VBS 2014 Director’s Evaluation

I_Heart_VBSYou’ve finished your week of VBS, the decorations are down and stored, the rooms have been cleaned… it’s time to breathe a sigh of relief, right? Well, not exactly. There’s one more tiny little thing we would like to ask you to do. I promise it won’t take that long and the information you share is invaluable to our team at LifeWay.

We would like you to fill out the Director’s Evaluation found in the Administrative Guide and mail it in. Or if you would rather you can click here and submit it electronically.

You may be wondering what we do with the information we receive and why it is important that we hear from you. Here are just a few of the reasons we think it is important to hear from you:

1. We don’t want to change what’s working. If we don’t hear from you that you like something, we may assume incorrectly that it is not of value.

2. We do want to change what’s not working. Again we won’t know it’s not working if we don’t hear from you.

3. We want to make VBS easy for you. Some of our best suggestions have come from you, our customers.

4. We want to serve you in your mission of reaching the kids in your church and community for Christ.

Every year, I personally read each and every evaluation that is submitted. I forward all the data gathered on to the VBS team and management. If there is a suggestion that we are able to implement, we try to get it in for the following year depending on where we are in our production schedule. We truly value hearing from you, so please take a moment to share your VBS experience with us.

How Are You Connecting with Parents?

wooley1 2013Church leaders attending VBS Previews in January and February were challenged to make Connection Groups part of their VBS planning. A Connection Group is a Sunday School/small group class designed specifically for the unchurched parents identified during VBS, and scheduled to begin the first Sunday after VBS.

I have heard some great stories from churches who took the challenge. Now weeks after VBS these churches continue to connect with parents and families who might have otherwise been forgotten.

My favorite story so far is from a VBS leader who reported their Connection Group now has eight people attending. She said when challenged at Preview to create a Connection Group she just couldn’t make the commitment because she was concerned that her church would not support the idea. She said her trip back home was consumed with guilt from not making a commitment, yet the conviction that intentionally reaching parents was the right thing to do.

Once home, this leader made the decision to meet with her pastor and present the challenge and opportunity. She was overjoyed that he realized the potential and gave her the green light to enlist leadership for the group. However, her joy began to diminish  as her attempts to find leadership produced no results. She said she finally gave up and concluded that the creation of a Connection Group was not going to happen.

Two weeks before VBS she was invited to attend a Sunday School workers meeting to share VBS plans and needs. While planning to share craft supply and snack needs she had no intention of talking about the Connection Group. She felt it was too late and that obvious it wasn’t meant to be. During her presentation she sensed God telling her to lay out the challenge to intentionally connect with the parents of unchurched kids attending VBS. She shared the idea of creating a Connection Group and her attempts at finding leadership.

At the conclusion of her presentation a teacher of an adult class said someone else could teach his class and he would accept the challenge to start the Connection Group the first Sunday after VBS.

At first only a couple of parents attended, but four weeks later attendance has increased to eight!

I love this story because the leader didn’t give up. She remained faithful to the challenge of connecting with unchurched families, and she was sensitive to God’s leading and timing.

How about you? What are you doing to intentionally connect with the unchurched families discovered during VBS?

Jerry Wooley has served as LifeWay’s vbsguy since 2006. He would love to hear the stories of your Connection Groups.

5 Ways to Stay Connected with Preschool Families from VBS

by Klista Stortschalkboard headshot

Connecting with new families is one of the main reasons for conducting Vacation Bible School in your community.  If it’s not, you might need to take a closer look at why you’re doing it!  And because we most often target elementary aged kids with VBS, you might be overlooking an important group that needs your connection – families with preschoolers.  Here are five ways to consider how you can reach those families and keep them connected to your church.

  1. Pair up the child’s future Small Group or Sunday School teacher with the VBS leader when making a follow-up visit to a preschooler’s home.  The child has bonded with the VBS teacher during the week, and chances are, so has the parent! That transition on Sunday morning should go a lot more smoothly once they’ve met.
  2. Enlist parents with similarly aged kids to connect with a specific preschool family. Give a gift card to help pay for a quick meal at a local kid-friendly restaurant to encourage them to make a play date.
  3. Offer classes on parenting, finances, marriage and other family issues that would benefit preschool parents.  Now that they know you’ll take great care of their children, and made new friends of their own, they’ll be more likely to attend.
  4. Make sure they know you have other activities! Put together a calendar of future events and classes—include your Sunday morning services—and invite them to come.  The number one reason people attend is because they were invited!
  5. Promise to meet them at the front door on their first Sunday morning. Show them where their children’s classes are, take them to your small group, and sit with them during worship! Everything is easier when you do it with a friend!

My prayer is that these will just get you started. Keep that connection going all year long. Love on these parents and their children.  Let them know that your church cares, not just the week of VBS, but the other 51 weeks as well.

Let us know how your church connects! Blessings, friends!

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.

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.

 

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?

VBS 2014 Tour Stop 5: 6 Step VBS Continued

wooley1 2013Last Tuesday I introduced you to the simplification and reorganization of the VBS 2014 Administrative Guide for Directors based on LifeWay’s 6 Step VBS. Age-group leader guides have also been simplified as well – you are going to love the cleaner look – beginning with Page 1 which includes a version of the 6 Step VBS designed specifically for teachers.

1. Prepare Your Heart

2. Get the Basic Facts from Your VBS Director

3. Plan

4. Gather and Prepare

5. Teach

6. Continue the Connection

Following is a brief explanation – at least in my words – of what each step means.

