Sometimes what makes a message memorably is not only it's content but
also it's delivery. All age groups but maybe especially children
respond to stories, skits, music, and humor. An important aspect of the
approach we take to VBS is the shtick - that is the comic routine. This
is of course (like everything else at VBS) a means to an end. We get
the attention of the kids with skits and videos and laughter. There is a
moral to the story that relates to what Ken is teaching in the lessons
and to the Gospel overall.
We have a group of 20 something year olds - Jon Barrett (the hero and
butt of most of the jokes), Chris Beggs, JT Beggs (the villain), Ryan
Cahilly and Liz Hohnecker, and perhaps others - who are all VBS veterans
and started helping with VBS when they were teenagers. They work with
Ken Barrett to brainstorm, develop, plan and execute the videos and on
Teachers and class time is another way we can reach students with the
Gospel and discipleship. We have the following classes: kindergarten,
1st & 2nd grade (coed), 3rd & 4th grade boys, 3rd & 4th grade girls, 5th
& 6th grade boys, 5th & 6th grade girls, 7th & 8th grade (coed), and 9th
& 10th grade (coed). All classes have at least two leader / teachers.
Younger classes have more.
Class time only last 25 minutes and part of that time is taken up with
administrative things (announcements, distribution of verse sheets,
etc.). The goal of the class period is not to teach a theological
treatise but to concentrate on one aspect of Ken's message for the day
or a theme of VBS or one of the verses or something somehow related to
these things. Not only is time short but often attention spans are as
well. Teachers employ a variety of creative approaches including skits,
object lessons, discussion and other ways to get the kids to interact.
The class leaders / teachers have a number of responsibilities besides
teaching the lesson. I will get to those on another day and in another
I have zero musical talent or any developed sense of music appreciation
but even I know the power of music to inspire, to move the emotions and
as a vehicle to convey memory and message.
We want to use music in these ways at VBS. Our music team including
Ruth, Ruth Anne, James and Luke pick 6 or 7 songs related to the theme,
usually write one or two songs themselves (to go along with a memory
verse). This is another component, another means to an end to
communicate the Gospel and the message of discipleship in a way that the
students understand, relate to and remember.
Games at VBS is an opportunity for fun and a way for the kids to blow
off a little steam and excess energy. Usually, we walk across Clinton
Avenue and use the municipal turf field for which we must secure a
permit. This year Tenafly plans to resurface the field. This work is
scheduled to begin in late July and proceed through August. That means
- unless something changes - that we will not have use of the field for
We've had this situation in the past and probably - looking back in
retrospect - we have not responded well to it. This year we intend to
be more intentional (pardon the irony) about what we are going
to do with each class. That means we're planning ahead. We're
combining several different types of games and several different
We're going to have an egg-drop contest for all the older classes in
which each student will - from materials we provide - prepare a
"vehicle" to hold a fresh egg with the purpose of keeping it intact when
dropped from a height. We will use the attic for the drop point and the
target the parking lot below. This will be a 2 day event. One day for
preparation and the second day for the drop itself.
We're also going to play some team relay and station type games in the
grassy area behind Wadham Hall (the old building portion of the
Chapel). This is a fenced in area with a relatively soft surface.
Space is limited though. We are working now on designing an obstacle
course that will be fun and safe. Other relay games could include sack
race and some sort of race involving moving water from one container to
another via sponge or spoon, etc. Station games could include Cornhole
or other tossing games. For the younger kids we also will have a Bouncy
House and could play Simon Says and Duck Duck Goose.
The third venue is back to the church parking lot and employs a
basketball hoop. We are experimenting with "skill" competition games
that would involve dribbling, passing and shooting (sort of like the NBA
All Star game with a slightly lower skill level).
Our plans are still a work in progress. I welcome additional ideas.
Another mainstay of the VBS program is crafts. Each year there are 6 or
7 crafts including the signature t-shirt, a wood craft (with lots of
hammering) and an assortment of leather, lanyard, beads, and cute dolls
and creatures (this year's cute creature is a gnome with sunglasses -
following the Mission Impossible theme). About half of all VBS staff
spend part or all of their time in crafts. Teachers and leaders travel
with their class to each activity. In crafts the staff wait for
different groups of students to come to them. Almost all new helper
volunteers end up at least starting their VBS "career" in crafts.
The kids generally have lots of enthusiasm for crafts - especially the
t-shirts. While working there are sometimes opportunities for the staff
to strike up a conversation with the students - about crafts, VBS, the
verse sheet, life outside of VBS, the Gospel itself.
Perhaps the biggest challenge in crafts is organization in both
preparation and execution. Preparation includes designing the craft
(many of the crafts are designed by the staff), ordering supplies,
making parts and preparing the craft (for example 150 sets of hats,
coats, glasses, feet-shoes for the gnome or ironing and tracing
t-shirts), assigning personnel and setup. While VBS is on going the
focus shifts to allocation (and replenishment) of resources - human and
Friday the craft week culminates with distribution of completed crafts
to the students both at noon when the day session ends and in the
evening closing. Distribution alone is a logistical challenge.
