How Are You Connecting with Parents?

wooley1 2013Church leaders attending VBS Previews in January and February were challenged to make Connection Groups part of their VBS planning. A Connection Group is a Sunday School/small group class designed specifically for the unchurched parents identified during VBS, and scheduled to begin the first Sunday after VBS.

I have heard some great stories from churches who took the challenge. Now weeks after VBS these churches continue to connect with parents and families who might have otherwise been forgotten.

My favorite story so far is from a VBS leader who reported their Connection Group now has eight people attending. She said when challenged at Preview to create a Connection Group she just couldn’t make the commitment because she was concerned that her church would not support the idea. She said her trip back home was consumed with guilt from not making a commitment, yet the conviction that intentionally reaching parents was the right thing to do.

Once home, this leader made the decision to meet with her pastor and present the challenge and opportunity. She was overjoyed that he realized the potential and gave her the green light to enlist leadership for the group. However, her joy began to diminish  as her attempts to find leadership produced no results. She said she finally gave up and concluded that the creation of a Connection Group was not going to happen.

Two weeks before VBS she was invited to attend a Sunday School workers meeting to share VBS plans and needs. While planning to share craft supply and snack needs she had no intention of talking about the Connection Group. She felt it was too late and that obvious it wasn’t meant to be. During her presentation she sensed God telling her to lay out the challenge to intentionally connect with the parents of unchurched kids attending VBS. She shared the idea of creating a Connection Group and her attempts at finding leadership.

At the conclusion of her presentation a teacher of an adult class said someone else could teach his class and he would accept the challenge to start the Connection Group the first Sunday after VBS.

At first only a couple of parents attended, but four weeks later attendance has increased to eight!

I love this story because the leader didn’t give up. She remained faithful to the challenge of connecting with unchurched families, and she was sensitive to God’s leading and timing.

How about you? What are you doing to intentionally connect with the unchurched families discovered during VBS?

Jerry Wooley has served as LifeWay’s vbsguy since 2006. He would love to hear the stories of your Connection Groups.

Let the VBS 2015 Shopping Begin!

wooley1 2013A group of enthusiastic VBS Groupies recently asked me what they should be shopping for now that will be useful for Journey Off the Map™. If you are thinking ahead and have storage room, Summer clearance sales can be a great opportunity to purchase decorations for pennies on the dollar.

In addition to discount and hobby stores, be sure to check out hardware and garden centers, toy stores, the seasonal section of your grocery store, and party stores. I have also captured good finds at Bed Bath & Beyond and Target.

Here are a few bargains I have found in recent weeks that will make great additions to VBS 2015 decorations:

  • Butterfly kites (2 sizes)
  • Bamboo poles used for staking plants
  • Bamboo fencing (also found at the garden center)
  • Woven mats (both table mats as well as floor mats)
  • Botanical place mats
  • Botanical yard banners
  • Botanical serving bowls
  • Mosquito netting
  • Yard (tiki-style) torches
  • Wood crates and boxes

Let the shopping begin!

From the Archives: “Preparing for VBS” Part 3

wooley1 2013As we continue to Celebrate 90, today’s archives wisdom comes from a 1997 training outline titled: 62 Ways to Prepare Yourself for A Galactic Good News Adventure. While some of the ideas were specific to the theme, here are six more reminders that apply every year. Check out Part 1 and Part 2 for additional ways to prepare yourself for VBS.

1. Visit lifeway.com/vbs for additional ideas and suggestions. (And don’t forget PINTEREST and FACEBOOK, which are now two of our most popular sources for sharing ideas.)

2. Write your personal VBS Purpose Statement.

3. Delegate as much responsibility (at home and church) as possible so you will have time to enjoy the excitement of the VBS week.

4. Make a VBS preparation checklist.

5. Call or send a note to a VBS worker from your past and tell him/her how their ministry impacted your life.

6. Enlist adults (and teens) who will not be able to attend VBS to help you with preparations.

 

 

From the Archives: “Preparing for VBS” Part 2

wooley1 2013We’re Celebrating 90! That’s 90 years of publishing VBS curriculum, and I’ve been digging through the archives.

Today’s wisdom is obviously a continuation of Part 1, and comes from a 1997 training outline titled: 62 Ways to Prepare Yourself for A Galactic Good News Adventure. While some of the ideas were specific to the theme, here are six reminders that apply every year.

1. Conduct a prayer walk around the church campus.

2. Prepare meals for the week of VBS ahead of time and freeze them (double your recipe and share with another VBS worker).

3. Pray that other churches in your community will catch a vision for the evangelistic opportunities provided by VBS.

4. Make sure you know how to lead children to Christ by studying the inside cover of your VBS leader guide.

5. Enlist a homebound member of your church to be your personal VBS prayer warrior.

6. Search your closet, garage, and second-hand stores for your theme-related costume.

Today’s Trivia: LifeWay Christian Resources began publishing VBS resources in 1925 under the leadership of Dr. Homer Grice, a pastor from Dallas, Georgia.

From the Archives: “Preparing for VBS” Part 1

wooley1 2013September 1, 1924 was a big day in the history of Vacation Bible School. It was the official start of LifeWay’s VBS Ministry Department. The department as such no longer exist, but the ministry of publishing VBS curriculum and training church leaders to use it is bigger and better than ever.

