VBS by the Numbers

wooley1 2013It has taken a little longer than usual, but we finally have numbers from VBS 2012. Yep, you read it correctly – 2012.

We always run a year behind in the numbers department to allow time for every church to submit there VBS data. For 2012 a total of 28,187 churches and missions reported hosting either a traditional VBS, and Backyard Kids Club, a mission VBS, or a combination of all three. This is a tremendous increase of 3,246 more Bible schools than 2011, and the largest number of schools since 2004!

A grand total of 2,759,014 kids, students, adults and workers enrolled and there were 79,588 professions of faith! These are numbers to celebrate!

There were also 2,411 people who publicly announced their intention to respond to God’s call for vocational ministry. This is an increase over 2011 of 130 people. VBS is – or at least should be – extremely evangelistic, but the missions rotation component has been used in a mighty way to connect people of all ages with ways they can personally be on mission in their communities and abroad. Since 2004 alone, 19,349 individuals have committed themselves to full-time ministry as a result of VBS. Today many of these individuals are involved in VBS and other ministries around the world.

However, a deeper look shows that both enrollment and professions of faith are slightly lower than 2011 even though an additional 3,246 schools were conducted. The average enrollment of 113 per school dropped to 97 per school. This is not necessarily a bad thing since the reports reflect an increase in the number of churches conducting Backyard Kids Clubs, which by their nature would have smaller attendance.

A surprising shift to a trend that has been increasing for over a decade was the number of churches that returned to morning Bible schools.  Sixty percent of churches reported an evening school, but this is down from the 67 percent reported for 2011. Based on a upward trend I had predicted that 70 percent of 2012 Bible schools would have been conducted in the evening. It is going to be interesting to see what happens to this number for 2013.

Thank you for taking the time to submit a Church VBS Report form. Each year we mail out 48,000 forms plus provide one in the Administrative Guide for Directors. Like an annual physical, this data diagnoses the health of VBS as well as helps us at LifeWay prepare resources that corresponds with changing trends. VBS continues to be the largest evangelistic outreach collectively conducted by churches. We can definitely say Yes! to VBS!

Foto Friday!

The summer is beginning to wind down, but that hasn’t slowed down the photo-sharing!  Many churches are still in the midst of VBS, so the pictures just keep coming!  Big church or little church, it’s really cool to see how God uses VBS in so many different ways to convey one simple message:  Jesus saves.  I’m so excited to share another round of VBS 2012 photos with you!

Fanny Grote shared these photos from East Shore Baptist Church, Harrisburg, PA. They used VBS materials while on their mission trip to Jamaica! They reported 6 decisions for Christ from their VBS.

Another great photo from East Shore Baptist Church, Harrisburg, PA who used VBS materials on their trip to Jamaica!

Sally Crank shared this photo from water day at Sparks Christian Fellowship in Sparks, NV. “Our Amazing Wonders week was July 9-12, 2012. We ended with 193 kids and 161 volunteers. It was an amazing week full of Gods awesome power!!! The kids had a ball, the volunteers went above and beyond. Cant wait until next year!! It is definitely my favorite week of the summer!!”

DezaRay shared this photo from New Pilgrim Baptist Church, Salt Lake City, Utah. I thought it was so creative of them to decorate outside for recreation! How creative! “We had an A-M-A-Z-I-N-G time decorating in and outside our church for VBS!”

Neal Cox shared this photo of an AWA plane at The Bible Temple in Coward SC. “The plane is made from insulation foam and covered with conact paper and is assembled like a giant balsa plane.”  Very cool!

Cathy Mattingly and Brenda Nelson, co-directors of VBS at West Broadway Baptist Church in Louisville, KY shared that they included radio-controlled airplane flight simulator training with their Amazing Wonders Aviation VBS. WOW! Cathy said the kids had an absolute blast!!

Here’s another fun photo from Cathy and Brenda at West Broadway Baptist Church in Louisville, KY.  Love that propellor! 

Marsha Henderson from Bear Creek Baptist Church in Houston, TX shared this photo with us. “Here is our version of the Great Barrier Reef. We had such a great week with over 1000 kids. 100 kids accepted Christ as their Savior!!!! Can’t wait till next year!!!!”

Here’s a teaser for next week. I can’t wait to share all the photos from Church on the Queensway in Toronto Ontario, Canada– a church that does VBS REALLY BIG!

 

If you’d like to share your VBS photos and stores, post them to our Facebook page, or send them to me in an email at katie.decillo@lifeway.com.  Make sure you include the name of your church and a description of the photo!  Image size must be a minimum of 1024×678 in order to be shared on the blog.  Happy weekend!

VBS at Parkway Baptist Church

VBS is always fun at our small church and somewhat a bit challenging. For the last 9 years our church has been meeting in a local middle school. We usually run anywhere from 150-250  in Sunday worship. So that means space and volunteers can be somewhat limiting. But God is faithful and each year we have exactly what we need to host an amazing VBS experience for our community (we have babies through adult classes).

