Being a VBS Director in One Simple Sentence

vancleave As part of the VBS team, I love hearing about everyone’s VBS. I thought you might like a glimpse into mine. I serve as the volunteer VBS director at our small church. (I really wish there was another “label” for the amazing, God-given ministry that gets the “small church” label, but that would be a whole other blog post!)

Like a lot of churches, our VBS is in the evening after most people have put in a full day’s work at their jobs. Because of that, we start with supper (or for my friends who live elsewhere, dinner). The bonus is that we pretty much have everyone there when we are ready to start Worship Rally.

One evening I was eating my meal with one of our second graders and her Bible study teacher. This little girl was new to our church and had really connected with her teacher. As we chatted over corn dogs and chips, the little girl looked at me and blurted out, “I know what your job is!” Amused, I smiled and asked, “Really? What is it?” With a big smile she replied, “You line people up!”

Lining people up! =)

Lining people up! =)

I start grinning every time I think about her comment. I loved it! VBS at my church, your church, and churches everywhere are filled with people who do so much to make VBS happen and reach out to kids who might not otherwise connect with our churches, even if no one notices.

So to all of you who share my job of “lining people up,” and the thousand and one things that go with being a volunteer VBS director, thanks for all that you do for the Kingdom.

Happy Birthday from Your Friends at VBS

wooley1 2013Thousands of churches concluded VBS 2013 over the weekend, and for thousands more this is day two. Approximately half of all schools will be conducted during the first three weeks of June.

This news tempts many leaders to believe the work of VBS is over for another year, but in reality, just as VBS ends the real work begins!

Now is time to make continued connections a priority – not only for the next few weeks but for the rest of the year.

When an unchurched family filed out a VBS registration card you were given a gift. A precious gift that gives you everything you need to build on the relationship begun during the week of VBS.

I have gone to the archives, and for the next few weeks I’m going to share ideas for continuing the connection.

The following idea comes from Sue Owen in Wyoming:

At registration get the child’s date of birth as well as school grade. Ask a few members of the church who are good at sending cards to be responsible for mailing out birthday cards throughout the year.  Include a VBS bookmark, an ABC Memory Card, or other reminder of VBS, as well as information about upcoming events.

Since few children get mail addressed to them, the parent should be interested in who it is from and see the reminder of the great experience their child had at VBS.

As a middle school student I attended a Billy Graham Crusade. During the response time one of my friends asked if I would walk down with him. The lady who counseled him took the time to thank me for encouraging my friend and asked for my name, address, and birthday. I never met her again, but for the next ten years I received a note of encouragement and prayer from her on my birthday. She wrote the book on continued connections!

VBS Workers Needed! Where Are They?

wooley1 2013Recently we asked our VBS Facebook friends to share their prayer needs. Overwhelmingly the requests were for additional workers. Although I wish it were not the case, this response did not come as a surprise. Time and again we hear from VBS leaders that one of their greatest needs is willing workers.

Here are six steps to consider during the final days of enlistment for VBS 2013.

Step 1: Put your strongest and most experienced workers in speaking or lead roles. This will take the pressure off apprehensive volunteers and well as scale back the pressure on you to find workers who already know how to teach or lead the different areas of VBS.

Step 2: Look beyond the usual list of workers. It may be that the very best VBX leader is someone you have not even considered. I write from personal experience here. We were desperate for workers willing to spend a week with sixth graders. We had a lead teacher but no one else had stepped forward.

One afternoon Dava (our VBS director) said, “I think we should ask Tim if he would help us with the sixth grade.” Obviously my response was, “I can’t see Tim saying yes. I really can not see him relating to sixth graders.”

Thankfully Dava won the day and asked Tim, who obviously said yes – otherwise there wouldn’t be a story here.

To put it simply, Tim was awesome! After VBS he came to me and said he would really like to continue the experience by working with sixth graders in Sunday School. How often does that happen?

Within a few months Tim became the director of the department, and within the year he had expanded his ministry to include an extremely successful community outreach basketball program for inner city kids.

Thankfully Dava looked beyond the usual!

