to get some help. It’s definitely a 2-person job!Ferris wheel sketch

6. Motor: If you got to see the Ferris wheel in action at any of our VBS Preview events, you probably checked out the back to see what was making it spin. We used the same motor that turned our airplane propeller in Amazing Wonders Aviation. Unfortunately, that particular motor and stand were built long ago so I can’t really speak to the exact specs for those pieces. I DO know the motor is a simple low speed or variable speed DC motor (approx. 8 RPM). These are available from any industrial supplier (such as Grainger, Harbor Freight, etc.). Ours has a rod and 2 couplers (couplings?) with the rod extending about 18-24″ (so that there’s plenty of room to incorporate the stand and anything the motor is spinning). We set our stand on top of a piano bench or plastic crate to get the full height we wanted. If the Ferris wheel will sit behind something else (like a roller coaster backdrop) you don’t have to worry about hiding any of that. Originally I had thought the Ferris wheel would sit in front of the coaster though, so I created a 3-sided box (think project board) and painted it black to hide what would be visible between the bottom of the spinning wheel and the floor on 3 sides. If yours will stand alone or be in front, that might be something you want to consider. (Or you can just drape everything with a black sheet.)

side sketch

7. Cut a round scrap of 2″ foam as a “spacer” of sorts between the base (the box where the motor is housed) and the spinning wheel. This just keeps the wheel turning smoothly and keeps it from rubbing against the motor’s base. It also helps eat up some length on the rod that sticks out (less to have to hide/cover on the front of the wheel).

8. Place the wheel on next. Then comes the piece with the “legs” (see below or Decorating Made Easy p. 30).

legs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. Make sure the “leg piece” extends slightly above the spinning rod (rod goes through the top) and all the way to the floor. Measurements will vary. Cut the legs from a single piece of ½” foam (scrap is fine).

10. Trace a small hula hoop onto another scrap of 2″ foam and cut out with a jig saw. Use a hot knife or heat gun to smooth & seal the edges. This circle should be larger than the “legs” as it will be attached to the top of the leg piece and is the final piece of the Ferris wheel base. Paint as desired and finish off with a small wooden or foam circle in the exact center for added decoration.FW closeup

11. Center this circle on the top of the leg piece. Tape together from behind. Create a hole through the legs and into the outermost circle for the motor rod to enter, but be sure the rod does not go all the way through the outer circle.

12. Lean this final piece against the spinning wheel (with about 2 fingers space away from the wheel). There is no need to secure it as the angle and the support of the rod will keep it in place without needing to be secured. If needed, you could tape the legs to the floor from behind.

13. Trace 4 circles about the size of a small paper plate onto scraps of ½” foam. Cut them out with a jig saw or utility knife then cut them in half to yield 8 half circles. These will be the “baskets” where people would sit to ride. Paint as desired.

14. Tape the half circles from behind around the edge of the Ferris wheel.

 

Personalize Your Colossal Coaster World Shirts for FREE!

2013 t shirt

Looking for a way to make sure your VBS team or kids stand out? A personalized Colossal Coaster World T-shirt is just the ticket!

Specialty Imprints, the division of LifeWay Christian Resources that produces our VBS shirts, is making a limited-time offer for free personalization for any church that orderd 100 or more shirts before May 1. Your church name will fit perfectly  inside the Admit One ticket on the back of the shirt pictured above.

To take advantage of this offer call 1.800.443.8032 before May 1!

 

 

Six Steps to Reaching Your Target Audience

PurpleShirtPhotoI love the movie Field of Dreams – especially the line, “If you build it, he will come.”

While these prophetic words may work for a baseball field in the middle of a remote Iowa corn patch, it doesn’t hold true for VBS. Just because you create a potentially fun and life-changing week for your community doesn’t mean people will just automatically attend.

As you are building (planning) your VBS, make sure you are building your promotion (marketing) plan at the same time. How devastating to work so hard recruiting and training workers, collecting supplies, and preparing the building, only to realize at the last minute no one has told the community.

Here are six steps to insure your message reaches your target audience.

1. Start Promoting Now!

Actually you probably should have started telling people about VBS 2013 during VBS 2012. But never fear, you still have time to create a successful promotion strategy if you begin now.

First you need to check church and community calendars to make sure you are not scheduling your VBS on top of any major events that will compete for workers and kids. Now you want to make sure the congregation is reminded often of the date and time of not only VBS but any training opportunities that will be provided. You do not want to give the members of the congregation the excuse of not having adequate information early.

2. Put Someone in Charge of Promotion

As the pastor or VBS director you already have more responsibility than you can shake a stick at. (I’m not really sure what that means, but my grandmother said it often.) Refusing to delegate responsibility for promotion will insure that you get so busy with all the other details of VBS you run out of time and energy to make sure the community – and especially unchurched families – know what is going on. For you, promotion is just one more detail. But if you delegate the responsibility it becomes his primary detail and focus.

