Monday, December 27, 2010

Tell Me . . .Why Are We Having Vacation Bible School?

Next week marks the beginning of my Top Ten Vacation Bible School Countdown for 2011, so this week we will focus on how to find the best VBS "fit" for your unique ministry and will look at the essential "ingredients" VBS should include. Vacation Bible School is a tried and true part of the ministry year for most churches, so as you prepare for this year’s VBS stop and ask a very important question. Why are we planning VBS for Summer 2011? If your answer is, “Because we always have VBS”, then you should seriously consider breaking the mold and not invest dollars, time and energy in VBS11. Not the question/answer you anticipated? Well, if this was your answer, instead of canceling VBS you could also consider giving prayerful thought and consideration to the “Why” of VBS. What is your reason, purpose and goal for having VBS? When you identify a specific purpose for VBS, then you’re ready to determine the best design and curriculum “fit”, but your first question must be, “Why are we planning a VBS?” Typically your answer will involve one of two goals/purposes or a combination of both.

Purpose/Goal #1 – Evangelism

VBS is the year’s primary evangelism outreach for many churches. There’s good reason for this as VBS provides the opportunity, environment and resources to reach children in your church and community with the message of Jesus’ love, grace and forgiveness! Many adults say VBS is when they responded to Jesus’ message! This is one reason adults will volunteer for VBS when they may hesitate to do so at other times throughout the year.

Purpose/Goal #2 – Equipping children to understand and live God’s Word

If children in your VBS have already made the decision to accept Jesus’ message, you may want to focus on equipping them to understand and live God’s Word. Yes, we want VBS to be fun and want children to enjoy the songs, games and crafts, but there’s a purpose to this fun – children need to understand, remember and live God’s Word so they’ll take it outside the doors of the church to really live it in their everyday lives!

Purpose/Goal #3 – Evangelism and Equipping children to live God’s Word

If you have a mix of children in your VBS – children who don’t know Jesus and children who do; you may want a combined goal/purpose. Or, if you primarily have children who know Jesus, but are also planning to re-use the VBS on a youth mission project or other service opportunity, you may want to focus on both goals/purposes.

Once you determine your primary purpose/goal for VBS 2011 then consider the following steps to help you do all you can to accomplish your goal.
1.    Put your goal in words and get it out before the eyes and heart of your congregation in advance of VBS.
a.    Make posters for your walls
b.    Make bookmarks and put them in bulletins, at your visitor/information booth and provide for all CE classes.
c.    Ask everyone to pray for VBS with this primary purpose/goal in mind.
2.    Evaluate and select your VBS curriculum based on if it provides the tools to accomplish your goal/purpose.
a.    Evangelism focus - are there opportunities each day for children to understand what it means to accept Jesus’ love, grace and forgiveness and does it provide opportunity to do so?
b.    Living God’s Word focus - does your curriculum provide opportunity each day for children to understand God’s Word? Are there specific daily activities so children experience living what they learn? Is time provided daily for small groups to talk about what they did to live the previous day’s lesson?
c.    Both goals focus - does your curriculum provide opportunity each day for you to share Jesus with children as well as strong features to equip children to understand and live God’s Word?
3.    Along with training your volunteers on safety and schedule, focus your training so volunteers are on-board with your goal/purpose and are ready to assist children accordingly –
a.    Evangelism goal - focus on training your volunteers so they know how to simply and effectively share the message of Jesus with children. Caution against pressuring a child to make a decision they do not understand, but encourage volunteers the salvation decision is one a child can respond to!
b.    Living God’s Word – focus training on providing opportunity for volunteers to practice talking about how to live daily Bible points and encourage them to track what they do between training and the start of your VBS to live those points! If volunteers are able to share how they lived God’s Word, children will be able to better see God’s Word is something they can live in their real lives, too!
c.    Combined goal/purpose - include both focuses when training volunteers.
4.    Share VBS results with your church family and plan effective follow-up so you are able to build on the Biblical foundation laid during VBS. Keep in mind –
a.    Some decisions for Jesus may be made in the weeks and months following your VBS!
b.    We certainly want to be able to continue encouraging children all year long to take God’s Word out the doors of your church and live it in their everyday lives!

Tomorrow we will look at the most important features VBS resources should include and why those features matter!

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