Kindergarten is different from all the other classes at VBS. The
kindergarten class sits in the sanctuary for the opening with everyone
else but the rest of the day they spend "in the back" - that is in
Wadham Hall. they have their own games, crafts, and Bible story.
Typically the leader to child ratio is higher than in any other class as
Not everyone is good at working with five year olds. It takes patience,
compassion, enthusiasm and a willingness to engage them on their level.
Teaching is more basic but it is not just glorified babysitting. Liz
Hohnecker - who has been running the kindergarten program for the last
five plus years - and the other leaders are laying a foundation not just
with the Bible less and videos but with how they love the kids. It is
probably the latter which will get those same kids to come back next
year. Even though we can communicate much more verbally with the older
classes it's likely that we have the biggest influence on the younger
classes including kindergarten.
Because kindergarten is "isolated" and doesn't interact nearly as much
with the rest of the grades they are sometimes "forgotten".. Because of
this sometimes when I ask someone to work with the kindergarten class I
feel like I'm asking them to make a sacrifice. That's a bad attitude on
my part that is not reflected in Liz and the rest of the kindergarten
staff. it is really a God given privilege to work with these children -
of any age.
Every year we pray for weather - meaning we good weather - meaning
mostly no rain, but something less than heat wave temperature and
humidity would also be good.
Weather impacts in one way definitely and probably a second. First in
games. When it's raining outside games doesn't work. Our backup rain
plan is the use of the tent (behind Wadham Hall) and several class
rooms. Generally, we play Pictionary. The sanctuary works for later in
the morning but not for the first two "periods" of the day because Ken
is delivering messages in the sanctuary. The Billy Davis Room (room
11) works for the earlier periods for most classes. it's relatively
large and it has a white board. However, in the past we've judged it
too small for the larger bodies of the older grades and have used the
This year because we don't have access to the field at all we will be
using the grassy area behind Wadham Hall for games. If we do this we're
not going to put up the tent because the posts and ropes are a tripping
and crashing into hazard for running children.
The second way weather impacts VBS is in overall attendance. I can't
prove this mathematically but anecdotally it sure seems / feels like bad
weather reduces attendance.
Please pray for "good weather" all 5 days plus closing. Please
pray that if the answer to this first prayer is not a total yes that we
adjust well to rain. Please pray for safety for the kids and leaders
and games staff especially if it is excessively hot.
Tuesday July 17th - 20 days away
We have never - to the best of my knowledge - had any kind of
serious incident - illness, accident, etc. - at VBS. One of our
concerns in past years has been crossing Clinton Avenue to get to
the municipal field. That won't be an issue this year because the
field is being resurfaced and we won't have access to it. Other
potential mishaps that could happen but have not include car
accidents in the parking lot, serious injuries for children or
staff, missing children, fire, power failure, theft of property.
Sometimes we pray that God would put a hedge of protection around
us or someone or something we love. The Hebrew word hedge strictly
speaking means wall but it is translated hedge because originally in
ancient times the walls were living bushes, particularly thorn
bushes, grown thick and deep, presenting a formidable barrier of
protection against all manner of enemies. Although there are a
number of passages in the Psalms especially and
elsewhere that urgently plead for God's protection I know of only
one instance where hedge is used with this meaning. It is Job 1:9
where Satan accuses God of buying Job's loyalty by putting a hedge
Please pray that God would put an impenetrable hedge of
protection around VBS, our staff, the children and their families -
that He would protect all of us from any and all random accident and
misfortune and intentional evil wished upon us by humans or
supernatural foes both before and during VBS.
The passage in Job does provoke questions. God removes His hedge of
protection from Job and Satan ravishes him. The New Testament
speaks often of trials but rarely is there evidence that believers
then prayed for escape - although being human they must have.
Instead the New Testament affirms that trials can even be a good
thing. Trials can start a cascade that includes patience,
perseverance, faith and maturity. They also bring glory to God.
James goes so far as to tell us to welcome them - not because they
are in and of themselves good - but because they drive us to God.
So - on the other hand I ask - somewhat reluctantly - that
you would also pray that if God sees fit to remove all or part of
His hedge that our response to whatever negative thing will bring
glory to God. God will certainly be glorified one way or another -
but let us be the ones that bring Him this glory - whatever the
Wednesday July 18th - 19 days
Time has become our most precious commodity in this hyper-busy
culture where every moment is filled with something that needs
doing or watching or reacting to. Our awareness of the passing
of time or the brevity of time left is heightened as a deadline
approaches. Our deadline is the morning of August 6 when the
children arrive. Between then and now lots of tasks are
scheduled to be completed (or in some cases started). This
includes but is not limited to the music, art work and props for
the sanctuary and foyer, videos and skits, the music
video, lessons for teachers, Ken's messages, the verse sheets,
design and preparations for games, fine tuning of staff
assignments, crafts and setup.