Step 3: Realize that quiet often the problem with recruiting volunteers might just be you and your attitude about enlisting. It is not unusual to find a director who is uncomfortable personally asking people to help. As a result, the director depends on bulletin announcements – the lest effective way to enlist workers – and then is bewildered when few if any respond.

Typically there are more people then we realize who will say yes if personally asked, but will never respond to mass appeal. If you have a difficult time recruiting personally, enlist a team of people who are good at it. In this way you are recruiting only a few people who in turn will recruit the masses. Beside, getting more recruiters on the team will help take care of the issue of looking beyond the usual list of workers.

Step 4: You also need to realize that there are potential volunteers who are willing to help, but might never volunteer because they feel inadequate,or are afraid to volunteer only to be rejected because the position has been filled by someone else. Often a hesitancy to volunteer has more to do with fear of rejection then fear of the job.

Step 5: When you do ask someone to help, make sure you know what you are asking him to do. Give him a list of specific responsibilities using terminology that is self explanatory. For example, don’t ask me to be the lead teacher for the first grade class without telling me exactly what a lead teacher is expected to do. When people know exactly what they are being asked to do they are much more willing to agree.

Another aspect of Step 5 is don’t ask someone to just be a warm body to fulfill worker/student ratio in the classroom. No one – even if they say they do – wants to just be there with no responsibility or purpose. Believe me, I have been recruited as a warm body and it was the most boring and uncomfortable thing I have ever been asked to do. When you ask someone to be a helper, make sure you have at least a short list of expectations. People willingly serve when they recognize and identify with a purpose. Give every worker a purpose and show him how his job fits into the big VBS picture.

Step 6: Realize that no matter the size of your church, finding enough workers is not easy. It is all proportional.

While in seminary I served at a church of about 75 regular attenders. A friend served at a church of about 5,000. I desperately needed two additional workers for our preschool Sunday School. One day I whined that if I were at a church the size of her church I wouldn’t have a problem finding enough workers. She quickly informed me that while I desperately needed two preschool workers, she needed a new group of 250 preschool extended teaching time workers every Sunday.

Lesson learned! No matter the size of the church there is always a need for workers. AND no matter the size of the church God has placed just the right number of volunteers.

As we approach the Day of Prayer for VBS this Sunday (May 19), know that LifeWay’s VBS team is praying for you and the workers needed for the harvest in your community.

VBS New Testaments

thomasLooking for a special gift for new Christians, a meaningful “souvenir” from VBS for kids, or something to take into the home of an unchurched family who visited your VBS? The VBS New Testaments with Psalms and Proverbs fit the bill perfectly! There are lots of things to love about these New Testaments, but my personal favorite feature is that the very first pages of these Bibles feature 30 days worth of kid-friendly, kid-centered devotions. So not only are you putting the Word of God in a child’s hands, you’re also helping him learn how to read the Bible and apply it to every day life.

devotions

 

Another nice feature is that the plan of salvation is clearly outlined throughout these Bible’s pages. Key verses are highlighted to make them easy for kids to spot and directions to “turn to page # and read ____ verse” make it easy for a child to use his own Bible to share the Gospel with a friend. There’s even a section that deals with questions kids have about what being a Christian means and what happens next.

 

The back of each Bible contains fun games and activities that encourage children to use their Bibles and reconnect with the things learned at VBS. These activities can even be used during VBS for those times when you need a little something extra to fill the time.

activities

 

The VBS New Testaments are available in HCSB and KJV to match the VBS curriculum. Take a look at them for yourself at your local LifeWay store or on the Web at www.lifeway.com. Got a great idea for using the VBS New Testaments? Feel free to share it with others by posting a comment here.

13 HCSB_COVER13 KJV_COVER

Beginning Well…Ending Strong Part 2

wooley1 2013Last Tuesday I listed three steps Pastors and VBS Directors need to consider to insure VBS begins well and ends strong. To briefly review, Step 1: determine the purpose of VBS, Step 2: establish dates and a budget that reflects the purpose, and Step 3: enlist a team to dream and implement the strategy.

Step 3 is actually two steps in one. The first, as I wrote about last week, is to enlist a dream team that will also become your core leadership team. This team will not only help you dream possibilities, but will help you turn the possibilities into realities.

