Random Tip 1411 – Create a Recycling Center

20140114-075705.jpg Now that VBS is over, (possibly in your dreams if not in reality) what do we do with all the stuff?

The first temptation and the quickest answer is, “throw it away!” The second answer is, “pile it in the resource room and someone else can take care of it.”

Instead of letting VBS leaders trash everything (curriculum, decorations, extras supplies) or pile it haphazardly in the resource room, a simple solution is to create a recycling center.  This makes clean up a breeze and takes the guess work out of what is trash and what is good stuff.

The best place is a hall or spare room near the resource room or storage area. You want to leave the resource room as free of clutter as possible plus you want space to be able to sort and group supplies before storing.  Much like you separate paper, glass, and plastic for home recycling, create four areas (piles, boxes, tables, etc.) with the following clearly marked labels: Supplies, Share, Questionable, and Trash.

If needed add a description such as the following to each label:

Supplies – Unused and reusable resources such as markers and paper.

Share – Decorations and curriculum to share with other churches.

Questionable – Anything you are not sure about.

Trash – Hopefully no definition needed here.

Make sure to include recycling instructions as part of worker training. If workers know what is expected ahead of time cleanup becomes easier for both you and them.

 

The Heart of VBS—Evangelism

carol_editedBack in 1996  the VBS team felt God leading them to revisit the format and principles of “doing” VBS. In 1997 the new VBS was rolled out with The Wild and Wonderful Good News Stampede. Many of you could probably sing the theme song and have fond of memories of attending or leading VBS that year, but you may not have been aware that one of the driving principles of VBS was and is evangelism.

VBS is meant to be more than just a fun event for your church kids, more than just a summer diversion from the norm, more than just another program to check off the list. At the heart of VBS is evangelism. It’s that one chance you may have at getting those who might not otherwise step foot in a church to have an encounter with the Lord.

Recently at our Preview events Kelli McAnnly led a session outlining why we do VBS and strategies for embracing the true heart of VBS—reaching people of all ages, leading them to know and respond to Jesus Christ as led by the Holy Spirit. Kelli was gracious enough to allow me to share how she used the acrostic AGENCY D3 to help conferees be intentional about evangelism.

A–aware

  • Be aware of those around us that do not have a personal relationship with Christ.
  • View those in our churches and community who are hurting, lost, sad, and in need of Christ through His perspective and become aware of their lost souls.

G-give

  • Offer VBS as a reason to intentionally invite lost people to your church
  • Give people a bridge to the spiritual orphans in your community.
  • Give people an opportunity to clearly present the gospel
  • Give people an opportunity to respond to Christ in a public way.

E-enable

  • Enable your church to work together towards the Great Commission.
  • Enable VBS directors, leaders, parents, and staff to share the love of Christ with kids and their families.

N-navigate

  • Being evangelistic navigates an entry point for unchurched people.
  • Attract people to your church with programs like VBS for their kids. Then you can help them navigate the gospel and how it connects to their lives.
  • Remember the gospel makes VBS relevant. Without the gospel, it is just fun and games.

C-connect

  • Connect with families. The initial follow-up contact should be the discovery of the family network.
  • Pass information discovered on to the follow-up team and to age group classes.
  • Invite each member of the family to the appropriate Bible study class and other ministry opportunities.
  • Plan to have multiple contacts with the family over the following months.

Y-yield

  • Yield and surrender your heart to God’s plan
  • Use bold, creative strategies to teach people about Christ.

D3

  • Display—display the gospel. Be people who are evangelistic.
  • Demonstrate—demonstrate a life that follows Christ. Do things that bring Him glory.
  • Declare—declare the gospel. Tell people about Christ.

There are an estimated 313 million people living in the US. 98 million of those have accepted Jesus as their Savior. 43% of those accepted Jesus before reaching the age of 13. According to George Barna, evangelism is most effective among kids. Where is your heart?

Random Tip 1410 – Connect Everything – Even Snacks – to Scripture

20140114-075705.jpgDid you know that once upon a time churches conducted VBS for four weeks? Hard to imagine isn’t it?

Even more recently the typical VBS was 10 days. While I do not personally remember attending a 10-day school I know many people who did.

A four week or 10-day school provided the luxury of time we no longer enjoy. Can you imagine what Bible truths you could teach if you had 60 hours? Or even 30?

Like far too much of life, VBS is often described as a rush. A VBS leader recently lamented, “We rush kids to worship rally so we can rush them to Bible study. Then we rush them to crafts so we can rush them home.”

Today, at best, we have 15 hours to do all the things that make VBS not only educational but fun and entertaining. (An evening Bible school typically included only 10 hours.) With this limited amount of time we have to make sure every minute counts and every activity is connected to the Biblical emphasis for the day.

I recently shared during a training session that even snack time needs to be used to reinforce the Biblical truth for the day. One leader replied that her church does not use the snacks suggested by LifeWay so they do not try to connect the snack to the Bible story. I reminder her that it is not the snack that is important but what is done with the time while the snack is being served and eaten.

