Our Everest VBS Experience



It’s hard to believe that our church’s VBS wrapped up a little more than 2 weeks ago.  After months and months of planning and a week of top-notch implementation, it’s a wrap.  After much-need rest and reflection, I am so thankful that we continue to run our VBS each year.  There are a few reasons why I love what we do.

  • Many of our children come to Christ during VBS.  Every year, parents share stories about conversations they’ve had with their child and how THEY led their child to Christ as a result.
  • Children invite their friends, neighbors and family members.  Our children are excited about the week and want everyone they know to be there!
  • It truly is an all-church event.  Our entire church – from staff to the congregation – rally around our VBS efforts.  There are only a handful of events that garner all-church buy-in and participation like our VBS does.

This year, our church chose Group Publishing’s Everest VBS curriculum.  In years past, we have chosen Group’s Holy Land VBS, which we have enjoyed for various reasons.  The format of the Holy Land curriculum became familiar to us, our planning team members found their niche, and not many other local churches offered this style of VBS.  It set us apart, so to speak.

This is the first time we’ve done Group’s ‘easy’ VBS since I’ve been at my church, so leading the charge of change was a challenge I was dreading.  I tried to accentuate the positive (which is my usual tendency) and highlighted elements that were not part of our typical offering.  It worked – we had a great week!

Here’s our VBS by the numbers:

253 children

175 volunteers

18 leadership (planning) teams

26 leadership (planning) team members

1 child led a family member to Christ

7 children received their very first bible

Here are just a few snippets of what I heard during the week:

{From a parent, who served as a crew leader} “…as happens almost every year, listening to the children sing gets to me.  Today I was in tears and had to step out.  The “Faith” song.  The music is always so powerful.  I shared with [name of child] why I stepped out. The next time we sang that song [child] was also touched by the Spirit.  The Spirit was strong today.  One child in our group shared that she had lost her mother to cancer.  Then another child…..shared about a grandmother who had to be in a wheelchair that they had prayed for.  We had lots of prayer requests and loved praying under our blanket.  My [child] enjoyed hearing her friends pray with and for her.  It’s exhausting thinking about trying to top today…..tomorrow.  NOT sure we can.”

{From a parent, who served as a crew leader} “I have a [younger] crew so many of the concepts are hard for them to grasp just starting to sink in. After camp today, the lady who picked up [child in group] came back in on the verge of tears to tell me that she was a friend of [child]’s mom and [child]’s family does not attend church. Today on the way out [child] was explaining to her what the cross was and what it meant. Your hard work and planning is paying off in touching the lives of even the youngest kids.”

{From a station leader} “This year, it seemed like the kids ‘got it’ more.  Awesome!”

As a VBS Director, it’s sometimes hard for me to remember the big picture when I’m in the thick of planning, but I tell ya…these kinds of stories and being part of such an impactful week for campers and volunteers alike makes it all worth it.

To all of our hardworking, creative, innovative, passionate, all-around-awesome leadership team members – THANK YOU!  I couldn’t have done it without you!

To all of our supportive church staff who used your gifts, talents and resources with us – THANK YOU!

To all of our volunteers – crew leaders, crew assistants, station leaders, security team members, prayer warriors, supporters (item donations and/or financial) – THANK YOU!

To all of our Celebration Picnic volunteers – THANK YOU!  Because of you, hundreds of people were served a delicious meal and enjoyed a wonderful evening of fellowship!

To my husband and children who supported me by listening, praying, driving me around, lifting boxes and boxes of stuff, brainstorming, eating take-out, overlooking piles of laundry and unopened mail – THANK YOU!  I love you so much!

To God be the glory!

VBS Volunteer Training – Covering the Basics


Like many of my kidmin friends, we are busy preparing for this year’s VBS, which is taking place mid-July.  One of the key areas that we address is volunteer training.

Last night, we held our first of two trainings for our VBS volunteers.  As Director, I lead our trainings, which are usually 90 minutes in length, by using the following outline:

Welcome:  I introduce myself, welcome everyone and thank them for giving of their time and talent to help children learn more about the God who made and loves them.  I open our time together with a word of prayer.

