I thought we should start this week off with a little fun! Last week Jerry gave you a preview of the VBS songs for VBS 2012. So, I thought that today we would stroll down memory lane and see if you can Name that Tune! Below are snippets of five different VBS songs. See if you can guess the title, the name of the VBS, and the year of the VBS. I will post the answers in the comments on Wednesday. Have fun and no cheating!
Here’s Kathy’s story:
Although I love to travel, going to New York City was just not on my list of destinations. That changed two years ago when my husband and I took a Hudson River Cruise.
I saw the tall buildings from the river. I saw traffic. I saw people. I experienced a very small segment of NYC, but I was hooked. New York City was now a destination on my list.
Last June, LifeWay announced the VBS 2011 theme: “Big Apple Adventure” and I knew I had to go. I wanted to experience New York City.
Three weeks after the theme was announced, my daughter and I were on a bus to NYC. I know for certain this was a trip planned by God – who gets on a tour bus at the last minute without it being God’s will?
On that trip, I saw the sights of New York – Battery Park, Grand Central Station, Times Square, theaters as well as schools, playgrounds and areas called Districts – spotlighted in the rotation areas of “Big Apple Adventure”. I rode the subway, walked the streets, went to a play, ate a hot dog purchased from a street vendor and much more.
Seeing multitudes of people everywhere always in a hurry, I wondered – where was the Christian witness in the city? I saw churches and cathedrals, but where was the ministry? I saw homeless people sleeping in the parks, doorways, and streets – I knew somewhere in the city there had to be Christians who cared.
I thought of the sub-title for the VBS theme – “Where Faith and Life Connect” – how were we as Baptists showing God’s love in New York City and sharing how their faith can indeed connect with their daily lives.
In mid-April, I was privileged to experience that connection for myself and what an experience that was! With the encouragement and direction of Bill Choate and accompanied by Kim Margrave, I went back to New York City.
Metropolitan New York Baptist Association is the association made up of about 240 churches speaking over 20 languages ministering to the millions of people from over 100 countries who live in the five boroughs of NYC plus Long Island, Upper New Jersey and lower Hudson Valley. George Russ is the Director of Missions. He and his staff welcomed us to Manhattan. Our accommodations were in their renovated space for housing of mission teams traveling to NYC located above their office space.
NYC is home to over 800 people groups. The world has come to America. I had heard that a passport was not needed for travel in NYC – instead all one needs is a MetroCard. I now understand. I am just thankful I did not have to navigate the bus and subway system alone!
Visiting with Graffiti Ministries at East 7th Baptist Church, I learned that the ministry started there in the 70’s when the neighborhood looked totally different than it does today. Abandoned buildings, drug dealers, gangs were the norm; however, today it is a different story. The neighborhood is much better, and the ministry there is thriving thanks to nearly 40 work teams a year who have helped Taylor Field, who directs Graffiti Ministries and his staff minister to over 10,000 people a year while converting an abandoned synagogue for their use. Today, it serves as a meeting space for the church as well as Bible studies, after school programs, computer classes, GED classes, clothing closet and soup kitchen. By taking advantage of beautiful Tompkins Square Park just down the street, Graffiti Ministries serves “Free Lunch in the Park” one day a week and conducts sports camps in the summer. They truly see miracles happen every day as they share God’s love by showing God’s love.
Too soon, it was time to get back on the subway to travel north to the South Bronx section called Mott Haven. Here Andrew Mann directs Graffiti2 Ministries. He and his therapy dog, Proof, are featured in Day Three of “Big Apple Adventure” Children’s Mission rotation. I had met Andrew and Proof before at Ridgecrest and Nashville and now I was excited to experience their work firsthand.
Andrew told us a little bit about his ministry there in South Bronx. He, too, sees miracles happen every day as he works with kids through after school programs, Bible studies and sports camps. I loved seeing his Bible skills bulletin board where they not only teach boys and girls God’s Word, but how to use it to find stories and verses for themselves.
He showed us the renovated basement storage area – renovations done by the labor of mission teams. There were among other things boxes of 8000 Easter eggs to be used for their 6th annual Easter egg hunt in nearby St. Mary’s Park.
