Athens VBS: Day 1

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Photo Credit: Group Publishing

A little over a month ago I found myself in a new leadership role at my church and subsequently the director of our VBS (now known as Summer Bible Camp).  In the two years that I’ve been at my current church, my role had been very, very small.  Did I mention my role was very, very small?  This year, I am leading a leadership team of 20 (who, in turn, are leading 150+ volunteers).

I am so blessed to be able to lead with such a fine group of capable, take-initiative leaders.  It has truly made my job a lot easier!  For the past several days, I’ve been asked, “Are you okay?” and “How are you holding up?” countless times.  I’ve also heard, “You look great, considering the amount of responsibility on your shoulders.”  Again, because of our capable leadership team, my primary role as director has been to troubleshoot and equip our leaders (what I love to do..the equipping part!).

After many months of thinking, planning, purchasing and organizing, our VBS kicked off yesterday.  We were expecting 300+ children and it seemed like they all showed up at once!  Thanks to our security and registration teams, we were able to get the children settled in rather quickly before the Celebration (worship) time began.

Of course, there were issues that came up that we needed to address:  parking lot congestion and traffic flow, implementing and enforcing a new drop-off & pick up policy (persons picking up children must now show a valid photo ID), building safety, a broken copier, and helping our youngest campers be active participants in the worship time.

All in all, the day went well.  When I was leaving the building for the day, someone asked me how I’m surviving such a busy time.  My answer:  God’s grace.  I am operating in His strength, not my own.  I am energized by my leaders and how I can best serve them.  I can’t wait to see what God is going to do this week!

Verse for the day:

“The Lord is good to everyone.  He showers compassion on all his creation.”

Psalm 145:9

Here are a few pictures from Day 1:

Photo: SBC is underway!
Our stage set
Wrapping up Celebration Time
Wrapping up Celebration Time

Practical (and Inexpensive) Gift Idea for Anxious Children

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

James 4:8a

A few weeks ago, a mom of an elementary aged-girl asked me for words of wisdom to help her daughter who is having anxiety issues.  I came across a great gift idea on Pinterest and decided to take it one step further.

The original idea was to type out James 4:8a on a sheet of copy paper, being sure to use different, vibrant colors for the word “draw”.  Then use fancy-edged scissors to cut out the verse and use curling ribbon to attach it to a box of markers.

What I decided to do was to include a journal with the markers (I added colored pencils as well).  I wanted the recipient to have a safe place to doodle and write her thoughts about what was troubling her, her prayers to God, and Bible verses that help her to remember that no matter what, God is with her.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • White copy paper or cardstock
  • Color printer
  • Tape or glue
  • Markers, crayons, or colored pencils (You could also use paints)
  • Small journal
  • Bible
  • Gift bag and tissue paper OR wrapping paper

Here’s step-by-step instructions for how I put this gift together:

  • Type the verse (James 4:8a) onto a sheet of white copy paper.  (I used a fun font – it was for a child.)
  • Use vibrant colors for the word “draw”.
  • Cut out the verse using fancy-edged scissors.  (I used pinking shears to edge the verse.)
  • Attach the verse to the package of markers, crayons or colored pencils using tape or glue.
  • In the front of the journal, write a personal note to the child receiving it.  Include Bible verses that reassure a child that God is with them.  Suggestions might include:  Deuteronomy 31:6; Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5; Isaiah 41:10; Psalm 46:1.
  • Wrap the gift or place in a gift bag with tissue paper.  Add a fun tag, if desired.
  • Say a prayer for the child that will receive the gift before you bless them with it.

This was a very inexpensive gift but one that the mom has already told me has blessed her daughter in a special way.

How have you helped a child who struggles with anxiety?  Share your ideas below!

Now that VBS is over…or is it?

Our VBS (or Summer Bible Camp–SBC) ended yesterday and boy what a week it was!  We hosted over 300 children on an adventure to Babylon.  It was a great week!  As a family tribe leader, I got an up-close peek at how the children related to Daniel’s adventures and what God was doing in their lives.

Now that our week has concluded, it’s time for me to wear my other VBS/SBC hat…as Follow-Up Team Leader.  I have never done this job before but it was one that I volunteered to do because I feel that personally connecting with those who attend our church or events should not be overlooked.

As I began to think about how we’d follow-up with our camp attendees and their families, I identified five (5) categories that they would fall into:

  1. Participants who attend our church
  2. Participants who attend another church
  3. Children who accept Christ during SBC but have no church home
  4. Children who accept Christ who attend another church
  5. Families who indicate they have no church home

Here is how we’ll follow-up with the children and families:

All families will be invited to attend our SBC Celebration Sunday that takes place the Sunday following SBC.  The children will attend one of two services and lead the congregation in worship (singing songs they learned during the week).  A family and seeker-friendly sermon will be preached and refreshments will be served afterwards.

Participants who attend our church or another church will receive a letter or email, thanking them for coming and providing suggestions on ways that parents can continue the learning at home.

Children who accept Christ during SBC but have no church home were provided an age-appropriate Bible and discipleship materials to get them started on their spiritual journey.  They will also receive a personal invitation to our Sunday morning programming.  Their parents will receive a letter from our Senior Pastor inviting them to a Sunday service as well as information about various ministries within our church.  Families who indicate they have no church home will also receive a letter and information from our Senior Pastor.

Parents of children who accept Christ who attend another church will be encouraged to follow-up with their church staff about their child’s decision.  We will also send a note to the Children’s Pastor of their home church to allow them to follow-up.

Our follow-up team will meet this Wednesday morning to pray for the children as well as begin the follow-up efforts.

What have you done to follow up with children who attend your VBS?

Off to Babylon!

Next week, 315 children will join me for an adventure to Babylon.  Not really, of course…it’s our theme for this year’s Summer Bible Camp.  For the past 5 months, we have met to plan and execute a fantastic Summer Bible Camp experience for all of our campers and teen & adult leaders.

Here’s what the children will learn:
Day 1:  When things change, God is with you.
Day 2:  When you need help, God is with you.
Day 3:  When you’re afraid, God is with you.
Day 4:  When you’re lonely, God is with you.
Day 5:  When you’re thankful, God is with you.

It’s shaping up to be a fantastic week!  Here’s my prayer for the week:

Heavenly Father, thank You for the opportunity that we have to share Your love with the children that You will bring us next week.  I pray that You will touch their hearts and prepare them to receive what they will hear.  I pray that You will allow them to experience You in a way that they have not before.  May many children will begin their lifelong relationship with You as a result.  We are so thankful for all that You will do and the lessons that You will teach children and adults alike, for Your honor and glory.  In Jesus’ name, amen.
Next week, I will share our strategy for following up with Summer Bible Camp attendees and their families.  Have a fantastic week!