Using VBS to Initiate Continued Connections

20140114-075705.jpgSeveral years ago LifeWay’s VBS Team surveyed 3,000 leaders about church practices and potential resources. We were amazed when 97% of the respondents agreed their greatest need was help with follow-up (connecting with unchurched guests and families attending VBS).

Each year approximately 10% of everyone attending VBS acknowledge being unchurched. Considering approximately 3,000,000 kids, teens, and adults participate, 10% is 300,000. Of course since most of these individuals are kids, when you add in their parents and siblings who did not attend the grand total is a staggering 1,000,000.

As we have talked with VBS leaders across the country it has become evident that for the majority of churches follow-up is a one-time action consisting or a postcard or letter expressing thanks for participation and a invitation to return. Sadly, these same churches have often expressed disappointment that the results of VBS has been minimal at best.

Another assumption these conversations has confirmed is that far too many churches leave follow-up to the pastor or a staff member. Workers tend to feel their responsibilities end with the close of the last day of VBS and assume someone else will take care of making contact with the unchurched kids and families discovered during the week.

With survey results and statistics in hand, the VBS team has been on a journey to help church leaders see follow-up not as a one-time, one-action event, but as a series of actions intentionally designed to connect unchurched families to the Gospel and to the church. Here are six key points for using VBS to initiate continued connections.

1. VBS can no longer be seen as an event in itself, but must be seen as a prelude to the real event – relationships that connect people to the Gospel and to the church.

2. When unchurched families bring their kids to VBS they are the ones initiating the relationships or connections. In doing so the families provide names, addresses, phone numbers and everything needed to make contacts and nurture the relationships. Unchurched families initiate the relationship and it is the responsibility of the church to respond. This way of thinking is contrary to what we have typically practiced.

3. For churches to be successful they must stop thinking in terms of “follow-up” action steps and instead must start thinking in terms of relational “continued connections.” Friendships develop over time and as a result of continually reaching out to each other. Relationships can be messy and complicated and do not develop as a result of a completed checklist.

4. VBS leaders and pastors must be intentional about designing opportunities for continued connections to happen instead of leaving them to chance. Continued connections need to be planned with the same priority, intensity and detail as VBS itself. Someone needs to be in charge and have plans ready before the first day of VBS.

5. Unchurched families discovered during VBS must become the responsibility of the entire church and not just VBS workers. For connections to be successfully made every age-group ministry must become intentionally involved in connecting families to ongoing ministries.

6. Persistence is vital. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again,” is a proverb that truly applies to making continued connections.

The average VBS results in the discovery of 40 unchurched individuals (kids and other family members). What might be the result of your church intentionally investing in the lives of 40 people for one year?

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

 

6 Ways to Continue the Connection

Screen shot 2014-01-23 at 9.51.12 AMMany times VBS is the catalyst that brings people into church when they otherwise would not step in the door. However, many times when the week is over things go back to business as usual. When this happens we miss out on a great opportunity to reach out and bring people into the fold and help them build a relationship with their Savior. Consider some to these ideas to help build on the foundation set during VBS.

  1. Offer a “next step” for VBS guest and their families. Utilize the parenting workshop included in the Adult VBS curriculum or host other needs based classes for parents.
  2. Follow up with visitors personally. Use the steps in the Administrative Guide for Directors for making quick at home visits, phone calls, or mail contacts. Or use the Transition From VBS to Sunday School outline on the Administrative Guide CD-ROM.
  3. Send a VBS 2014 Takin’ It Home CD or VBS 2014 Family Headquarters Guide home with each family. Either of these products will encourage families to dive deeper into the biblical content studied during VBS.
  4. Make the connection with the VBS 2014 Family App. Kids and parents can continue to discover, decide, and defend the hope that is in them.
  5. Create a follow-up strategy when you first begin planning VBS. Share the strategy with your entire congregation and encourage them to participate in the process. Continue until a contact has been made with every home and every parent has been met.
  6. Report and celebrate efforts with the congregation

6 Things You Need to Know About Working with Adults During VBS

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Adult VBS? Really? Yes!!! You read it correctly! When we host VBS for kids only we are missing a tremendous opportunity to share God’s Word and the Gospel with older siblings and parents. If the truths being taught during VBS are important for kids then they are just as important for teens and adults. LifeWay creates VBS resources for the entire family – babies through adults – because we believe VBS remains one of the most successful ways to evangelistically reach families and not just kids.