As many of you know, my all-time favorite VBS snack is fruit punch and butter cookies (the kind shaped like a flower with a hole in the middle). Nothing fancy or even theme related about this snack, but the time allotted for the snack is still a perfect time for a review of the lesson, the sharing of life application points, or work on Scripture memorization.

I often hear that recreation leaders want to choose their own activities instead of using the games that connect to the theme and Biblical truth. Again, no problem as long as rec leaders connect their games to the daily theme.

Too often we enlist workers without stressing that every thing that happens during VBS – from the moment the kids arrives until they return home – must be connected to the Biblical content for the week and each day. Failing to insure that crafts, recreation, snacks and music connect to Scripture is a lost opportunity that will never be retrieved.

Back when VBS leaders needed to fill 60 hours it might have been fine to play a game or sing a song that was not relevant to the content, but not when we only have 10 to 15 hours. Help your workers see the value of every minute and the lost opportunity of not connecting everything – even snacks – to Scripture.

Agency D3 for Preschoolers & Kindergartners

thomasFoundational Bible teaching is always the goal with LifeWay’s preschool VBS, and this year is no exception. Agency D3’s Bible content sets up a firm foundation for preschoolers and kindergartners to build upon for the rest of their lives. As you teach them who Jesus is and what He did, kids will learn the basics about why we want to love and follow Jesus.

Every single day of VBS, kids will discover that Jesus is who He says He is (God’s Son) through an example from His life. Day 1 uses the story of Jesus’ baptism to show kids that God, in dramatic fashion, declared audibly to everyone present that Jesus is His Son. John told people the same thing everywhere He went for the rest of his life! On Day 2 kids will discover that Jesus is unlike anyone else who ever lived. He is God’s Son so He can do things no one else can do! On Days 3-4 preschoolers will hear how much Jesus loves people as they hear about His death & resurrection. (Younger Preschoolers will use the Bible stories of Jesus’ last supper with His helpers and His post-resurrection meeting with two men on the road to Emmaus.) On Day 5 kids will learn that they can tell others the things they know about Jesus, just like Peter did in the Bible.

In other words, the entire week for preschoolers answers one singular question: Who Is Jesus? This is the perfect Bible content for preschoolers coming to VBS who may have never even heard of God, much less of His Son. It’s all about Jesus… and that’s a great reason to be excited about Agency D3!

Random Tip 1409 – Use Grades 3 & 4 for Broadly Graded

wooley1 2013One of the most exciting characteristics of VBS is that it is a ministry that every church can make uniquely their own. LifeWay provides a wide variety of resources tailored for specific age groups from babies to adults, but we know that every church has unique needs and limitations that often requires adapting the resources to fit.

Broadly graded (either having all 1st through 6th graders in one class or having the same teacher rotate to different age groups) is a great example of a church needing to adapt the resources to fit the need.

When faced with the need to adapt LifeWay’s VBS Bible study resources, consider using the resources designed for Grades 3 & 4. Since the age-appropriate learning activities are designed for the middle group, they will be easier to adapt up or down to fit all kids in grades 1- 6.

Random Tip 1408 – Make Worship Rally a Time for Parents

wooley1 2013For most churches worship rally is the first – or sometimes the last – thing that happens in the VBS day. It is a perfect time to invite parents to participate and see their kids having fun at church.

Parents sit for entire days on hard bleachers under broiling sun, endure endless hours of music and dance recitals, and thrill at seeing their son or daughter dressed as a tomato in the school play. Why? Because they want to be supportive and involved!

Yet when it comes to VBS at times we actually discourage parents from involvement. Once the kid has been dropped off at the curb we often have little use for the parent until it is time to once again return to the curb for the trip home.

Worship Rally is a great opportunity for parents to be supportive while experiencing just a little VBS for themselves. Parents can be invited to sit and participate in music motions with their kids, or a place can be reserved just for them where they can observe without straying far from their comfort zones.

Worship Rally becomes a friendly, non-threatening, place for parents to get to know church members and leaders. It is also a great way for unchurched parents to become acquainted with each other and leaders of ministry they might be attracted to.

Encouraging parents to participate in Worship Rally also sends the message that your church is interested in the entire family and not just the kids.

If Worship Rally is at the beginning of the day, you might even plan a short debriefing time for parents once the kids rotate out to Bible study and other activities.

From Derailed to Teachable Moment

carol_editedWe’ve all had them, those moments when some little something derails our whole lesson. We’ve prepared, recited in our minds how things are going to go, imagined how we’ll see the “lightbulbs come on” when the kids get it, then Wham one kid derails the whole shebang. This happened to me recently. I actually even anticipated that the picture of Baby Jesus that  looked like a picture of Charlie Brown could cause problems. I decided to head things off at the pass and find a more realistic picture of Baby Jesus to use. Armed with my picture and lesson, I set off to church feeling quite confident that the lesson I had envisioned would come to fruition. Only one little problem, I had forgotten that the Charlie Brown picture would show up again later in the lesson. And as predicted, when the pictures were handed out for the last activity, my one rambunctious child immediately yelled, “Hey, it’s Charlie Brown!”