Encourage your promotion leader to build a creative team who can help dream the possibilities as well as do the leg work. Promotion is a great job for the person (people) who might not be available to work during the week of VBS but are available during the weeks leading up to VBS.

3. Know Your Target Audience

Blanket promotion (banners, newspaper advertisements, store posters) may appear to be telling the entire community about VBS, but you might be spending a lot of time, money, and energy yet never get the word to the families you are trying to reach. Target audience means the specific group of people you are trying to reach – the families most likely to attend your specific church or VBS.

Once you determine your target audience you can then target how you promote to them. For instance, if your target audience includes preschoolers you need to find out where parents of preschoolers congregate, where they shop and eat, and how they best communicate with each other. It’s not hard. Just ask parents of preschoolers what you would need to do for them to hear your message. You can then target your target audience.

4. Use a Variety of Promotion Methods

Try to calculate for a moment the number of messages that are directed at you each day. Make sure you include mail, newspapers and magazines, posters in store windows, phone calls, and electronic messages such as e-mail and social networks. Don’t forget to include billboards, bumper stickers, and conversations with co-workers. In reality you receive hundreds if not thousands of messages each day. If you receive that many, then so do the people you want to attend your VBS. One postcard or banner quickly gets lost and forgotten.

To truly get your message heard and remembered you will need to broadcast it often and in many ways.  One of the reasons you need to start promoting now is to allow enough time to utilize a variety of methods. Create a promotion calendar that insures you are broadcasting your message to your target audience in repetitious waves.

5. Be Creative

First you need to know that being creative does not have to mean expensive. Some of the most creative marketing of all has cost little if anything. Your very best promotion is going to be one person telling another person, so make sure you give them something fun and engaging (creative) to talk about. There will be a lot of churches in your community hosting VBS – many during the exact same week – so it is important that your message is heard and remembered. You want to do something that creates a buzz, or as my boss says, a sizzle!

Effective promotion must grab attention within three seconds. The more creatively you convey your message, the better chance you have of getting and holding the attention of your target audience.

Bring a group together to brainstorm fun and unexpected ways to broadcast your message. Remember, the first rule of brainstorming is there are no bad ideas. Every idea has potential. Start with the question, “If money was not an issue, what could we do to tell people about VBS?”

Of course money is an issue, but if you never allow yourself or your team to dream bigger then your budget you will settle for promoting the same way you promoted last year, and most likely miss out on an extremely creative (yet inexpensive) way to target your target audience.

6. Make Quality a Priority

The quality of your promotion is going to signal the quality of your VBS. Again, quality does not have to mean expensive, but it does have to meet the standard expected by your target audience. Once you have determined your target audience you will be able to determine the quality they expect and respond to.

So what do you need to do to get started? Enlist a promotion leader. Today!

 

Crafting with a Crowd

tomlinson

For some of us crafting makes our day. We love it, the more glue (or for me glue dots) the better. We see an empty box, a scrap piece of paper, or some leftover fabric, and think, “What can I turn that into?” However, not everyone shares our love of all things crafty. Hand them the Crafts Rotation Leader Guide and tell them they will be leading the crafts rotation, and they break out into hives.  It’s one thing to sit down and complete a craft project on our own, but something else entirely different to sit down with 15-20 kids and complete the project. But never fear (Isn’t that the whole point of VBS 2013? Facing our fears.), you can successfully craft with a crowd. Here are a few pointers to help you when crafting with a crowd:

 

  1. Plan Your Time:  You may look at a craft and think, “Well, this will take about 5 seconds to do,” but rarely will a child be able to complete their project in the short amount of time that an adult will. You also need to factor in the time it will take to distribute supplies, give instructions, and transition.
  2. Prep Your Supplies: By prepping your supplies before hand, you can keep the session moving at an easy comfortable pace. Think about asking older youth and Sunday School classes to help you prep before VBS starts. They can cut materials, gather items, and sort them into individual ziplock bags. Then once VBS starts all you need to do is give each child a bag of materials and get started.
  3. Prepare Your Samples: The best way to be confident in teaching someone else to do something is to do it yourself. Once you have selected the crafts you want to do, make samples of each one. Note anything you think will need further explanation or changes that can be made that will work better for your group.
  4. Pace Your Lesson: Figure out exactly how much time you have with each rotation. Plan how much time you will spend introducing the project and relating it to the Bible content, giving instructions, and so forth. When working with children it will be best to give one set of instructions at a time. The leader guide shows each craft with step-by-step instructions to help you know how to transition from one step to the next.

 

Crafting with a crowd can be fearful at times, but when we trust God and are obedient to Him, the blessing will be immeasurable.