This involves some people from just about every group of VBS
staff. Many of these people have full time jobs. All - or
almost all have full schedules - even without the inclusion of
Please pray for all involved in VBS preparation and the
VBS week itself in terms of time management and the
accomplishment of VBS tasks in tension with the rest of life.
Pray that we will get things done, fulfill our responsibilities
both inside and outside of VBS. Pray that we will find the
right balance between doing the best job possible and being a
perfectionist. Please pray that everyone will deal well with
the stress and that we will work well together.
Thursday July 19th - 18 days
I may be dating myself by remembering that when I was a teenager
they were just inventing music videos. We've been doing a music
video at VBS for probably about 8 or 9 years. I'm not sure
whose idea it was or how it started but it is VERY popular with
the students at VBS. By the end of the week they sing along at
the top of their lungs. Maybe scream along is more accurate.
It is something that we have borrowed from the culture. We use
a contemporary Christian song with a beat and a message that has
something to do with the VBS theme and lyrics that can be acted
out in the video part of the music video (although we are pretty
creative with that part). We are sensitive to the idea
that there is a line somewhere that we don't want to cross.
There is a difference between borrowing from the culture and
giving in to it and endorsing it (and all the baggage that goes
with it). The music video - like almost everything we do at
VBS - a means to an end. The end is the Gospel. The means is a
vehicle that is popular and exciting with the kids. Hopefully,
they imbibe the message while they enjoy singing along.
Hopefully, the fun aspect keeps them coming back and gets them
to invite their friends.
The music video has been "produced" by a variety of people over
it's history at VBS but for the last 3 or 4 years Harrison and
Luke have run with it. They choose the song, choreograph it,
and star in the video. Liz has been doing most of the filming.
Please pray that all aspects of the production and
presentation of the music video are successful. Pray that Luke
& Harrison and Liz will be creative and also efficient in the
use of their time. Pray that the music video is in fact a means
to an end as outlined above.
Friday July 20th - 17 days away
The prize room is another long standing "institution" at VBS.
Basically, we bribe the kids to memorize Bible verses, to come to
VBS in the first place and to invite their friends to come by giving
them points which are redeemable for prizes in the prize room. From
Tuesday through Friday (not Monday because no one has points yet)
each class has a turn in the prize room to buy or to browse to see
what they might want to buy if only they had the points to do it.
Sometimes prizes are themed to match the overall VBS theme. Some
have a Christian flavor - pencils or bracelets with a Bible verse or
Christian reference. We try - obviously - to stock the prize room
with items that will be attractive to kids (ranging in age from K to
10th grade). We also try to be frugal in our buying choices. For a
number of years Rose and Candie have handled the purchasing aspect
of the prize room, replenishing the stock.
The prize room is located on the northern end of Wadham Hall (the
old building) and has it's own entrance from the outside. The room
is small and even smaller when stocked full of prizes and inhabited
by staff and students. This combined with excited children
(especially younger grades) makes the Prize Room pretty hectic.
For 4 or 5 years now Pat Barrett has manned the prize room during
VBS with help on the most hectic days from one other person (this
year Mary DeLuca).
Please pray that all the logistics of the prize room run
smoothly. Pray that the prizes are effective incentives. Pray that
Pat and Mary have enough energy to get through the week.
Saturday July 21st - 16 days away
Normally we think of VBS as a five day Monday to Friday event. There
is, however, a sixth meeting on Friday night. Friday
night is when we invite parents, relatives and friends to come (with
their children) and see what happened during the week. There
is a review of the week with songs, videos, skits, the presentation
of awards for those who memorized the entire sheet of memory verses
and a performance by the kindergarten class of a song they learned.
There is also a sixth message by Ken Barrett which is geared more
toward the adults in the room.
Typically about half of the VBS students come Friday night. Just as
we do with the kids themselves it is interesting to speculate how
many of the parents, relatives, etc. who come Friday night are
believers. We don't have any real data but I think the percentage
Please pray for Ken as he prepares this sixth message. Pray
that students and their parents, relatives, etc. will come Friday
night. Please pray that all who come will have "ears to hear" and
open hearts to respond to Ken's message and the message and the
overall message of the VBS week.
Sunday July 22nd - 15 days away
Monday July 23rd - 14 days away
Please pray for Ken Barrett as he picks the verses for the
sheet. Pray that the students will be motivated to memorize
verses. Please pray that doing this will help lay a foundation for
a long term commitment to Scripture and Scripture memorization.
Pray that as the students attempt to memorize verses they will also
examine the content of those verses and understand their meaning and
significance. pray for the teachers and leaders to be successful in
motivating their students and that they will also practice what they
Yesterday, in talking about the Friday evening
program, I mentioned prizes for memory verses. It
might be that Scripture memorization is a lost art -
or a forgotten discipline. We have seen a decline
in students desire or willingness to memorize verses
at VBS. I would venture to say also that as adults
most of us pay little or no attention to Scripture
A typical verse sheet at VBS is 16-18 passages
encompassing a little over 20 verses and earning a
total of about 325 points redeemable in the prize
room. The verses are chosen by Ken Barrett and
reflect the theme and the daily messages and the
points he is trying to emphasize. Many students
will pick the shortest and simplest verses and
attempt on the spot instant memorization. They'll
read the verse, say it to themselves a few times and
then try to recite it before it slips away like the
memory of a dream. We do award points even for this
because we are trying to incentivize almost anything
in this direction.