This year I led the fourth grade class using the AWA curriculum. It was amazing (no pun intended, just the best word to describe VBS). Each night attendance went up and more children were exposed to the gospel. Relationships where built and visitors attended worship the following Sunday.

One of the biggest blessing was seeing one of our youth who made a profession of faith during VBS be baptized in a nearby lake two weeks after VBS. We are looking forward to seeing the seeds that were planted come to fruition through God’s amazing power.

Say Y-E-S to Preschool V-B-S!

VBS season is in full swing & while all of you have been gearing up for VBS in your churches, all of us on the VBS team have been doing the same thing! It is so wonderful to get to experience VBS “from the trenches”… not as a job but as Kingdom work! I taught kindergartners this year… 31 of them, in fact! Out of those 31, only 7 were from my church. VBS really is an incredible outreach tool!

This year, my church tried something a little bit different. We added a second worship rally to our schedule that was specifically for preschoolers & kindergartners. The morning kicked off for 1st-6th graders with the traditional Worship Rally, but preschoolers started the morning in their respective rooms. Then at 9:40 (when all of the big kids had cleared out), we got to fly in for a worship rally designed just for us! We had a fabulous leader who basically modified the preschool music rotation teaching plans so that we could sing songs, play instruments, move around, and talk about the daily Bible stories in ways that just wouldn’t fly if preteens were in the room. But it was perfect for preschoolers! We even had time for offerings and practicing the theme song each day.

The kids’ favorite song from the week had to be one called “Always”… and it played a significant part in one of my all-time favorite VBS memories. The song lyrics are almost identical to preschool’s Day 2 verse: “Be strong. Do not be afraid. God is with you” (Joshua 1:9). On Wednesday morning one of my kindergartners came in the door and walked straight to me. “Miss Melita,” she said, “last night at bedtime I got kind of scared. But then I remembered that song. I sang it to myself probably 4-20 times. And you know what? It worked! God was with me, and I wasn’t afraid anymore.”

WOW! A 6-year-old child connected the truth of the Bible to a real life situation because she had “hidden it in her heart” through song. Wow! That’s what it’s all about!

Here’s a little video of “Always” from our preschool worship rally. And if you’re really good, you might be able to catch a glimpse of Gordon, too! Enjoy!

Always — preschool worship rally

Easy Peasy 2012 VBS Director's Evaluations

I know you’ve just seen months of planning come to fruition and all you really want to to is sit back and relax. But if you could, do one more thing. Just one and I promise to make it as easy as possible.

We want to hear from you. Please fill out the VBS Director’s Evaluations online here or you can complete a paper copy from the 2012 Administrative Guide and mail it in to the address on the form. That’s it! Easy peasy, right? And I promise I will read every one and pass along all your comments, thoughts, and suggestions to the VBS team to help us evaluate what you need for VBS to be easy for you.

Front Yard, Backyard, and All Around the House!

From my years as an older teenager and young adult, I remember being involved in several VBS-type ministries known as Backyard Bible Clubs and Big A Clubs. These clubs were a simplified or scaled-down version of VBS and were an effective way of reaching families – many of which would never attend an event on a church campus.

During all the years since, the concept of Backyard Bible Club (BBC for short) has survived mostly in connection to mission trips. But a new wind is blowing, and the concept of BBCs is experiencing revival all across the country – especially by larger congregations that have a regional influence beyond an individual neighborhood or community.

Once it was thought that BBCs were staffed by a couple of people and primarily attended by a dozen or so kids who lived within view of the designated yard. This trend is changing as more and more BBCs are becoming evangelistic outposts for entire neighborhoods.

Recently I had the privilege of visiting a BBC not far from my own neighborhood. Four years ago the Club registered approximately 12. The next year, 20. Around 40 the third year. And this year – drum roll please – over 60 kids and adults descended nightly on the front yard, backyard, garage, and bonus room of the Nashville area home of Vicki Hulsey.

While Miss Vicki (all polite Southern children refer to their female neighbors as “Miss”) generously opens her home for the annual BBC, she has extended the evangelistic potential by gathering the children and their families throughout the year for other neighborhood activities and parties. Her home has become a true outpost of Hermitage Hills Baptist Church.

This story is phenomenal so stay turned for more.

For now I would like to hear your BBC stories. You can share them here or send them to me at jerry.wooley@lifeway.com.

In 2013 we are introducing Backyard Kids Club as a new component to Colossal Coaster World. We will be telling you more about this exciting ministry resource in days to come. So again, stay tuned!

Shirttail Tag Anyone?

It is often assumed that as the vbsguy I obviously direct VBS at my church – Nashville’s Inglewood Baptist Church – but actually I haven’t been a VBS director in more years than I care to count.

During my 20 plus years on church staff I had ultimate responsibility for VBS, but usually had a volunteer VBS director. For most of those years, which were spent at Park Place Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, the director was Dava Donaho, who taught me most of what I know about efficiently organizing and managing the details of VBS.