Then a discussion ensued as to whether or not Charlie Brown had hair because the baby in this picture had a little hair. And in God’s infinite wisdom, He saw fit to send one little girl to the library before coming to church. Guess what book she checked out. Yep, it was a Snoopy book. Yes, she did indeed bring it to class instead of leaving it in the car, so she could show an actual picture of Charlie Brown and put the matter to rest. He does indeed have a little swirl of hair. So what to do now that all the kids were labeling their pictures “Charlie Brown” instead of “Baby Jesus?”

We tried reminding the kids that this was just supposed to be a picture to help them remember that Baby Jesus was special even though He looked and acted like all the other babies. We told the kids that Jesus was better than Charlie Brown ever could be. We asked if Charlie Brown would die on the cross for us. Now some kids reasoned that he might die on a cross for us. At this point we reminded the kids that even if he did, it would never be enough. Only the sacrifice of a sinless person, only Jesus would ever be enough. And then they began to focus less on Charlie Brown and more on the true meaning of how special Jesus is and how we need Him to be our Savior.

So in that moment when your lesson is derailed, do not fear, do not feel defeated, this may just be the teachable moment God has planned.

Tips for Moving from Derailed to Teachable Moment

1. Anticipate and plan for things that could derail your lesson. It can be something as small as the artwork you use, but know that kids will pick up on the small things.

2. Turn the moments around by asking questions and guiding discussion. Lead the kids back to the biblical truth that you are trying to drive home.

3. Take a “time out.” Stop for a moment, take a deep breath, regroup, and start again. The more flustered you get about the situation, the more kids will want to continue the distraction.

4. Remember that this may not have been in your plan, but it very well could have been in God’s plan.

Share with us your tips that get you moving from a derailed moment to a teachable one in the comments.

Foto Friday…The VBS App!

tyrrellHi everybody! Exciting news today! The LifeWay VBS Agency D3 App is now live in the Apple App Store and the Google Play store!

Here are some screenshots of the app!
photo 1
photo 2
photo 3
photo 4
Let me know what you think!

On the Eighth Day of Christmas …

VanCleave - new (1)On the eighth day of Christmas I’m thinking about traditions. Well, at least what have become traditions when Christmas is different every year.

My husband is a pastor and our traditions have had to be very flexible so we could work around church events. As our kids were growing up, Christmas time also meant an eight to ten hour trip back to Tennessee to visit grandparents. We tried to “choose” our Christmas day rather than letting the calendar demand that it was December 25. Sometimes Christmas and church times were too close to make the Tennessee trip until after Christmas. That was when our son and daughter began their own tradition of staying up all night to watch the 24-hour marathon of “A Christmas Story.” They tell very different stories about who would finally fall asleep first. But for two very different siblings who were almost five years apart, it is still a memory that bonds them.

One tradition we began was called “The Feast.” My son describes it as a meal where, “we eat things we wouldn’t ordinarily eat at a meal.” Even that makes me laugh. It’s basically “name your very favorite things” and, no matter what it is, we’ll put it in the feast. Combined with laughter, family time, and a Christmas movie, it is something we still do even though they are both grown with homes of their own.

And then we have “The Snowman.” It began as a joke between my husband and me. He used to grumble about “plastic things to set out in the yard during Christmas.” I started picking up every $1 giant plastic thing I could find at yard sales. “The Snowman” was the first. We had quite a collection after about 15 years. When we moved back to Tennessee, it was hard to give up “the collection,” but “The Snowman” was part of the family! Even years when sad things have happened at Christmas, including the year we didn’t even manage to get a tree up, “The Snowman” glowed near our front door.

I came home late a couple of weeks ago and there was Mr. Snowman glowing in the front yard. I started to grin. It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Snowman

On the Second Day of Christmas

wooley1 2013This morning Nashville awoke to a world blanketed with snow, and I just returned from the office break room where the holiday classic White Christmas was being played for lunch entertainment. It really does seem like the beginning of Christmas – or in this case the Second Day of Christmas!

Since I grew up in Dallas where snow is typically not part of the Christmas scene, the festivities of this most special holiday truly begins not with snow but when certain foods start making an appearance. My family’s most memorable Christmas traditions are based on food. My father loved to cook. And he especially liked to cook when the expected crowd resembled a small army.

While families traditionally gather around tables overflowing with turkey and trimmings, my family – for at least the last 45 years – has gathered around a table barely able to withstand the weight of dozens-upon-dozens of home-made hot tamales – all lovingly hand-crafted by my father.

Some years a little salsa was needed to add an extra punch. While other years each tamale contained so much fire a full glass of tea was needed to temper the burn. I forgot to mention that Dad was an experimental cook, so you were never sure what the experience would be until you took the first bite. But no matter how hot or mild, by the end of the evening 45 to 50 dozen tamales would become history along with gallons of iced tea, pounds of peanut brittle (another of Dad’s specialties) and peanut butter balls.

Dad is no longer here, but his tamale bowls and steamers have been passed on to another generation, and the tradition remains alive and well.

Merry Christmas to you one and all. May your days be blessed with the sweetness of family, traditions, and the knowledge of the Hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15).