Of more significance is memorizing the whole sheet
of verses and reciting in en masse with no more than
2 mistakes or prompts. This requires more
discipline and effort. We recognize those who
succeed by announcing their achievement in the
Friday evening program and calling them to the stage
to receive a handshake and the "big prize"
(typically a gift certificate). Typically we have
6-8 students who earn the big prize, almost all are
girls. Interest in memorizing the whole sheets
increases from lower grades to higher (as the
ability to do it increases) and peaks somewhere
around 6th-8th grade and then declines after that.
Tuesday July 24th - 13 days away
Today we are mailing the second set of VBS
postcards. The first set went out mid June. We
send a postcard to every student who has attended
VBS within the last 4 years who is still within the
5-15 age group. This list was about 350 names long
this year. I have probably over analyzed the timing
of the postcards. Too early and when the time comes
they are forgotten. Too late and other plans have
already been made. The first postcard going out in
mid June is designed to have it's arrival coincide
with thee end of the school year and the start of
summer. The second postcard is designed to arrive
just over a week before VBS starts as a reminder.
Between the first and second mailing we also get
returned postcards rejected because the address is
no longer valid. We average about 25 or so of these
a year. In a few cases the post office will include
a forwarding address and we correct our data base
accordingly. If there is no forwarding address at
least we delete the address information on the
registration card (we keep the card with the
student's name and parents name and age information)
so we don't send a dead end postcard twice.
The content of the postcard itself is 2 sided. On
the "front" is a picture and a phrase which
announces the theme of VBS. On the "back" is all
the information about what, when, where. I've
attached copies of the front and back (the
attachments are 8.5" x 11" sheets which are cut into
Please pray that the postcards are delivered
quickly and correctly. Pray that students and
parents will take note of the what, when and where.
Pray that when students see the postcards they will
want to come and will tell their parents. Please
pray also that parents look favorably on our program
and are pleased to send their children.
This year for the first time we have created a
facebook page for VBS. If you have facebook you can
like our page @VBSGraceChapel. So far it is mostly
photos of t-shirts, arts & crafts, costumes and VBS
staff. I only post photos when I have received
permission to do so. That means that there are not
many photos of children. I am sensitive to privacy
issues here. I anticipate that in the future we
will greatly expand the photo albums.
The main reason for creating the page was for
advertising and promoting VBS - ultimately so that
we can get more kids to come. Social media is
exploding in popularity and has quickly become
mainstream. I hope to create traffic on the page, a
buzz, so that people are talking about VBS. A
second possible use of the page is as a follow up to
VBS. I'd like to add post-VBS resources that the
kids could plug into.
I'm pretty sure that this is the same thinking that
Dan Frederiks had about the website 10 years or so
Please pray for me as I sift through
possible content for the website. Pray that there
will be traffic, a buzz - especially with the kids
DURING VBS. Please pray that we can use the
facebook page both as advertising for VBS and as a
tool for VBS follow-up.
Wednesday July 25th - 12 days away
Preparations start 6 months or more before the actual week of VBS.
A number of people invest lots of time and effort. By the time the
week comes we are brimming with anticipation. The week itself is
exciting, rewarding, exhausting - and it is over in a flash. Every
year I have this feeling that the build up to VBS warrants something
more than 5 days and 1 night. I think a number of those on staff
and even some of the students have had the same thought. Neveen
once suggested to me (seriously) that we expand VBS from 1 week to a
whole summer. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your point
of view) the logistics of anything beyond 1 week are too difficult.
We would very much though like to leverage the week of VBS into
something more - something that happens after VBS. We would like to
connect the children into some post-VBS program at Grace Chapel or
elsewhere. We have had a smattering of success in years past -
"recruiting" VBS students into Sunday School or teens or junior
teens (when we had a junior teens program). There are other local
churches too represented in staff including Valley Bible Chapel,
Cresskill Evangelic Free Church and Pascack Bible Church. Many of
our VBS students are already going to a church, Sunday School or
youth group at some other church. We are not looking to "steal"
them or transfer them from one program to another. Instead we are
especially interested in those children who are "un-churched". I'm
not sure what that percentage of the overall population of VBS are
un-churched - although I think it is relatively small (perhaps
I am also thinking of "resources" we could put on the facebook page
that might be interesting, attractive and useful to VBS students.
As I mentioned previously Dan Frederiks was thinking along these
same lines 10 years ago using the website.
Please pray that we will be successful in "connecting" VBS
students to post VBS youth group type programs whether at Grace
Chapel or elsewhere. Pray that the students and their parents will
be favorably disposed toward this idea and the logistics would not
be a barrier. Pray that teachers and staff will be aware of this
goal and will be able to communicate clearly and effectively about
it. Pray that if the traffic on the facebook page warrants it I
will be able to find resources that will be attractive and
beneficial to the VBS kids.
