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.

VBS C.R.A.F.T.S – More Than What You Think

VanCleave - new (1)Is crafts rotation one of your favorite parts about VBS? It is for lots of people. I’m one of those people and I get excited about picking which crafts I’d like to do at my VBS. However, it’s easy to get too focused on the end product and forget what we are really creating in the VBS Craft Lab – great experiences for kids.

Here’s a little reminder for those of us on the crafts team.

 

C – Conversation: As kids work on the their crafts, leaders have a great opportunity to get to know kids, learn about their families, and reinforce truths learned in Bible study. Keep those “Connecting the Evidence” bullet points from the first page of each day’s craft options handy!

R – Relationships: The conversations you have with kids will help build those important relationships. Listening to kids tells them they are important to you and that you care about them.

A – Art: The activities during crafts rotation hit the primary learning style of many kids. For kids who process visually or while using their hands, this may be the moment when the Bible truth really begins to sink in.

F – Feelings: Many kids are rarely made to feel valued or loved. How can they believe that a God they cannot see could love them if people they can see don’t express that love. Even if the end product a child makes looks like truck hit it, you have created something of value when the child leaves with a smile on his face and a heart that has felt love and acceptance.

T – Teachable Moments: Some of the best teaching times happen when you least expect it. Prayerfully approach each day asking God to help you spot those moments when you can help a child learn something important.

S – Sensitivity to the Holy Spirit: This is important to all of the things already mentioned. The Holy Spirit was sent to be our Helper, to help us remember the things we need to, and to remind us of things we have learned. Trust Him to guide you as you talk with kids and love even those kids who are sometimes a challenge to love.

Approach your day with an expectation of fun and let crafts rotation be a great experience for you and all the kids God brings to you this VBS!

 

Random Tip 1413: Advertise! Advertise! Advertise!

20140114-075705.jpgWith the first day of VBS just around the corner (for some of you the corner is a mere 75 days away) it is time to advertise, advertise, advertise! In other words, it is time to let the community know what you are up to.

In VBS terminology we usually refer to advertising as promotion, so here are six tips to keep in mind as you make plans to promote VBS 2014.

1. Start early. Promotion needs to be planned and put into action at least thee months in advance so for most of us that means NOW!

2. Put someone in charge. Do not leave promotion to chance or assume you personally will have time to put a plan together. Promotion is too important not to have someone responsible for it.

3. Know your target audience. Who are you specifically trying to reach? I know you say everyone, and while true, effective VBS promotion means choosing a target audience and putting all your efforts towards promoting to that audience in a way that grabs their attention.

4. Use a variety of techniques or methods. A banner is great but most people who drive by will never see it. Postcards are awesome but become one of many pieces of mail a family receives each week. Posters in store windows are fantastic providing everyone who walks by is not distracted by something else at the time. Effective VBS promotion requires all of these methods and more. No one method is so good it can stand on its own.

5. Be creative. The purpose of promotion is to attract and hold attention which means your information has to be presented in a way that is more creative than the next guy – and I’m not just talking about the Bible school at the next church down the street. Your VBS message is competing with every other message in town whether it be the little league car wash or the daily special at McDonald’s.

6. Make quality a priority. First impressions do make a difference and your promotion will be a powerful reflection of the quality of your event.

 

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

Freebie Friday

Who’s ready for a giveaway??? Last week we asked you to tell us the special skills your watch would have if you were a real special agent. Your answers did not disappoint! From seeing through walls to teleporting (to get all that VBS Director work done!) to a Scripture app to a Needometer that would allow a director to know what people need, there were a ton of fun answers! Our randomly selected winner said she would record clues with her special agent watch!

This week is another great giveaway… how would you like your very own VBS 2014 Inflatable Camera?!? (Cute kid not included.)

camera

All you need to do to enter is log in below and submit your answer to this week’s question: “What do you do with pictures taken during VBS?” Do you create any kind of keepsake for kids? Class pictures? Scrapbooks? We want to hear your great ideas!

A winner will be chosen at random from all of the submissions. You have until Thursday at 24:00 hours to enter. Good luck, agents!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Random Tip 1412: Make Relationships a Priority

20140114-075705.jpgA few weeks ago I shared that years ago Vacation Bible Schools were conducted for four weeks, then shortened to two, then one, and now we are beginning to hear of more churches scheduling three day schools.  In the previous post I wrote that as we shorten the number of days and hours it becomes even more important to connect everything – including snacks – to the daily Scripture and Biblical theme. As we decrease time we must increase the intentionality of everything we do from promotion to continuing the connections after VBS. This goes for being intentional about relationships as well.

One of the reasons VBS has continued to result in a high number of professions of faith is the concentrated time spent over multiple days getting to know the kids and the kids getting to know the leaders. As relationships grow so does the trust factor that allows kids to embrace the Gospel.

This is why we traditionally reserve the Gospel presentation and opportunity for response to the third or fourth sessions.  Although we may clearly present the Gospel during the first session (as we do in the Agency D3 resources) we typically wait until relationships have been established before presenting the opportunity to respond. We want to give time for the trust factor – both in the Gospel message and with the leaders presenting it – to develop.

As we decrease the days of VBS we also decrease the opportunity for relationships to grow. When you add this to a rotation process that often places kids with a different leader ever 30 minutes relationships become even more difficult. There is already some (inconclusive) evidence that Bible schools of three days or less result in fewer professions of faith then schools of five days or more.

So how do we meet this challenge? By making relationships a priority! From the moment families arrive at the registration table until they are back in their cars for the ride home we must concentrate on getting beyond the basic acknowledgement of their existence to truly establishing a relationship. Actually we must make relationships a priority far beyond the VBS experience but that is a topic for another blog.

This means the registration lady’s job is to do more then get ink on paper and fill in every blank. Her first priority is to try (as best as time allows) to get the know both the kids and their parents. The snack team has to do more than pour lemonade and pass out cookies. They must also interact with the kids and try to get to know them.

This also means your church may need to enlist more volunteers with the primary assignment of getting to know the kids and their parents. The fewer days you conduct Bible school the lower the kids to worker ratio needs to be. This may mean creating smaller classes or it may mean enlisting more adults to travel with kids to each rotation and actually interacting with them during the rotation.

If VBS is the biggest evangelistic outreach of your church year you can’t afford to sabotage the possibilities by decreasing the opportunities to build and grow relationships.

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.