A definite highlight was being able to actually walk with Andrew around the neighborhood – to see the parks where they will do sports camps (football, cheerleading, tennis, baseball and new this year, soccer), to see where a young girl who attended the ministry programs was killed by a stray bullet, to walk by the schools, stores, apartment buildings – to see some of the 90,000 people who live in the Mott Haven area, several of whom spoke to Andrew as we walked by.
Since it was time for the after school program to begin, we walked back down the street toward the elementary school to pick up some kids and bring them back to the ministry center. The after school program starts each afternoon with free time for games, personal interaction and snacks before the studying and tutoring session began. Proof was keeping an eye on all the activities. Andrew related incidents where Proof was able to “minister” by snuggling next to a distraught child, licking the hand of a person who just needed a friend or “listening” to the troubles of a child who didn’t want to talk to an adult. Proof also listens as kids read to him!
Time passed quickly, and we had to make our way back to the subway to return to Manhattan. The cold, windy, rainy day did not dampen my excitement of being able to see the ministries done by Graffiti and Graffiti2. It was so exciting to see how they were making a difference in the lives of the people they worked with each day.
Another highlight of the trip was working at an ESL class among the West African people group in Harlem. I certainly was nervous as we walked the streets, simply because this was new to me. I wasn’t used to seeing mosques as we walked along either. Later I learned that there were 53 mosques in Harlem. It was exciting though to be a part of an ESL class among the West African people group there. I actually attempted to converse with people from Benin, Ivory Coast and Mali. All spoke some English, but I was helping them recognize sounds, words etc., through use of pictures. I had to watch how I talked because normal conversation sometimes included extra words in sentences that tended to confuse them. When I used the letter “a” as a word, they thought I was trying to get them to say a letter of the alphabet.
In traveling from Point A to Point B, I was able to catch a glimpse of tourist sites along the way. I was bothered most by the differences in life style as I went from walking through the luxurious Trump Tower and Plaza Hotel to seeing the subway rats in Harlem.
As VBS Specialist for Tennessee Baptist Convention, I constantly tell leaders that VBS is not about where the theme is – like New York – but it is about the Bible study as we share the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the men, women, boys and girls that attend our churches during VBS. This year, VBS is not about New York City. As with any theme, it is about people – people who need the Lord, people who need to hear a word of encouragement, people who need food to eat, people who need to know that someone cares. People in New York, people in Tennessee, people in our own communities all need to know how to connect faith with life.
Experiencing a little bit of the ministry efforts in New York City was truly an eye-opening time for me. I am so glad that I was able to visit these ministries, talk with George Russ, Taylor Field and Andrew Mann. I am glad I was able to walk the streets to see the people from a ministry stand-point rather than from a tourist perspective. Even though I got to ride in a New York yellow taxi cab as we made the return trip to the airport, I really did not want to leave. I trust God will provide the opportunity for me to experience the ministry of New York City again.
You might have noticed that the typical button-up leader shirt is nowhere to be found this year. But never fear… in its place is a fantastic Big Apple Adventure Leader T-shirt! It’s a ¾-length sleeve baseball style t-shirt, which I love because it’s not nearly as hot as a heavy button-up in the summer sun. Plus it’s distinct from the blue “I heart VBS” shirt, making it the perfect choice for teachers, leaders, youth workers, or even as a special shirt just for preteens! We get a lot of requests for a VBX t-shirt. So try this one out with your kids this summer and let us know what you think.
Excited yet? Well you should be, because we’re giving away a FREE leader t-shirt to five lucky VBS fans! To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post with a valid email address (so we can contact you for your t-shirt size). Tell us which is your oldest VBS shirt or which VBS shirt is your favorite and why.
You have one week to enter. Winners will be chosen randomly and we’ll announce the results here on the blog next Friday, April 22. So be sure to check back!
And even though I’m not eligible to win, I’ll get the comments started… my oldest VBS shirt is from Amazon Outfitters (HUH!), but my favorite is this year’s “I heart VBS” shirt. Every time I wear it I have people asking me what it means. Then I get
the chance to tell them about VBS and, most importantly, the reason for VBS—Jesus!
THIS CONTEST HAS ENDED.
Sarah shared her story with me about how God prompted her to start a homeless ministry in her church after she began going through her VBS sampler. We were able to visit with Sarah at our VBS preview event in Fort Worth, so we did a little video with her.