Thursday July 26th - 11 days away
The kitchen and the kitchen staff are an unsung part of VBS. For an
uncounted number of years Angela has been in charge of the kitchen
at VBS with help at various times from Kiki, Polly and Anna. Every
day at VBS we provide all the students with a snack of cookies and
juice. Each day the teachers relay the number of students they have
to the kitchen staff who prepare trays of cookies and cups of
juice. This is also the way we determine "the count" for the day,
that is the total number of students attending VBS. The kitchen is
also a way station for hungry staff throughout the VBS day. Various
staff donate snacks of pastries, donuts, fruit, etc. The kitchen
staff also cleans up everything in the kitchen and the immediate
This way of serving is not as glamorous as many others but I think
that is a matter more of our perception than of the true reality.
Please pray for Angela and everyone else working in the
kitchen. Pray that the logistics run smoothly. Please pray
also for their conversations and interaction with students and
staff. Please pray that their example of service is contagious.
Friday July 27th - 10 days away
Today is an important day in VBS preparation. This evening at Grace
Chapel we plan on doing the following: doing a walk through
(testing) of the egg drop contest, doing a walk through of some of
the games we are planning on the grassy area behind Wadham Hall,
filming videos for the opening / closing, working on crafts.
While the videos and the crafts are important they are also normal.
I mean normal in the sense that for many summers past we would be
doing these things at about this time. The egg drop and the games -
the way we are doing them this year - are totally new for us.
That's why we want to have a walk-through. We want to envision what
they will look like with a 120+ kids by going step by step through
our plan on a smaller but still live scale. I anticipate that based
on these walk throughs we will make significant adjustments to these
All of this - like most of what we do - is a means to an end. The
means is entertaining the children, presenting them with games (and
crafts and videos, etc.) that they enjoy, like, don't think are
Please pray for a "successful" day with all our various
projects. Pray that the weather does not get in the way
(thunderstorms are predicted) of several of these activities which
have an outside component. Please pray that we get input from all
the various stake holders. Pray that we make smart decisions about
what to do, how to do it, and what not to do.
VBS important dates
Next Monday July 30th is VBS setup day. This
is the day we decorate the church and "put it in costume" for
VBS. There are tasks for people with all different skill sets.
I will get to Grace Chapel about 4:30 p.m. and we will probably
finish by 9:30 p.m. or so. Come when you can. Leave when you
need to. Come help if you can!
Sunday August 5th is our VBS kickoff meeting at Grace Chapel
immediately following the community service (11:00 a.m. to
meeting will probably start about 12:30 p.m. or
so to give people coming from other church time to get to GC.
We would like everyone who is on staff for VBS - if at all
possible - to attend. During the meeting we will go over
points of emphasis for the week and whatever is new about this
year's VBS versus past years. We will pass out verse sheets,
schedules, maps, points and attendance sheets to teachers and
helpers. We will spend some time praying together. After
the meeting VBS related preparations will be going on throughout
the afternoon. This is also a good opportunity for you
to familiarize yourself with what you're going to be doing at
VBS before the children arrive and to meet with the people
you'll be working with to discuss your plan and what you want to
do or accomplish during the week.
Saturday July 28th - 9 days away
I think we had a good day / evening yesterday in VBS prep although
we had to work around the rain. Ken Barrett also finished the verse
sheet yesterday which I have attached..
Today I'd like us to pray (and give thanks) for the power of God's
Word. In past prayer days I've already mentioned several requests
that center around Scripture. A main focus of VBS of course is the
Gospel and that Good News is recorded and contained in Scripture.
It was first preached at Pentecost and during VBS will be preached
by Ken during the messages or teaching time. The teachers and other
VBS staff will also in various ways use Scripture to reinforce and
supplement what Ken teaches.
The verse sheet is also the backbone of Scripture memorization.
Besides our attempts to get the kids to imbibe Scripture by
memorizing it the memory verses also show up in a variety of places
around VBS including verse posters, crafts, the music and the props
Please pray that we will rely on God speaking through
Scripture to change hearts. Pray that we will honor God by honoring
His Word. Please pray that the staff will communicate the primary
importance of Scripture in a way that the students will understand
and want to imitate.
Sunday July 29th - 8 days away
One of our strengths is experience. A lot of the people
responsible for the various components of VBS have had this
responsibility for a few to many years. When you do something
multiple times - particularly I think - something with a yearly
cycle - you year by year improve the final product and the
process of getting to that final product. You learn from past
mistakes. Adjust. Fine tune. Add details. Because the theme
of VBS changes every year it is never the same but the same
basic components are still constants.
This year we have 2 totally new components. We've prayed for
both of them already once directly and perhaps another time or
two indirectly. I'm referring to games without the field and
the egg-drop contest. On Friday we had a dry run, a walk
through of parts of both. This went well in the sense that we
learned a lot - things that would work, not work, adjustments
that needed to be made, a sense of timing and time constraints
and lots of other details. All of this is good but it also
reminded me that for these 2 components of VBS we do not have
the advantage of experience. Despite the walk through and our
best efforts to prepare we will still to a large extent be
learning on the fly.