Once you have enlisted your core leadership team it is time to enlist and train workers. I’ll share more about this topic in a future post.

Now that we have taken a second look at the three steps to beginning well, we’ll move on to three steps for ending strong.

Step 4: Put promotion/publicity strategies in motion. The key here is knowing your target audience. Who are you really trying to reach for VBS? Which segments of your community are you not only best able to reach, but best able to minister to once you have reached them? Once you know your target audience you can direct all of your energies and resources to reaching the people most likely to attend your VBS and your church. To learn more about creating a promotion strategy check out Six Steps to Reaching Your Target Audience.

Step 5: Stay focused throughout the planning stage and week of VBS. This might just be the hardest step of all. Back in Step 1 you determined the purpose (reason for conducting and desired goals) of your VBS. As you gained support from the congregation and enlisted and trained a team, you helped them understand and own the purpose. But now that VBS is in full swing it is easy to get caught up in the crunch of making IT happen and forget the very reason why IT is suppose to happen.

If IT (purpose) is building bridges to the unchurched, then everything – from registration to the final Amen – must remain focused on building bridges. Each Bible story, craft, and rec game should be used to build bridges to the unchurched kids, students, and adults who may be experiencing church for the first time. If the purpose of VBS is building bridges then sharing the Gospel message and nurturing relationships becomes the focus of every lesson, activity, and every minute. Ending strong means never letting anything get in the way of staying focused on the purpose.

Step 6: Put continued connection (follow-up) strategies in motion. To end strong we need go back to the purpose (Step 1) and change the way we think about VBS. Instead of VBS being “the event” in itself, it must become the catalyst to the event which I hope you will agree is continued connections. For many churches, more unchurched families are identified during VBS then any other outreach all year. When a child from an unchurched home attends VBS, a church hasn’t just discovered one unchurched person. The church has typically discovered – when parents and siblings are included – four unchurched people.

On average, ten percent of everyone enrolled in VBS claims to be unchurched. For a typical VBS of 100 people (both students and workers) this means 10 are unchurched. But in reality a church has just discovered 40 people who claim no church home or affiliation – yet were willing to allow their child attend your VBS!

A simple postcard saying, “Thanks for attending our VBS” is not enough. The postcard may allow you to check off the follow-up box on your to-do list, but it is not adequate if the purpose of VBS is building bridges with the unchurched. Building bridges requires continued connections far beyond the week of VBS, and continued connections requires a strategy. In the next few weeks I’ll share more about creating a strategy for continued connections. Until then, start working on the first three steps. It’s not too late to begin well and end strong!

 

Six Steps to Reaching Your Target Audience

PurpleShirtPhotoI love the movie Field of Dreams – especially the line, “If you build it, he will come.”

While these prophetic words may work for a baseball field in the middle of a remote Iowa corn patch, it doesn’t hold true for VBS. Just because you create a potentially fun and life-changing week for your community doesn’t mean people will just automatically attend.

As you are building (planning) your VBS, make sure you are building your promotion (marketing) plan at the same time. How devastating to work so hard recruiting and training workers, collecting supplies, and preparing the building, only to realize at the last minute no one has told the community.

Here are six steps to insure your message reaches your target audience.

1. Start Promoting Now!

Actually you probably should have started telling people about VBS 2013 during VBS 2012. But never fear, you still have time to create a successful promotion strategy if you begin now.

First you need to check church and community calendars to make sure you are not scheduling your VBS on top of any major events that will compete for workers and kids. Now you want to make sure the congregation is reminded often of the date and time of not only VBS but any training opportunities that will be provided. You do not want to give the members of the congregation the excuse of not having adequate information early.

2. Put Someone in Charge of Promotion

As the pastor or VBS director you already have more responsibility than you can shake a stick at. (I’m not really sure what that means, but my grandmother said it often.) Refusing to delegate responsibility for promotion will insure that you get so busy with all the other details of VBS you run out of time and energy to make sure the community – and especially unchurched families – know what is going on. For you, promotion is just one more detail. But if you delegate the responsibility it becomes his primary detail and focus.

Encourage your promotion leader to build a creative team who can help dream the possibilities as well as do the leg work. Promotion is a great job for the person (people) who might not be available to work during the week of VBS but are available during the weeks leading up to VBS.