Brief curriculum overview:  I give a general overview about the main Bible person we’ll talk about during the week and share what the children will experience through worship, crafts, drama, games, and snacks.  This year, I showed the “Day at Wilderness Escape VBS” video to give them an even better idea of what the week would look like.  I think that doing this fires up veteran volunteers as well as rookies, who have likely never seen a Holy Land VBS in action before.

Event details:  I reiterate dates/information for:

  • Week of VBS
  • Times
  • Times volunteers should arrive
  • Set-up & take-down
  • Celebration Service (our end-of-week family worship service – this year we’re moving it from Sunday to Friday night and following up with a picnic for volunteers, campers and their families to connect)
  • T-shirt Sunday (the day that all VBS volunteers where their camp shirt and are prayed for at all morning services)

Safety Priorities:  We cover 4 main areas for safety:

  • Background checks (required for all volunteers ages 18 & older)
  • Sexual abuse prevention (appropriate and inappropriate touch)
  • Restroom policy
  • Drop-off & pick-up procedures

We also cover other safety precautions (such as evacuating the building, first aid, etc) in the individual area breakout groups.

Dress Code:  We give simple guidelines for teens & adults, as we want to make sure that ALL of our volunteers are appropriate covered.

Q & A:  A time for volunteers to ask questions about anything they need clarity about.

Overview of ways to serve:  Some of our volunteers do not indicate a preference on where they’d like to serve, so I give brief overviews of each area.

Wrap Up:  I again thank everyone for coming and for signing up to serve with us.  I encourage them in how their service will impact children and families as well as impact them personally.  I close in prayer and then send everyone off to meet with their prospective groups (crafts, family leaders & assistants, games, preschool, etc.)

Setting the environment is also something we give some thought to in advance.  We:

  • Reserve rooms for the training
  • Submit work orders for room set-up
  • Email reminders to volunteers about the training dates, times and locations
  • Purchase food & drinks
  • Make necessary copies of manuals, volunteer spreadsheets, background check authorization forms, etc.
  • Set out name tags, markers and pens
  • Play camp music as volunteers arrive
  • Create/select media elements we’ll use
  • Do sound check for sound equipment
  • Distribute t-shirts

Of course, I also touch bases with our leadership team (via email or text) with last-minute information ahead of time.  I also send a ‘thank you’ text to the team after the training to thank everyone for all they did to make the event a success.

Before our last training, I get input from the team by asking them what areas we need to cover at the last training that might have gotten overlooked at the first one.  Based on their responses (or my own thoughts), I tweak my talking points and make sure we’re all ready to go for Round 2!

How do you prepare for your VBS volunteer training?  I’m always on the lookout for new, creative ideas, so share your ideas below!

What I Learned From NOT Attending the KidMin Conference

Many of my ministry colleagues are returning home today after five days in Chicago for Group’s KidMin 2012 Conference.  I was heartbroken that I had to cancel my registration at the last-minute, as I thoroughly enjoyed attending last year.

As I reflect on the “conference that wasn’t”, my mind was flooded with things that I learned as a result of NOT attending the conference.  Here’s the shortlist:

  1. Pouting and sulking are for toddlers and preschoolers, not a grown woman.
  2. Disappointment is a part of life.  It just is.
  3. Being green with envy is NOT a good look for me.
  4. Limiting my time on social media during the conference was a good thing.  (Refer back to #3.)
  5. Getting a nasty head cold the day before I was scheduled to leave for the conference was no accident.  I spent much of the weekend in bed with a box of Kleenex and hot tea.  God knew that I’d much rather be at home sick than in a beautiful hotel with thousands of KidMin leaders enjoying the conference without me.  And–I can be a wee bit grumpy when I’m sick. 🙂
  6. Interstate love is palpable.  A few of my ministry colleagues actually said that they missed me being there!  That makes a girl feel so special!

The bottom line is that we all have disappointments.  It’s how we deal with them that show what we’re made of.  And I was reminded just how tough I am.  Besides..if God wills, there’s always next year!