In addition to these 2 activities there are always a number of
first time staff and others who have worked in VBS in the past
but this year will have new "jobs." some of these new people
are HS students who have just themselves graduated from
attending VBS as students. Others have moved to new jobs at
their request or at my request to fill holes left by others who
could not help this year.
Please pray that between now and the start of VBS we
will plan as best we can to optimize these 2 activities - games
without the field and the egg-drop. Pray that they will be fun,
hold the kids' interests and that we will explain clearly what
we are doing.
Please also pray for new and inexperienced staff helping
with VBS for the first time or helping with a new job for the first
time. Pray that they will fulfill their responsibilities, feel
welcome and be a "part of the team" and focus on the goals and
purpose of VBS.
Please pray that Setup Day runs smoothly and that lots of work is
accomplished. Pray that we operate as a team and everyone who comes
contributes and feels the camaraderie of teamwork. Pray that I will be
organized and remember everything I am supposed to as I assign tasks and
direct traffic. Pray for safety as we hang things from the ceiling.
Please pray for the artist part of this work - that the staff will be
creative and skilled but also will exercise the wisdom to say No to bad
ideas, to good ideas (that are too time consuming, complicated, etc.),
to me and perhaps most of all to themselves.
Monday July 30th - 7 days away
Today is "Setup Day". Traditionally the Monday before VBS this
is the day (really evening) that we decorate the church
and put it "in costume" for VBS.
Most of this work is in the sanctuary where we will
adjust pews, cover the windows with black plastic (to
make it dark), hang theme related art work from the
ceiling, and redo the stage - again with theme related
art work. We will be doing some similar things in the
foyer - covering and decorating the window between the
foyer and the sanctuary, setting up the registration
tables, and adding more theme related art work. The
sanctuary and the foyer receive most of the attention
but there are any number of other tasks to be done that
involve various other location in the church. We will
be moving supplies from the boiler room, the old phone
room, the prize room,
and room 7 (the accordion room) all in Wadhamhall.
We will be staging supplies in the shed behind Wadham Hall
which will be one of our key game sites. We will be
cleaning ladders, trimming the Weeping Cherry tree,
pulling the tables out from behind the ladies room,
creating storage for the egg-drop "vehicles", designing
and hanging verse posters - and more.
We do this on Monday because we know that not everything
can be completed this first day. We want to get the
main tasks done, the bulk of the work and spend the rest
of the week fine tuning.
As I've been announcing there are tasks and jobs for all
skill sets. Most of these are straightforward in the
sense that they take effort (in some cases physical
strength or dexterity) and time but what we want to do
and how we are going to do it is pretty clear. However,
some key components of "Setup Day" involve an artist's
touch and feel. Not all of this can be planned
precisely ahead of time (although last year Sarah Finkler made
a diorama - a miniature model of the stage and the
planned decorations). Instead it is pieced together and
assessed and reassessed by the critical artist's eye.
Alice for some time has been in charge of this part of
the work. She is aided by her mom Sarah, and this year
Grace and Julia.
Tuesday July 31st - 6 days away
Today (this evening) I will be running
the registration reports and list of
name tag labels for Monday at VBS.
We don't have any official
pre-registration program (a number of
VBS programs at other churches do)
although we usually get a few requests
via e-mall (3 this year). Registration
at the door can be chaotic especially
when there are a lot of kids. We want a
lot of kids but we don't really want
chaotic. Over the years we have tried
to streamline the process. Every
morning we have sheets of name tags
color coded by class. The name tags are
printed based on the previous days
attendance. For the Monday of VBS we
print based on the previous year of
VBS. Students who have attended VBS in
past years - but not last year - are
listed on a master list. No
registration card needs to be filled out
but we verify the contact info and
manually write out a name tag. Students
who have never attended VBS before fill
out a registration card and also get a
handwritten name tag.
Typically we have 3 staff people at the
registration table and when we're really
busy another staff person standing in
the foyer to direct traffic. I try to
choose outgoing people who smile a lot
and who also can function well under a
little pressure (when it's crowded and
the table is busy). Registration is the
first impression VBS makes on students
Please pray that registration
will be organized and efficient. Pray
that it will be busy but not chaotic.
Please pray that the registration
personnel have fun interacting with kids
and parents and work well together as a
Wednesday August 1 - 5 days away
With only 5 days to go until the start of VBS, preparations are
going more or less on schedule. We had a productive evening on
Monday with setup. Nothing is totally complete but all the various
groups and individuals - crafts, music, art, message, kindergarten,
prize room, kitchen, teachers, games - are working on what
remains. The long range weather forecast for next week is hot and
humid but with little chance of rain in the morning. We still have
to make some decisions about precisely what games the different
classes are going to play on what days but it is more of the idea of
selecting between different choices rather than coming up with
something totally new.