3. Know Your Target Audience

Blanket promotion (banners, newspaper advertisements, store posters) may appear to be telling the entire community about VBS, but you might be spending a lot of time, money, and energy yet never get the word to the families you are trying to reach. Target audience means the specific group of people you are trying to reach – the families most likely to attend your specific church or VBS.

Once you determine your target audience you can then target how you promote to them. For instance, if your target audience includes preschoolers you need to find out where parents of preschoolers congregate, where they shop and eat, and how they best communicate with each other. It’s not hard. Just ask parents of preschoolers what you would need to do for them to hear your message. You can then target your target audience.

4. Use a Variety of Promotion Methods

Try to calculate for a moment the number of messages that are directed at you each day. Make sure you include mail, newspapers and magazines, posters in store windows, phone calls, and electronic messages such as e-mail and social networks. Don’t forget to include billboards, bumper stickers, and conversations with co-workers. In reality you receive hundreds if not thousands of messages each day. If you receive that many, then so do the people you want to attend your VBS. One postcard or banner quickly gets lost and forgotten.

To truly get your message heard and remembered you will need to broadcast it often and in many ways.  One of the reasons you need to start promoting now is to allow enough time to utilize a variety of methods. Create a promotion calendar that insures you are broadcasting your message to your target audience in repetitious waves.

5. Be Creative

First you need to know that being creative does not have to mean expensive. Some of the most creative marketing of all has cost little if anything. Your very best promotion is going to be one person telling another person, so make sure you give them something fun and engaging (creative) to talk about. There will be a lot of churches in your community hosting VBS – many during the exact same week – so it is important that your message is heard and remembered. You want to do something that creates a buzz, or as my boss says, a sizzle!

Effective promotion must grab attention within three seconds. The more creatively you convey your message, the better chance you have of getting and holding the attention of your target audience.

Bring a group together to brainstorm fun and unexpected ways to broadcast your message. Remember, the first rule of brainstorming is there are no bad ideas. Every idea has potential. Start with the question, “If money was not an issue, what could we do to tell people about VBS?”

Of course money is an issue, but if you never allow yourself or your team to dream bigger then your budget you will settle for promoting the same way you promoted last year, and most likely miss out on an extremely creative (yet inexpensive) way to target your target audience.

6. Make Quality a Priority

The quality of your promotion is going to signal the quality of your VBS. Again, quality does not have to mean expensive, but it does have to meet the standard expected by your target audience. Once you have determined your target audience you will be able to determine the quality they expect and respond to.

So what do you need to do to get started? Enlist a promotion leader. Today!

 

Over the River…

img_5318Over the river (Little Pigeon River) and through the woods (Mt. Pisgah National Forrest) to VBS 2013 Events we go! It is going to be a COLOSSAL week!

This is the week we (LifeWay’s VBS Events Team) look forward to all year – the first in a series of awesome fun events – where VBS groupies from all 50 States, Canada, and Mexico (and sometimes even a groupie or two from Great Britain or Korea) join together for two days of exciting VBS sights and sounds!

Over 1200 VBS leaders will be our guests at Ridgecrest Conference Center later this week for worship with Dr. Shane Garrison and Austin Adamic, teaching by some of the best VBS practitioners in the country, inspiration and creativity of LifeWay’s VBS Graphics and Publishing Team, and a performance of the Colossal Coaster World Musical by a great children’s choir. AND if all this is not enough, how about 60 degree weather (we typically have ice) in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

If you are not registered for the Ridgecrest event, there is still time to join us January 18-19 in Fort Worth, January 31-February 1 in Nashville, or February 8-9 in Kissimmee. Like I said before, these events are going to be COLOSSAL so don’t miss out.

To learn how you can be part of a one of these awesome Preview events go to lifeway.com/vbs/events.

We’ll be looking for YOU!

5 Reasons to Teach Babies–2s

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard preschool Sunday school referred to as day care or babysitting. I know none of you have ever said that… but just in case you need some help recruiting teachers for these small ones or want to encourage current teachers with how they are making a difference in these little lives, here are 5 reasons to teach our youngest, sweetest ministry participants.