The audio is hard to hear on the video, so if you can’t hear it, here’s an excerpt of her email to me that tells about her story:
I just wanted to let you know a little more about what God has done. Ben Hayes asked me to partner with them making homeless carepackages. I really prayed about it and the Lord just spoke to me that I really couldn’t do something for the homeless in Houston when I’m doing nothing for the homless in Beaumont (we live about 15 miles from there). It was urgent to begin immediately, so I asked my church to take a Ziploc bag and fill it with things that would make a homeless persons life easier and bring it back the next Sunday. They brought about 40 back, and we went that afternoon and passed them out downtown Beaumont. I had 7 people participate.
While at the Salvation Army we saw a young woman with a small baby. I shared this at church that night. Then next morning a friend of mine called (she did not go with us but I had told her about it at church) – she was very distraught over this lady with the baby – she felt we had to do something to help her. She had been awakened crying over it several times during the night. I called the salvation army and got alittle information but not really any help. My friends’ husband is a police officer, so the next day he stopped by and talked to her. He found out that her baby is a special needs baby, that she has been homeless for at least 6 months, that she has never been in any trouble, and that she was saved and baptized last march. She told him that she was signed up with the housing department. He contacted some people and found that she wasn’t signed up in right place and since she has a special needs baby, she can get emergency placement status. So they helped her take care of all that and now she is next in line for an apartment. When they asked her if she needed anything, she pointed up in the sky and said, “Nope, I’m content. He’s taken care of everything!!!” Unbelievable- a homeless person with a baby that has nothing and she is content – WOW!!!
What is so awesome about this to me – other than that he let me be a part of this – is how he orchestrated all this to take care of one of his children. It started with LifeWay and VBS to Ben Hays to me to my friend and her husband. They were the only ones I know that have the connections to help her. I cannot wait to see what he is going to do next!!! I am praying that this will inspire others to listen to His voice and step out in faith and act even when you have no clue what you are doing. Our homeless ministry is called Feet on the Ground ministries and we are going once a month the homeless in downtown Beaumont. Thanks so much for listening – I pray you are able to share this and others will be inspired to connect with faith, with love, with trust with others with LIFE!!!
I’m so excited about all that God is going to do through Vacation Bible School 2011! I hope that you are all believing that He is going to do great things through your community because of your faithfulness to Him!!
I would love to hear more stories about how VBS is impacting your community. Anyone willing to share???
Now that Christmas is over, there’s no excuse not to start thinking about VBS!! Here are some links to help you get started!!
Our VBS team will be at the VBS Preview Events throughout the month of January, so be looking for more pictures and videos here on our blog, on the VBS facebook page, on the Kids Ministry 101 blog, and in our new VBS idea banks!
What if I don’t have any VBS leaders?
That’s okay! We have an awesome Leader Recruitment Video to help you spread the word. This clip covers a lot of the questions and doubts that run through the minds of potential VBS leaders and helpers.
“What if I’m no Bible scholar?” You don’t need to be! LifeWay’s VBS materials provide all the content.
“What if I’m no school teacher?” That’s okay! LifeWay’s VBS materials provide easy step-by-step instructions. So any one can teach a VBS class. No experience necessary.
“What if I’m not crafty?” No problem. LifeWay’s Craft Packs provide the materials for up to 10 kids to make their own VBS souvenir. No extra shopping and no craftiness required.
“What if I’m tone deaf?” Just pop the VBS 2011 Music Rotation and Musical CD and turn it up! The Worship Rally DVD provides motions to all the songs. You can even allow Jeff Slaughter to teach the motions to the kids via the Worship Rally DVD clip
And now, one of the most common questions of all . . . “What if kids scare me?”
We understand that not everyone is “kid friendly.” There are plenty of other ways to be involved with VBS: prayer, decorating, and donating supplies—just to name a few.
The best way to recruit VBS leaders is to get out there and start spreading the word as soon as your VBS dates are on the calendar. Try using the VBS 2011 Leader Recruitment Video in your worship service, or post it on your Facebook page. Ask people to help with VBS and give them the freedom to choose an area of interest. You just may be surprised at how many new faces you’ll see.
Share with us what’s worked for you in recruiting VBS leaders. How do you keep leaders coming back?
Earlier this year, I got to tag along with our video team as we headed to NYC to film the promotional videos for VBS 2011.
Our team in NYC consisted of Donny the VBS fan, who you all know and love; Roberta, the project coordinator and a vital part of our VBS marketing team; Ryan, the sound guy who toted at least 1000 pounds of sound equipment around in a backpack all over the city, and Steve, the video producer and cameraman!