So - in terms of what to pray for - no one thing stands out. So -
please pray for everything! Well, I'm kidding. Half kidding.
Perhaps in terms of the prayer requests we have come full circle.
For day 26 let's pray again for the kids, the students, the children
who come to VBS.
Please pray that they come - lots of them. Pray that
barriers and obstacles and excuses for them not coming are removed,
thwarted, circumvented, defeated. Pray that they enjoy VBS, want
to come back and want to invite friends. Please pray both for the
hearts of the children and their parents - that they would have ears
to hear and would be ready to hear and understand the message of
Thursday August 3 - 3 days away
Yesterday I wrote about goals, purpose and distractions. The
distractions I was thinking of were VBS preparation related. It was
the idea of being so caught up in the work that it's possible to
lose sight of the reason for doing the work in the first place.
There are though many other kinds of distractions. On some previous
day I wrote about staff who have full time jobs, school, families -
other things in their lives besides VBS (shocking as that may be).
Next week during VBS some staff are taking vacation, others are
working in the afternoon, everyone on staff has a life outside of
VBS that goes on and continues. Things that happen in our lives
outside of VBS obviously have an affect on us, on our attitude,
demeanor, mood, focus during VBS.
This is also true of the children who come to VBS and their
Please pray that the outside lives of staff now through the
end of VBS are routine. Pray that God protects the staff from
illness, accident, problems and any other time consuming and energy
consuming events. Please pray that we will not be distracted and
will be able to focus only on VBS (during VBS). Please pray the
same for students and their families.
Saturday August 4 - 2 days away
Although work has been ongoing for VBS preparations for several
months in earnest and several months before that in planning, the
entire staff has not yet been together in one place at one time.
Far from it. Instead we have been working individually and in small
groups. This is not new but it seems every year we are more
fragmented - perhaps because of everyone's busy schedule and the
pace of life in our culture. The
closest we get to all being together in one place at one time is the
kickoff meeting on Sunday (the day before VBS) but even then
probably only a little more than half of the staff will be present.
So really - it doesn't happen until Monday, the first actual day of
There are advantages and disadvantages to this approach. The
advantages are practical consideration. The disadvantages are
possible lack of communication, lack of a sense of team, lack of
being on the same page. Praying together is one way to combat this.
Please pray that the staff will have a sense of unity and
work together as a team. Pray that people from various churches and
backgrounds, young and less young, male and female, working, in
school, retired will all be one in Christ Jesus. Please pray that
we will be united by a common purpose and a common identity. Please
pray that as we interact with each other (and the students) even in
stressful moments we will have this perspective, be considerate and
self-controlled. Please pray that we will be happy in our work -
dare I say joyful to be used by God to accomplish His purposes.
VBS Kickoff Meeting tomorrow Sunday August 5th at 12:30
p.m. @ Grace Chapel
Tomorrow is "Kickoff Sunday". We will
meet after the community service at Grace Chapel - about 12:30 p.m. If
you are part of the VBS staff I would like you to attend if at all
The meeting is part announcements and information, part pep-rally, and
part prayer meeting. We will pass out verse sheets, schedules, maps
etc. for the teachers and teacher helpers. We will highlight points of
emphasis, things that are important and/or new. This year the biggest
new thing is how we will be handling games without use of the field and
the implications of that throughout VBS (there are some ripple
effects). The meeting also provides a much needed opportunity for those
working together at VBS to talk together (make a plan) about the
upcoming week. For some of you this might be the first opportunity to
meet and talk to your co-workers. The meeting will also be followed by
various individuals and groups putting the finishing touches on
decorations, videos, program, music, etc. Help is still needed to
finish a number of VBS related tasks around the church.
Sunday August 5 - 1 day away
Today is "Kickoff Sunday". We
have a meeting after the community service at Grace Chapel - about
12:30 p.m. - that I would like all staff to attend. The
meeting is part announcements and information, part pep-rally, and
part prayer meeting. The meeting also provides a much needed
opportunity for those working together at VBS to talk together (make
a plan) about the upcoming week. The meeting is also followed by
various individuals and groups putting the finishing touches on
decorations, videos, program, music, etc.
The information and announcements portion of the meeting highlights
the things that we think are new and/or important. Much of this is
familiar to staff who have worked at VBS for many years - but some
of it bears repeating and every year there is something new. This
year the biggest new thing is how we're going to handle games.
The pep-rally aspect is not specifically addressed by anything that
anyone says or by a specific portion of the meeting. As I mentioned
yesterday, however, this will be the largest gathering of staff in
one place at one time before VBS itself actually starts. Sometimes
the work of preparation makes us grow weary and we lose some of
enthusiasm and excitement. The larger group of people together
talking about VBS I think creates a contagious energy.
The prayer part of the meeting tomorrow is only a token portion of
all the praying we have done individually and in small groups over
the past months. We finish the meeting in prayer, placing
our plans, preparations, goals in God's hands.
