May 18 is National Day of Prayer for VBS

20140114-075705.jpgAs the headline to this post proclaims, this Sunday is the annual National Day of Prayer for VBS.

Each year, on the third Sunday of May, churches are encouraged to take time to pray not only for their own upcoming Vacation Bible Schools, but for churches down the street and around the world.

VBS continues to be an extremely successful evangelistic outreach, resulting in 80,000 plus professions of faith each year in the Southern Baptist Convention alone. In addition to the thousands of decisions to become followers of Jesus Christ, approximately 2,500 kids, teens and adults each year make public the decision to pursue a career in ministry. And if these numbers are not enough to celebrate, as a result of VBS churches collectively identify approximately 1,000,000 unchurched individuals annually.

Here are six opportunities to encourage your congregation and VBS team to join you in observance of the National Day of Prayer for VBS.

1. Create and distribute a call to prayer. List specific prayer requests for your own church and team as well as the VBS dates of neighboring churches.

2. Start the day early by asking your VBS team to join you for prayer prior to regularly scheduled activities.

3. Work with your pastor and worship leader to include prayer for VBS in the morning service.

4. Schedule an afternoon prayer walk through and around the buildings that will be used for VBS. After the team has prayed for your church, travel throughout the community stopping to pray for churches displaying VBS banners and signs.

5. Communicate with your congregation’s homebound members and ask them to pray at a specific time and for specific needs.

6. Invite your VBS leadership team to your home for an evening or after church prayer gathering.

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

Using Takin’ It Home CD to Connect with Parents

20140114-075705.jpg“We have not been successful connecting with the parents of kids attending VBS,” is a statement I often hear from pastors and VBS leaders. This has not been from lack of trying since most of us have tried a variety of methods from daily newsletters to offering Adult VBS classes.

With Agency D3 LifeWay has introduced a new resource called Takin’ It Home CD that is specifically designed to connect parents to the content and activities of each day.

In addition to the copy of the CD included in the VBS 2014 Jump Start Kit, the files are also available for free download at lifeway.com/vbs under the “About” tab. Both the CD and digital files can be reproduced to make one copy per family or as many as needed. A downloadable faceplate template is also available.

Takin’ It Home is a fun and interactive way to involve the entire family in reviewing the daily Bible passage and applications. By the end of the week parents will be encouraged to pray with their kids and discuss how they can have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the church.

Here are six steps for using Takin’ It Home CD to connect with parents:

1. Prior to the first day of VBS make a copy of the CD for each family.

2. Share information about the CD during worker training. Play the CD or provide a copy for Bible study leaders so they can learn how the contents connects with the daily theme. Bible study leaders should encourage kids to get their parents to listen to the CD each day on the way home.

3. Distribute CDs at the close of the first day (or the first day a kid attends). An ideal way to insure each family receives a copy is to distribute CDs at parking lot exists.

4. Take a moment during Worship Rally and Bible Study to remind kids to encourage their parents to listen to the CD each day.

5. Send out an e-mail blast encouraging parents, if they have not already done so, to listen to the CD with their kids before bedtime.

6. Send a postcard-sized message home on the last day encouraging parents to listen to the bonus session that invites the family to return the Sunday following VBS. Be sure to include service times as well as contact information in case they have questions about the church or would like to talk to someone about their own relationship with Jesus Christ.

Jerry Wooley, @vbsguy, serves as LifeWay’s VBS Ministry Specialist and as VBS Director at Creekside Fellowship in Castalian Springs, Tennessee.

6 Things Every Pastor Should Know About VBS

20140114-075705.jpgIf you know me at all you know I believe VBS is an all-church ministry.  VBS is a ministry that has the ability to reach the entire family and should be embraced by every age-group and ministry of the church. VBS continues to be one of the most successful outreach ministries conducted by most churches and typically results in approximately 80,000 professions of faith each year.

With the first big week of VBS 2014 just days away, it is critical for pastors to know and accept the vital role they have in assuring a successful VBS.

 

1. The Pastor sets the pace and level of enthusiasm. A congregation typically mirrors the attitude and priorities of the pastor. When the pastor exhibits personal support for VBS and makes it a priority the congregation will typically do the same.

2. The Pastor is the team coach. While the VBS Director may be tasked with leading the logistical aspects of VBS, the pastor is the coach. He challenges, inspires, trains, and leads by example.

3. The Pastor is the head cheerleader. VBS requires a team, and like all teams they perform best when encouraged, appreciated and celebrated. Pastors have the best platform of all (the pulpit) to cheer on the team.

4. The Pastor inspires by his presence. VBS is not the week for the pastor to hole up in his office or take vacation. He needs to be on the parking lot, in the registration area, involved in the Worship Rally, wondering the halls, and in the classrooms. Workers need to see the pastor as a committed member of the team. Kids need to see the pastor as caring and approachable. Parents need to see the pastor as someone who is personally interested in them and their children.

5. The Pastor leads the charge to continue connections with unchurched families. Collectively we annually identify approximately one million unchurched individuals through VBS. Approximately ten percent of everyone attending VBS admits to being unchurched, and when parents and other siblings are added in that number is approximately 40 people for every church conducting VBS. While the pastor should not be expected to be solely responsible for continuing connections (follow-up) he should lead the way!

6. The Pastor is the primary storyteller. VBS results in tremendous stories of transformation, opportunities, and discovered abilities. Telling these stories is part of making VBS an all-church ministry and involves the congregation in celebrating the success of the week. As the pastor shares the stories of VBS he builds support and becomes the primary recruiter for next year.

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

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 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 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.