Prepare Your Heart: Great teachers are first great learners. Preparing our hearts to teach VBS means first allowing the message of each Bible story to speak to and transform us personally. The Bible content of Colossal Coaster World is a great example. Before I could teach others to face fear by trusting God, I had to first trust God with some of my own fears.

Get the Basic Facts from Your Director: Simple facts such as session time, room assignment, and a list of other activities and rotations planned for the day, are essential to the planning process. This may seem like a no-brainer, but regrettably I have been the teacher who was told, “Just show up a few minutes early and we’ll tell you what you need to know.” Can you say, “Mistake!”?

Plan: Take time to look over all five sessions to learn how each connects to the others. Once you have the big picture you can begin planning one session at a time, making lists of items to gather and prepare for each day.

Gather and Prepare: My favorite way to prepare for VBS is to create a master list of all the resources I need to gather, purchase, or prepare. With list in hand I like to make one raid on the church resource room, one shopping trip, and take one evening to put everything together. Then, using six boxes or bags, I separate everything by the day it will be used. The sixth box is for the resources that will be used every day. By taking time in advance to gather and organize I save tremendous time and anxiety the day of the session. Each morning I simply review the lesson, pick up the appropriate box, and head to church.

Teach: There is a little more involved here than just reading or telling a passage from the Bible. But with a little preparation and a little knowledge of why a variety of learning activities are important, transformational teaching will be much easier than you might imagine.

Continue the Connection: We spend all week getting to know and influence kids, and then on the last day of VBS we tear down the decorations, throw the resources in a closet, run to our cars, and consider the job done. VBS is one of the best opportunities the church has to connect with unchurched kids and their families, yet we so often cut the relationship off just as it is gaining momentum. Think of it as starting to build a bridge but then halting construction half way across the river. Continue the Connection (follow-up) is not the responsibility of the pastor, the VBS director, nor any one person or team. Continuing the connections started during VBS is the responsibility of every VBS worker and church member.

To learn more about these six simple steps check out Page 1 of a LifeWay’s VBS leader guide which will be available in December.

Next week, Tour Stop 6: Takin’ It Home

VBS by the Numbers

wooley1 2013It has taken a little longer than usual, but we finally have numbers from VBS 2012. Yep, you read it correctly – 2012.

We always run a year behind in the numbers department to allow time for every church to submit there VBS data. For 2012 a total of 28,187 churches and missions reported hosting either a traditional VBS, and Backyard Kids Club, a mission VBS, or a combination of all three. This is a tremendous increase of 3,246 more Bible schools than 2011, and the largest number of schools since 2004!

A grand total of 2,759,014 kids, students, adults and workers enrolled and there were 79,588 professions of faith! These are numbers to celebrate!

There were also 2,411 people who publicly announced their intention to respond to God’s call for vocational ministry. This is an increase over 2011 of 130 people. VBS is – or at least should be – extremely evangelistic, but the missions rotation component has been used in a mighty way to connect people of all ages with ways they can personally be on mission in their communities and abroad. Since 2004 alone, 19,349 individuals have committed themselves to full-time ministry as a result of VBS. Today many of these individuals are involved in VBS and other ministries around the world.

However, a deeper look shows that both enrollment and professions of faith are slightly lower than 2011 even though an additional 3,246 schools were conducted. The average enrollment of 113 per school dropped to 97 per school. This is not necessarily a bad thing since the reports reflect an increase in the number of churches conducting Backyard Kids Clubs, which by their nature would have smaller attendance.

A surprising shift to a trend that has been increasing for over a decade was the number of churches that returned to morning Bible schools.  Sixty percent of churches reported an evening school, but this is down from the 67 percent reported for 2011. Based on a upward trend I had predicted that 70 percent of 2012 Bible schools would have been conducted in the evening. It is going to be interesting to see what happens to this number for 2013.

Thank you for taking the time to submit a Church VBS Report form. Each year we mail out 48,000 forms plus provide one in the Administrative Guide for Directors. Like an annual physical, this data diagnoses the health of VBS as well as helps us at LifeWay prepare resources that corresponds with changing trends. VBS continues to be the largest evangelistic outreach collectively conducted by churches. We can definitely say Yes! to VBS!

Reunion Time!

wooley1 2013 By now more than half of all Bible schools for 2013 are over, which means the real work of VBS is just beginning – Continued Connections.

Follow-up has long been a term to describe the actions a church takes after VBS to stay connected with unchurched families who participated during the week of VBS. For many churches follow-up, if done at all, has become little more than a post card. That’s why we are changing the term to Continued Connections. Follow-up is more than one contact or one activity. To be successful the relationships begun during VBS must be nurtured and grown. It is an on-going process.

Last Tuesday I went back to the files and found a great birthday card idea, but again that is only one contact.

The file also revealed several suggestions for an end-of-summer or back-to-school VBS reunion. This is a great way to reconnect with unchurched families just as they are creating their fall routine. It is also the perfect time to introduce them to new Bible study groups or ministries that typically begin in the fall.

The great thing about a reunion is that it can be as simple or complicated as you desire.  The main thing is to connect it through decorations, music, recreation and snacks to VBS. There is power in building upon memories by bringing people to a time and place where they had a positive experience.

Several VBS leaders shared that they pay attention during the week of VBS to the snacks and activities the kids enjoy most, and make sure they are part of the reunion. They also sing the VBS songs and recap the Bible content in a way that ties in with kids going back to school.

A VBS reunion is also a good idea for a fall festival. You already have the decorations in the closet!

 

 

 

 

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!