Now Steve has three young boys, so as he was leaving town, he let them pick out an action figure to send with their Dad so they could be a part of our NYC trip. The boys choose Al (the alien) and his dirt bike (because it’s dangerous). And Steve gave me permission to share Al’s pics with you guys!
You guys are probably already familiar with Donny, the crazy VBS fan who tried to guess the VBS themes for the past few years. Well, this year, Donny came with us to NYC to film our Big Apple Adventure promotional video. Enjoy!
So what word comes to mind when you think of New York City?
For me it is ‘BIG! REALLY BIG!!!” This response is coming from a BIG CITY guy who has spent most of his life in the big cities of Dallas and Houston, yet NYC takes BIG to a whole new level. New York City has big buildings, big statues, big sports teams, a big population (eight million plus), big pizza, and REALLY BIG OPPORTUNITIES (can’t you just hear Frank Sinatra singing “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere”)!
Although I’ve been to both LaGuardia and JFK airports, and once even took a bus from one airport to the other, I’ve never actually had the privilege of spending a day in the BIG APPLE. My total NYC experience has been through movies, television, songs, books, magazines, and the travel stories and pictures of friends. Although I haven’t stepped foot on Times Square, taken a ferry to Ellis Island, or witnessed a million taxis trying to race each other up Broadway, the sights and sounds of New York City are as real to me as if I had grown up in one of its famous boroughs.
In many ways NYC is as much a part of me as is my hometown of 10,000 people. (Actually, there were only 3,000 when I was child.) So much of the food I eat, clothes I wear, books I love, television shows I watch, and opinions I hold derive from the Big Apple. It is impossible to live in the United States and not be impacted on some level, actually many levels, by the people and influences of New York City.
Like the Big Apple, VBS is full of great opportunities. Here are just a few:
- VBS continues to provide us with one of the best opportunities we have all year to reach the unchurched of our communities. Evangelism and outreach are at the very core of good VBS resources.
- VBS provides us with one of the best opportunities to identify, recruit, and train new workers who will not only help with VBS but will learn form the experience and serve in ongoing ministries.
- VBS provides us with one of the best opportunities to disciple children, teenagers, and adults who already have a relationship with Jesus but through a concentrated five session Bible study discover ways to deepen that relationship.
In addition to those listed above, VBS provides another opportunity that is often overlooked. VBS gives us an opportunity to challenge Christians of all ages to be on mission in their everyday lives and activities. Being on mission means more than giving money, watching a video about a missionary, or going on a short-term mission trip. Being on mission is about the way we think, act, and live every day at work, school, and play. It is who we are and who we want to become.
Big Apple Adventure: Where Faith and Life Connect will teach us a lot about being on mission Christians. Each of the daily Bible studies reveals a real person with a real need who at the crossroads of life connected with Jesus. What would have happened had Jesus not have been there at that crucial moment of need?
Today those of us who have already had a personal encounter with Jesus are called on to be the ones standing at the crossroads of life, serving as the hands and feet of Jesus, and pointing those with needs to Him.
Although, with the exception of the Preschool and Children’s Missions Rotations, Big Apple Adventure is not specifically about being on mission, each of the Bible studies easily create an opportunity to challenge each of us to proclaim the Gospel message to cities of every size and description beginning with our own hometowns.
As VBS leaders we have an awesome opportunity to use Big Apple Adventure to challenge hearts and raise up a new generation of on mission Christians who take the message about Christ to the Big Apple and to the world.
“So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.” (Romans 10:17)
It’s official – this blog has changed from the “official unofficial Lifeway VBS blog” to the “official LifeWay VBS blog.” All my renegade days of blogging are over and we now have another blogger who is joining me in the fun. Meet Jerry Wooley, AKA the vbs guy!
Jerry is the VBS Ministry Specialist here at LifeWay and is responsible for the planning and executing the VBS training plan that happens through State and Associational VBS leaders. He also plans the VBS Preview Events, answers questions that are sent in from customers all over the world about VBS, and much more.
I’m so glad to have Jerry as a new blogger. And how about his t-shirt? That’s the leader shirt for 2011 – a baseball type shirt. Do you like?
p.s. with our new “official” status, a redesign of the blog is in the works! Look for it in the next few weeks. . .