Involving Teenagers as Leaders in VBS

20140114-075705.jpgMy first VBS “worker” assignment was at the ripe old age of 12. My aunt was the teacher of the five-year-old class and she desperately needed a helper. We conducted VBS in the morning, ate a sandwich, and then spent the afternoon getting ready for the next day. We had 10 kids in an 80-square-foot room. For me the week was a huge lesson in flexibility!

While using teenagers – or in my case a pre-teenager – is not ideal for multiple reasons, mature teenagers can be the solution to a worker shortage, plus the week is an excellent opportunity for teens to begin serving and exploring their gifts and interest. Following are six tips to involving teenagers as leaders in VBS .

 

1. Training is of utmost importance. Failure to train results in frustration for teenagers and adult workers alike.

2. Training begins with the enlistment process. Establish expectations and accountability early and clearly.

3. Make sure teens are looked upon as full members of the team. If teens are mature enough to be enlisted for the team they are mature enough to be treated and respected as a member of the team.

4. Teens are more likely to become discipline problems when they are not given meaningful ministry tasks and the opportunity to contribute to the team.

5. Adult members of the team should assume a mentoring mentality as they work along side the teen leader, respecting the teen’s ability to make decisions with some guidance.

6. Give teens opportunities to grow and stretch in their abilities. With a little discretion on the adult leader’s part, teens should be allowed to experience what are sometimes seen as “adult” roles.

Jerry Wooley, @vbsguy, serves on LifeWay’s VBS Team as a Ministry Specialist responsible for training and events.

Put Your VBS T-shirts to Work for You

20140114-075705.jpgI love being in an airport or store and seeing a VBS t-shirt from years gone by. I have great memories that are uniquely attached to each theme, and seeing a shirt makes those memories come alive. But more important than the memories created by a VBS     shirt is the awareness and promotion value they can create. Churches often distribute shirts on the first day of VBS or at the conclusion of the week, but what if they were distributed prior to the week and intentionally used for promotion? They become moving billboards – especially when worn in mass.

Here are a few ways to put your VBS t-shirts to work for you.

  • Schedule a “Wear Your VBS Shirt to Church Sunday.” Not only will the shirts draw attention to your VBS but they can be used as a way to identify, recognize and honor workers.
  • Schedule a flash mob to appear at a shopping center, mall or park. Be sure to have VBS info ready to distribute.
  • Have everyone wear their shirts to a community parade or fair (July 4th). If a parade is not planned, create a neighborhood walk, bike and trike parade to create awareness and distribute information.
  • Ask kids and parents to wear their shirts on the last day of school. (Be sure to get approval in advance
We would like to hear how you use shirts to promote your VBS. Hope to hear from you soon!
Following Jerry on Twitter @vbsguy for more tips and ideas.

Make Your VBS Week Enjoyable

20140114-075705.jpgWhile those of us who consider ourselves VBS Groupies – and that most likely includes you – can’t imagine more fun than VBS, we have to admit the week can be stressful. I have discovered there are ways to reduce the stress and insure the week is more enjoyable.

 

1. Plan lessons and gather supplies in advance.
2. Create simple menus, shop, and prepare meals and snacks as much as possible in advance.
3. Pick out clothes for you and the kids the night before. Creating a theme-related uniform and wearing it every day makes the “what to wear” decision a breeze.
4. Don’t over schedule other activities during the week. Build in time for physical rest for both you and the family.
5. Don’t allow yourself or those around you to grumble and complain if everything doesn’t go exactly as planned.
6. Above all, laugh often! Find humor in situations that would normally cause stress.
We would love to hear how you make your VBS week more enjoyable.
For more tips follow Jerry, @vbsguy, on Twitter.

 

From the Archives: Worker Enlistment Ideas

One of the biggest challenges of VBS continues to be worker enlistment. Here are some ideas I recently rediscovered from a VBS 2005 (Ramblin’ Road Trip) training plan.

1. Enlist last year’s workers first and ask them to enlist helpers.

20140114-075705.jpg2. Share enlistment responsibility with as many people as possible.

3. Ask for a volunteer for a specific job, don’t just ask for
workers.

4. Find a job for everyone willing to work.

5. Give workers ownership and decision-making responsibilities for their areas of ministry.

6. Set high expectations and establish lines of accountability.

7. Help workers find value in their service by seeing how they job contributes to the overall success of the week.

8. Encourage workers by providing adequate training and needed resources.

9. Happy workers this year will make next year’s enlistment easier.

10. Cheer and appreciate every worker at every opportunity.

 

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

The Journey of a Lifetime

LifeWay’s Journey Off the Map VBS will truly be the journey of a lifetime! Each location is filled with dramatic sights and amazing color. We have combed the Globe in search of God’s most amazing creations and have found some extremely unique plants and rock formations which have been incorporated into the theme to create the most amazing rotation sites ever. Plus, what kid would love the adventure of living and learning in a treehouse? Here is a quick peek at what you will discover on this journey of a lifetime.