 

When planning for adult VBS you might assume the class should be structured like a typical Sunday School class or Wednesday night Bible study. Don’t venture down that path! VBS for all ages is designed to be a unique experience that is fun, engaging, and a little – if not a lot – out of the box.

 

In truth I have taught more adult VBS classes then I have taught classes for kids. Following are six keys to teaching adults I have personally learned through the years:

 

1. Adults like to have fun – make it enjoyable. A session of Adult VBS does not need to be a standup comedy routine, but it does need to be fun, upbeat, and a stimulating break from the routine of the day – especially if it is an evening session. Adult leaders are often tempted to skip over suggested icebreaker activities and go straight to deep Bible study. Icebreaker activities are purposely designed to facilitate relationships and lighthearted fun.

2. Adults require a variety of learning styles. Thankfully God  made each of us unique – including the way we learn. Teachers tend to teach the way they personally learn best, which means they are discounting the learning styles of others. Only the person giving the lecture wants to sit through a 90 minutes of lecture. Similarly, not everyone will respond to a 90-minute discussion or non-stop paper and pencil activities. Attention spans are getting shorter and shorter – even for adults – and a great way to hold attention is by using a variety of learning styles. LifeWay’s Adult VBS intentionally includes a variety of learning activities in each session that are designed so that every adult can engage the content in the context of their unique learning style.

3. Adults enjoy crafts, recreation and music. People always react with a nervous laugh when I tell them LifeWay’s Adult VBS resources include suggestions for crafts, recreation, snacks, and worship. They see amazed that a class designed for adults would include activities other than Bible study. But take another look at Statements 1 and 2. Adults really do want to have fun and part of the fun is learning in different ways. Just like VBS for kids, recreation and crafts are part of the learning experience and should include direct links to the Scripture passage and theme for the day. Some of the best application of all takes place around a craft or snack table and recreation is a perfect way to apply Biblical truths to life. If you are a little nervous concerning how adults will respond to crafts and recreation just remember, the leader sets the pace and tone. If you are enjoying recreation so will class members.

4. Don’t assume adults are familiar with the Bible or church language. If you are truly conducting Adult VBS for unchurched adults, you need to lead each session with them in mind. Church language abounds in most adult classes, yet terms such as Deacons, Lord’s Supper, and the Letter of the Romans are as foreign to an unchurched adult as Greek is to you.

5. Don’t assume adults have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Obviously this is true if you are reaching unchurched adults, but it may be just as true if you have a room full of active church attenders. Never miss an opportunity during Adult VBS to make a clear Gospel presentation part of the session.

6. Don’t assume adults understand how to continue the learning experience at home. Adult VBS is an excellent opportunity to not only study God’s Word during sessions, but to also inspire adults to continue learning at home by introducing reading plans and providing resources for continued study. Adult VBS is also a great opportunity to connect unchurched adults with ongoing Bible study groups (Sunday School) and ministries. Invite ministry leaders to drop by during snack, recreation, and craft portions of the session to introduce their ministries and to build relationships.

 

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

 

6 Simple Ways to Quickly Decorate for VBS

  1. Stack a few copy paper boxes or office file boxes and label each one with the words “Top Secret,” “Property of Agency D3,” or “Evidence.” Not only are file boxes ready-made decorations, they also pull double duty as easy storage for supplies.
  2. String red yarn between two hallway walls to create a maze of “laser beams” which kids have to crawl through and/or climb over.
  3. Attach sections of dryer vent hose to drape across ceiling tracks or to arc out from walls to give any room an “industrial” feel.
  4. Dust off those old computer monitors, keyboards, and old cell phones (batteries removed) and set up a “control desk” in one area of the room.
  5. Rope off restricted areas of the room with caution tape or VBS 2014 Agency D3 Investigative Tape.
  6. Hang one of the ready-to-use backdrops for Agency D3—the Supersized Backdrop (which looks like a control desk), the Super Duper Sized Backdrop (which fits together or can be used separately), or the Visual Pack posters.