From time to time, over the next year, I’m going back to the archives to not only honor our past but to glean insight and wisdom from the ages.

Today’s wisdom comes from a 1997 training outline titled: 62 Ways to Prepare Yourself for A Galactic Good News Adventure. While some of the ideas were specific to the theme, here are six reminders that apply every year.

1. Pray (without ceasing).

2. Learn the Worship Rally music in advance by listening to its while running errands and picking up VBS supplies.

3. Enlist someone to be your personal VBS prayer partner.

4. Pray for the children, youth, and adults who will accept Jesus as Savior and Lord during VBS.

5. Ask someone who became a Christian during a previous VBS to share his/her story with you.

6. Keep a “To Do List” handy to jot down middle-of-the-night inspirations.

Trivia for the day: both Rhonda Van Cleave (VBS publishing team leader) and I served on the think tank that created A Galactic Good News Adventure. It was our first time to work together.

Agency D3 Missions Update

BlogDDDWe hope your kids enjoyed learning about Liam and his family and Mary and Abraham during their time in the Map Room at VBS. You can learn more about what Liam has been up to by clicking here.  And if you want to hear more about the work at Connexxion click here for an update.

During the week of VBS we challenged kids to go out and complete their own “Special Assignment” as part of their Missions experience. We would love to hear about any reports you received from your special agents (kids) during the week. Share your updates with us in the comments below.

Another 2015 Sneak Peek

You’ve already gotten a sneak peek at the interior and exterior of the Tangled Branch Tree House (Bible Study) and Survival Springs (snacks). “But what about the other rotations?” you say. “We must see more!” Have no fear, the others are right here! Enjoy this little preview of what’s to come next summer on your “Journey Off the Map!”

Shady Grove (crafts)

craftsSET

Boulder Bridge (missions)

missionsSET

Rushing Waters (music)

musicSET

Recycling Ideas that Increase the Value of Your VBS Resources

20140114-075705.jpgAs a recovering pack rat who once had the task of cleaning out an accumulation of 85 years from a church resource room, I have come up with six ways of recycling and organizing selected VBS resources for later use. By doing so you will not only appease your pack rat tendencies, but become a better steward by increasing the value of the resources that truly are too good to throw away.

1. Find a church or organization that can put the resources to good use. Based on the size of your VBS you might be able to supply multiple churches with everything they need to conduct VBS. When donating resources, I have learned from experience, it is best to establish a specific date and time for the resources to be picked up.

2. Create files for the Recreation and Snack Rotation Cards. VBS games and snacks never go out of style and are a great resource when planning other activities. You may not wish to call your next party Outrigger Island but the games and snacks for that VBS are perfect for a luau or pool party. (You might want to check out LifeWay’s I Heart VBS Card Box – 005466928.)

3. Create a learning activities file by clipping or scanning the Bible study activities kids enjoyed most from Leader Guides. Your activities files will become a great idea generator for future Bible studies and events.

4. Use VBS songs throughout the year. I often meet young adults who can still sing VBS songs from their childhood. The songs have great meaning that live beyond the five days of VBS.

5. Incorporate unused materials such as additional mission rotation and Bible study activities into other ministry events such as Wednesday nights.

6. Use resources for Backyard Kids Club or mission trips. Your workers have already been trained and have experience using the resources. Utilize this experience by taking VBS on the road and using the additional resources for Backyard Kids Clubs and mission trips

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

Evaluating After is as Important as Planning Before

20140114-075705.jpgWe all know how important planning is to the success of VBS. But why take the time to evaluate after it is over? After all, what is done is done! 

I once had a boss who was so convinced of the value of evaluation he held evaluation sessions to evaluate the evaluation sessions. While this may seem extreme, what he taught by example is that we can never stop learning or improving, AND the only way to truly learn and improve is to evaluate the previous event before planning the next one.
Here are six aspects of evaluation I learned from my boss.
1. Evaluate as soon after the event as possible.
2. Evaluate with your entire team, with just your leadership team, and finally by yourself.
3. Insist that every critical statement be followed by a positive statement. Otherwise your goal of constructive evaluation can disintegrate into a grip session.
4. Take great notes, capturing every statement and suggestion. What seems like a ridiculous opinion at first may turn out to be the best takeaway of the entire process.
5. Don’t take negatives personally. You will never grow and improve personally, and your team will stop giving feedback, if you take offense at negative evaluations.
6. Review evaluation notes regularly as you plan the next event.
Jerry Wooley, @vbsguy, serves you as LifeWay’s VBS Ministry Specialist and event planner .

From the Archives: Worker Appreciation Ideas

20140114-075705.jpgLooking through files from 2005 (Ramblin’ Road Trip) I came across a list of creative ways you can express appreciation to your VBS team.

1. Enlist a prayer team to pray for workers and their families each day.

2. Remove the hassle of meal preparation by enlisting a team to prepare, freeze, and distribute casseroles the week before VBS.

3. Send workers home with a sack lunch each day – don’t forget the family.

4. Host an end-of-week cookout for workers and their families.

5. Hold a “Worker of the Day” drawing and award a gift certificate.

6. Have a team photo made and displayed with an expression of thanks.

 

Celebrating 90: LifeWay Christian Resources begin publishing VBS resources in 1925 under the leadership of Drs. Marion Frost and Homer Grice.