 

  1. Bible teaching as infants and early toddlers lay the spiritual foundation for those children for years to come. Even babies can begin to recognize Jesus as a familiar name. They will learn that church is a safe place where teachers care for them. They will learn that they can trust what teachers say at church. These are formative years not to miss!
  2. Children as young as 1 year old can remember simple events. They can remember reading from the cool Bible with all the pictures when that action is repeated week after week.
  3. When their needs are met at church, they develop trust for the teacher and the truth that they are speaking to them. This builds into them trusting that their spiritual needs can be met by Jesus.
  4. At 1 year, most children are beginning to make simple choices. Red or green. Cheerios or bananas. Talking about Jesus and making decisions that honor Him can become commonplace. As they develop their ability to make choices, they will know that Jesus wants to be a part of those decisions.
  5. Children will associate God’s name with love and trust. Again, these associations lay a solid foundation for preschool teachers to build on.

Teaching Babies–2s is like a jump start into knowing about God. As they trust and love God, they will begin to understand what a relationship with Him looks like as they continue to grow and learn. Babies–2s are learning at church, too. They may not be able to use their words to thank you, but they are daily growing as they use their senses and develop skills at church to discover who Jesus is!

Four Weeks and Counting…

Hopefully it is looking a lot like – and sounding a lot like – Christmas where you are today. It certainly is here in the VBS office! But it is also looking and sounding a lot like four weeks until the first national VBS Preview at Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina.

We are in perpetual motion putting the finishing touches on a not-to-be-missed event! We have now hit capacity at Ridgecrest and the Nashville Friday/Saturday events, but there is still room at Fort Worth, Nashville Thursday/Friday, and Kissimmee.

A complete list of breakout sessions is now available at lifeway.com/vbs/events. Check it out today!

In addition to the basics for Colossal Coaster World and Club VBS: Jungle Jaunt, you will have the opportunity to explore decorating options with Mark Jones and the VBS Design Team, be introduced to LifeWay’s newest VBS resource Backyard Kids Club, be challenged by the preaching of Dr. Shane Garrison, and participate in worship with the Austin Adamec Band.

I’m looking forward to seeing you soon for the Colossal Coaster World Experience!

Coming with VBS 2013 – Backyard Kids Club™

 One of the most exciting things about my job is watching God put the pieces together to make something great happen. That’s what it has felt like as the plans for a Backyard Kids Club resource have come together. Here’s a sneak peak at the why, what, and who of Backyard Kids Club.

Why offer a Backyard Kids Club option? 

Many churches are looking for ways to take VBS outside their church and into their communities. Whether those communities are down the street or around the world, our Backyard Kids Club Directors Guide and Backyard Kids Club Kit provide portable resources that can be used easily wherever you can gather a group of kids!

What will be available to help organize and conduct a Backyard Kids Club?

The Backyard Kids Club Directors Guide is designed for the person or team who will be coordinating and planning the Backyard Kids Club or Clubs. Based on expert advice from folks who have held successful Backyard Kids Clubs, this guide gives easy, step-by-step instructions.

The Backyard Kids Club Kit is an all-in-one box designed for a club of about 25 to 30 kids. The traditional VBS curriculum is simplified to fit a limited outdoor setting. The kit includes leader resources for worship and music, Bible study, crafts, and recreation. A special “Host Folder” even includes snack ideas. Music CDs and a choreography DVD are included!

What if a church wants some of the “extras” that go with a traditional VBS?

Because our Backyard Kids Club uses the same Bible content, music, and theme as our traditional VBS, all the fun accessories used for a large scale VBS will coordinate with your Backyard Kids Club!

Who will be able to benefit from the Backyard Kids Club resources?

  • Churches who are looking to take VBS outside the church walls and into communities where kids are
  • Mission groups who need a pack-and-go VBS option for local community centers, campgrounds, or mission locations in other states or around the world
  • Small churches who may have twenty or fewer children, but wish to provide a summer VBS experience that will reach the kids and their families

I know there are even more ideas about how this resource could be used. What are some of your ideas? Have we gotten your wheels turning? We’d love to hear from you!

Today on Kids Ministry 101, learn more about LifeWay’s Kids Ministry Conference!