Tangled Branch Tree House (Bible Study)

 VBS15_ThemePoster_Treehouse

Shady Grove (Crafts)

 VBS15_Theme_Grove_2

Boulder Bridge (Missions)

VBS15_Theme_Poster_Bridge

Rushing Waters (Music)

 VBS15_ThemePoster_RushingWaters

Rappelling Ravine (Recreation)

 VBS15_Theme_Ravine_Poster

Survival Springs (Snacks)

VBS15_POSTER_Survival_Springs

 

 

It’s Not Too Late to Plan a Backyard Kids Club

20140114-075705.jpgWhile it may be a little late to begin planning a full-fledge Vacation Bible School, it is definitely not too late to plan for one or more Backyard Kids Clubs (BKC).

In case you haven’t heard, Backyard Kids Clubs (also known as Backyard Bible Clubs) are an excellent way to expand the reach of your church and your VBS far beyond the neighborhoods directly surrounding the church campus.

Like VBS, BKCs are by nature evangelistic and create an excellent opportunity to connect families to the Gospel and to the church. But unlike Bible Schools that are designed for a large number of kids divided into age groupings (closely graded), BKCs are designed for 20 or fewer kids who typically met in one or two groups of multiple ages (broadly graded).

Because BKCs require fewer workers, resources and space, and are uniquely created to reach the families of a specific street or multi-housing community, they can be planned and promoted quickly. BKCs are a perfect add-on to your summer. In fact, many churches planning BKCs will also conduct a traditional VBS and use BKCs as a way to reach kids in sections of the community who can not easily travel to the church campus. (A congregation in Clarksville, Tennessee is planning one week of traditional VBS followed by 10 BKCs throughout the city.)

Not yet convinced that BKC is right for your church? Here are six ways to take VBS beyond the church walls and into the neighborhoods of your community.

1. Work with the managers of multi-housing communities (apartment complexes and mobile home parks) to conduct BKCs specifically for the kids of each community. Since BKCs can be conducted with as few as three or four workers, a congregation with 100 workers could potentially conduct as many as 25 BKCs simultaneously.

2. Challenge each adult small group or Sunday School class to conduct at least one BKC in the neighborhood of a group member. (A congregation in Dallas, Texas makes conducting a BKC an annual requirement of every home group.)

3. Enlist and train a group of older high school and collage students to serve as a summer mission team to conduct BKCs throughout the community. (A congregation in Kentucky has trained a student team and is making the team available to help area churches with VBS and BKC.)

4. Partner with area churches to conduct BKCs in city parks and recreation centers.

5. Partner with smaller-membership churches to provide workers for BKCs on their church campuses or in the surrounding neighborhoods.

6. Plan BKCs for Fall, Winter and Spring breaks. Several school districts I’m aware of now schedule two-week breaks. While families might not be looking for activities as structured as VBS, the informal atmosphere of BKC provides a perfect opportunity to gather neighborhood kids for recreation and Bible study.

LifeWay produces a fantastic resource designed for Backyard Kids Clubs that is part of the VBS 2014 Agency D3 resources.

Jerry Wooley, @vbsguy, serves as LifeWay’s VBS Ministry Specialist as well as VBS Director at Creekside Fellowship, a church plant in Castalian Springs, Tennessee, where LifeWay’s Backyard Kids Club resources are being used for the second year.

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.

6 Ways to Continue the Connection

Screen shot 2014-01-23 at 9.51.12 AMMany times VBS is the catalyst that brings people into church when they otherwise would not step in the door. However, many times when the week is over things go back to business as usual. When this happens we miss out on a great opportunity to reach out and bring people into the fold and help them build a relationship with their Savior. Consider some to these ideas to help build on the foundation set during VBS.

  1. Offer a “next step” for VBS guest and their families. Utilize the parenting workshop included in the Adult VBS curriculum or host other needs based classes for parents.
  2. Follow up with visitors personally. Use the steps in the Administrative Guide for Directors for making quick at home visits, phone calls, or mail contacts. Or use the Transition From VBS to Sunday School outline on the Administrative Guide CD-ROM.
  3. Send a VBS 2014 Takin’ It Home CD or VBS 2014 Family Headquarters Guide home with each family. Either of these products will encourage families to dive deeper into the biblical content studied during VBS.
  4. Make the connection with the VBS 2014 Family App. Kids and parents can continue to discover, decide, and defend the hope that is in them.
  5. Create a follow-up strategy when you first begin planning VBS. Share the strategy with your entire congregation and encourage them to participate in the process. Continue until a contact has been made with every home and every parent has been met.
  6. Report and celebrate efforts with the congregation

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 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.