Thursday, January 13, 2011

How Did I Determine Which VBS Is My Top Pick for 2011?

I reviewed more than a dozen VBS kits this year and am very happy to say I found all of them to be Biblically sound resources with well developed themes and engaging settings! Regardless of which kits you select to utilize in your ministry, you can be confident of finding quality resources and you will be happy with your selections. I want to give you an idea of how I made my selections for this year's Top Ten VBS resources. I'm not a VBS publisher and I'm not a bookstore; I'm a children's ministry person so when I evaluate curriculum I look for the "tools" a curriculum provides which will help me equip my volunteers to most effectively communicate God's Word in a way children will remember and understand so they will be able to live it in their everyday lives!

Obviously I looked for sound Bible teaching, but more specifically I looked for resources designed to intentionally engage children in the teaching of the Bible lesson. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I came from an extremely conservative church background, so I do understand the thought that children today are Biblically illiterate because some publishers have "watered down"  the Bible content in their materials. I used to believe we just needed to teach children the Bible, from the Bible and didn't need all the "activity" found in some curriculum lines. But over the years I saw how children taught in the more "traditional" ways ended up "Biblically illiterate" and great numbers of them were leaving the church as teens and adults. I know there is plenty of debate about whether children learn better and remember more from active teaching or not, but I've watched children who were taught in ways designed to intentionally engage them actively in the lesson and more specifically in the teaching of the lesson as the "light bulb came on" and they were genuinely able to remember, understand and live God's Word. Children who are taught God's Word in more active and intentional ways, in my experience, enter their teen and adult years as Biblically literate individuals! It is for this reason I look for solid Bible lessons that intentionally engage children in the teaching of the Bible lesson. 

I looked for specific ideas each day for children to go do to live what they learned and am thrilled when there is additionally specific time planned into the next day's activities for children to share what they did and more importantly what they learned when they lived God's Word!

Along with providing children an opportunity to live each day's lesson I'm always happy to see which mission project publishers choose for their VBS materials. It is important to help children learn to "Put Feet to Their Faith" and a mission project is a tremendous way to do so. But in addition to this, I also want to see opportunities for children to reach out to and serve their own communities. I appreciate it when the craft time involves children in preparing laundry packs for homeless shelters or allows children to express care for the elderly by making cards for people in a local nursing home. There are many simple ways for us to help open children's eyes to the needs all around them and show them how they can make a difference!

For 13 years I worked for Kregel Bookstores as their Curriculum and Church Resources Consultant. Over those years I worked with hundreds of churches helping them find their best curriculum "fit" and then training their volunteers so they would understand how to get the most out of their resources. I can not tell you how many times I helped a "panicked" volunteer who found themselves in the position of VBS director for the very first time! They always had so many questions! It is for this reason I look for a complete director's manual. While experienced VBS directors know how to plan, recruit, train and present their VBS, "newbies" do not . . . and each year there are many, many "newbies"!

My comparison chart will be released on January 18th and you'll be able to see all the things I looked for when evaluating each VBS curriculum this year, but I did "weight" some things more than others. For example all the curriculum I reviewed provided solid Bible teaching, but if the teaching was presented in an intentional way to engage children actively in the teaching of each Bible lesson, they received more "points". While I look for reproducible student materials, it is more important to me there are daily "live-it" activities and the "points" were "weighted accordingly.

Again, while one VBS was selected as my Top VBS for 2011 - and I'll be reviewing it tomorrow - you can not go wrong with any of the VBS resources I reviewed as they are all excellent! I strongly encourage you to consider utilizing at least two VBS resources in your ministry - next week I'll give you some specific ways to use VBS beyond the traditional five-day outreach!

I want to thank all the publishers for once again developing such solid, excellent resources for churches everywhere! I'm so happy to know children around the world will come to know Jesus and grow in their walk with Him through these materials!

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