Please pray that everyone on staff who can possibly attend
the meeting today will do so. Pray that I will be organized and
that the announcement portion of the meeting will be clear and
useful. Please pray that we excitement and energy about and for VBS
will be contagious and that we will be "pumped up" for the week.
Please pray that we will pray and will continue to pray throughout
the week - and after. Pray that we will remember that unless the
Lord builds the house they labor in vain who build. And pray that
with this in mind God will build and add to His kingdom this week at
Today is D-Day. Go-Live.
Preparations are over
(mostly). 30 days of
praying is over - but don't
stop praying! Today the
children arrive. Ken will
preach the Gospel. Classes,
crafts, games, music,
videos, skits, technology,
weather, protection, staff,
attitude - all the things we
have prayed for are put to
Unless the Lord builds the
house they labor in vain who
build. Without God we can
All this is from God, who
through Christ reconciled us
to Himself and gave us the
ministry of reconciliation;
that is, in Christ God was
reconciling the world to
Himself, not counting their
trespasses against them, and
entrusting to us the message
Therefore, we are
ambassadors for Christ, God
making his appeal through
us. We implore you on
behalf of Christ, be
reconciled to God.
Please pray that God
will be glorified this week
at VBS. Pray that we will
be both sober and joyful to
be His ambassadors, His
stewards, His tools used to
accomplish His purposes.
The first day of VBS went well by the various measures we can see. We had about 135 students which is up quite a bit from Monday last year. Ken taught on the significance of Christ's incarnation in light of the crucifixion and resurrection. Most things went reasonably smoothly although there are always glitches.
We had some issues with the microphones but Luke and JT fixed them.
The obstacle course for games was reasonably successful. I think the best might have been 5th & 6th grade. 7th through 10th grade was not that into it.
The weather was oppressive and that probably also had an affect on games.
The air conditioner in Wadham Hall was leaking through the drop ceiling in the accordion room. The AC was off in the afternoon but I will turn it back on tomorrow morning.
That's the sum and substance of the tangible problems - at least the ones I am aware of.
Please keep praying.
Today is the last day of
VBS with morning and
evening sessions. In
the evening parents,
other relatives and
friends are invited to
review and celebrate
what their children did,
saw and learned during
On Thursday total
attendance dipped to
140. The trend in
recent years has been
for attendance to peak
on Wednesday and then
decline Thursday and
Friday. I attribute
this to summer weekend
family vacations -
although I don't have
hard data to confirm it.
Thursday was our egg
drop contest. Survival
rates were higher than I
expected - somewhere in
the 25-35% range. 5th
and 6th grade and 7th
and 8th grade did the
best. Friday we go back
to a more traditional
games format that will
include a basketball
hoop in the parking
lot. I have
some anxiety about
scraped knees and such.
We are not actually
playing b-ball but
controlled, a relay
skill competition of
dribbling, passing and
shooting. Some classes
may opt for tug of war
or musical chairs (which
has worked pretty well)
or some other
game. These would be
played in the grassy
area behind Wadham
Hall. The lack of the
use of the field was a
major issue this year
that I think we have
On Thursday Ken's lesson
was on Nicodemus and the
new birth. A catch line
was that some people are
born once but die twice
while others are born
twice but die only once.
Weather continues to be
hot and humid. I heard
the weather forecast
that Thursday would be
less humid but I didn't
feel any difference - at
least not in the
One image struck me
today while I was
registration in the
foyer. Two siblings got
their name tags and were
so eager that they
literally ran into the
sanctuary because the
program had already
started. I think they
were 4th and 6th grade
students. For a variety
of different reasons
many of our VBS kids
love the program. What
an amazing opportunity
This will be my last
e-mail about praying for
VBS - until next year
(Lord willing). As Ken
Barrett reminded us at
GC on Sunday we have
many things to thank God
for in terms of this
year's VBS. Almost
everything we prayed for
was answered with a
Yes. Someone else
pointed out that
evidently we all stopped
praying for no rain
Friday afternoon -
because Saturday we had
a tropical deluge - so
much so that the
basement of the Chapel
(where we do crafts
during VBS) flooded!
The end of VBS and my
e-mails doesn't mean
there still aren't
things to pray for.
Some of the teachers and
myself and some others
will be following up
with at least some of
the VBS students trying
to connect them to some
post VBS youth group,
Sunday School or like
program. We are not
trying to transfer
allegiance from one
church to another but
particularly where a
student has limited or
no exposure to Christian
teaching and peer
fellowship we would like
to make that offer - and
then follow up when and
where we can to make it
happen. We have had
very limited success
doing this in years
Another aspect of this
is the VBS facebook
page. I am very far
from an expert about
this but with the help
of others I hope to add
content and "links" -
really for the same
purpose - to give anyone
else to do or someplace
else to go.
There was a lot of
excitement - as always -
about VBS. I would
guess about 20 people
already - mostly under
the age of 20 - have
asked me what the theme
is going to be for next
year. We don't know
Last of all - thank you
for all those who worked
hard in preparation
and/or during the week
of VBS itself. And
thank you for all of you
who have prayed and
continue to pray.