Since moving to Nashville in 2006, I have participated in VBS by mostly serving as an assistant teacher or helper. This has given me a great opportunity to experience VBS and LifeWay’s curriculum from many vantage points.

In the past six years I have served multiple times as the teacher for adult VBS, on the security team for youth VBS, served as a helper/group leader in VBX, a co-teacher in 1st-2nd Grade Bible Study, and this year the most fun assignment of all – co-leader for recreation! Shirttail Tag! Paper Plane Relay!

Thought you might enjoy a few pictures from our rainy-evening retreat indoors, where recreation included Great Barrier Reef cupcakes and a highly competitive paper plane relay.

Wonder what my assignment will be next year????

VBS in a Cemetery? Now that experiential!

So, have you given much thought to conducting VBS for youth? I sure hope so because VBS is not only a great way to tell teens about Jesus Christ, but it is a unique opportunity to have an unexpected adventure in the process.

Sue Harmon, tireless VBS promoter for the South Carolina Baptist Convention, shared the following note from Laura Owens of Westminster Baptist Church, Westminster, South Carolina.

“I wanted to share with you how our Youth-Style VBS went during Spring Break. We had a great, although exhausting week! I didn’t think it was possible to wear out middle school boys but I did! We averaged 12 youth and adults through the week, which worked great for transportation and for Bible study discussions.

On Monday of the week we picnicked at Issaqueena Falls and acted out the parting of the Red Sea using blue tablecloths. The youth then painted rocks to remind them of God’s power over creation.

On Tuesday we went to the Greenville Zoo as we learned about Daniel in the Lion’s Den. Unfortunately, the lions were sleeping and not very threatening, but we were able to pose with some bronze lions. The boys also loved mimicking the monkeys!

On Wednesday we held Bible study in the middle of a creek with youth sitting on both sides of the river bank. The idea was to show that sin separates us from God just like they were separated from their friends as they sat on opposite banks. At the end of the lesson I walked across a bridge above the river to demonstrate that Jesus is our bridge and connection to God.

Our recreation activity was an egg toss, which spread partners farther apart just as sin separates us from God and makes it difficult for us to have a growing relationship with Him.

On Thursday we went to a nearby cemetery to discuss the resurrection of Jesus. We also talked about what will happen when we die for those who are believers and for those who are not. The students were a little uneasy about being in a cemetery, but it provided the perfect backdrop for discussing God’s power over death.

On Friday we held our final Bible study at the church as we discussed ways God wants to use our lives for His glory.

Our week culminated with a trip to Stone Mountain, Georgia, where we watched a different kind of light show on the side of a granite rock.

Our youth were also able to make several decorations for the children’s VBS week which thrilled our children’s teachers since it is one less thing for them to worry about.

Our youth also marked their Bibles with step-by-step instructions on how to lead a child to Christ, which I pray they will get an opportunity to use during school or this summer during Children’s VBS.

The week was truly incredible, and was a great bonding experience for the youth who had recently joined our youth group.”

To discover more about this incredible experiential VBS, check out “A Fresh Take on Youth VBS” from the South Carolina Baptist Convention.

Special thanks to Sue for sharing this great story.

Foto Friday. . . Graduation and VBS

Wow, what a season this is! Kids are getting out of school for the summer, graduations are happening and VBS’s are gearing up.

Speaking of graduations, I had one last night. Actually my daughter (Sadie) had her graduation last night. . .graduation from preschool! It’s was a fun and sad time for me. Here’s my baby girl, my only child, graduating from preschool and getting ready to start school!

So, I start thinking about her future teachers and how they will have an impact on her life. How they will help her learn to read, write and do arithmetic. Some of my favorite teachers were the tough ones!

I also think about her future Sunday School teachers and all that they will teach her. . .learning about our Lord and Savior, Jesus. I think back to when I taught 7th grade Sunday School and one of my first SS kids, Steven (he goes by Steve now). Steve came every Sunday and he was a great kid! He now is all grown up and has a family of his own and has a calling to help dads be more Godly.

I also start thinking about her future VBS teachers and what all they will teach her and how much of an impact they will have on her. Some of my fondest memories are from when I attended VBS at First Baptist Church, Millington. . .and when I helped teach VBS as a youth at FBC, Millington.

So, as a daddy, I would like to thank all the teachers (present and future). . .school, Sunday School and VBS teachers for taking time to encourage, love, and teach my daughter!

Thank You!

Northern Lights – God's Amazing Wonder

One of the most interesting of God’s amazing wonders being visited during VBS 2012 surely must be the Northern Lights, otherwise known as the Aurora Borealis.

Elusive to most, difficult to describe, and almost impossible to explain, yet one of God’s greatest reminders of His power, creativity, and attention to detail.

Using time-lapse photography, NASA has provided a stunning view from the International Space Station as God turns the night sky into one of His amazing wonders. Enjoy!

Special thanks to Jeremy Echols for sharing this information.