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6 Challenges for the VBS Registration Team

20140114-075705.jpgThe VBS Registration Team is often overlooked when it comes to training. After all, their task is simply to sit at a table and put ink on paper. But is that really their only task?

The work of the registration team is vital to everything else that happens during VBS. Without gathering adequate information a day of VBS can quickly dissolve into chaos. In many ways the registration team holds the keys, or at least the details, to the VBS kingdom. If I were training the registration team at my church today I would definitely want them to know how important and valued they are. I would also want them to know these six things:
 
1. The registration team creates the first human impression many parents and kids experience, not only of VBS but of the church. (I say human impression because in reality first impressions are made by the promotional materials and methods used to publicize VBS and the exterior appearance of the church campus as families arrive.) As the first human impression the registration team becomes the first church members to connect with unchurched guests. Even though they may spend only a few minutes with the families they will create a lasting impression.

2. The registration team must relationally connect with kids AND parents. When there are dozens of families waiting in line to register it is easy to become so involved in getting ink on paper – my term for filling at the registration form – that members of the registration team fail to  relationally and emotionally connect with the parents. Since registration team members are typically seated it is easy and sometimes expedient to never look up beyond the eye level of kids. It is important for the registration team to not only acknowledge the parent as the source of information needed to complete the form, but to acknowledge them as individuals who also need to connect to the Gospel and the church.
  
3. The registration team needs to have at least a summary knowledge of the daily Biblical content. I want the registration team at my church to be able to not only assure parents their kids will have fun at VBS, but I want them to be able to let parents know some of what their kids will be learning about Jesus Christ.

4. Since the registration team is the first church members some families will meet, team members need to be about to give information and answer questions not only about VBS but about the church in general. It creates a poor first impression when a parent ask what time and where they should pick their kids up and the registration doesn’t know the answer.

5. The registration team is vital to the process of continuing connections with unchurched families following VBS. It is important to capture as much information as possible and not just fill in the blanks. I want my team to know they have permission to record additional information such as parent’s occupation, how long the family has lived in the area, and other information they might learn while registering the kids. Information that is not formally requested on the registration form is often some extremely valuable when making continued connection (follow-up) contacts.

6. Once registration is complete I want my team to know they are still needed. While it is important for at least one or two members to remain in the registration area to care for late arrivers, I want the rest of the team to transition other areas such as the prayer team. What a great gift for other workers to know there is a dedicated team praying for them as they are teaching God’s Word in Bible study or assisting kids in making Scriptural applications during crafts and recreation.

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

6 Things to Know About Teens Working in VBS

carol_editedTeens are ready to take on some responsibilities and leadership roles within the church. They can be great role models for younger children and preschoolers. However, before enlisting teens to serve in VBS, you might want to check out these tips to ensure a successful experience.

  1. Partner up. Always have an adult leader in the room with the teen helper at all times. This is for the safety and protection of your church, kids, leaders, and the teens themselves. Teens should not be given the sole responsibility for leading a class. Partnering them with a mature adult also provides an opportunity for adults to serve as role models and mentors for the teens.
  2. Communicate clear expectations. Let teens know that this is not the time to be on their cell phones or socializing with other teen helpers in the room. Clearly communicate what their responsibilities will be and the manner in which you expect them to carry out those responsibilities.
  3. Provide training. Either require the teens to come to your church wide VBS training, or hold a training session especially for them before VBS. Go over the Bible content, schedule, safety procedures, and other information pertinent to your church. Consider using the Student VBS material to familiarize students with the week’s Bible content. This can be done on Wednesday or Sunday nights leading up to VBS or host a Student VBS the week before children’s VBS.
  4. Find their passion. Ask teens what they are passionate about and allow them to serve in an area where they can use their passion to help kids learn about Jesus. For example, if a teen is passionate about soccer, allow her to serve in recreation.
  5. Show appreciation. Teens need to feel valued for the contribution they are making. Include the teens in any appreciation you are showing the adult leaders. Find a strength that each teen demonstrated during the week and send him a card complimenting him in that area.
  6. Continue the connection. Offer teens opportunities to continue to develop the relationships they have forged during VBS. Perhaps they can serve on Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights with the age-group they helped in VBS.

 

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!

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.