By Polly House
Despite the onset of snow and ice, nearly 900 VBS leaders came to Nashville with summer on their minds.
Vacation Bible School for 2010, themed "Saddle Ridge Ranch," was the focus of two VBS preview events sponsored by the VBS area of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention Jan. 28-29 and 29-30 at LifeWay's home office in Nashville, Tenn.
These were the last of seven VBS previews; sessions were held earlier in Fort Worth, Texas, Ridgecrest, N.C., and Las Vegas. Combined, about 2,400 people learned how to best organize Saddle Ridge Ranch VBS for their churches and their children.
Snow is rare in Nashville, so attendees were surprised to see 4-6 inches of snowfall during the first session. The weather warnings kept some of the registered attendees at home, but the ones who came weren't disappointed.
Hannah Smith of Atlanta posted on her Facebook page: "This was an awesome spirit-filled event! ... The snow just added to the weekend."
In addition to attendees from local churches, 650 state and associational VBS leaders received additional training during specialized VBS sessions held in conjunction with the preview. These leaders will return to their states and associations and train up to 70,000 local church leaders.
"These preview events are fun, but the most important thing the attendees receive is training for their VBS weeks," said Jerry Wooley, LifeWay's VBS specialist. "Training is what sets LifeWay VBS apart from other VBSes. We want people to be trained and prepared for the ultimate goal of VBS: to lead children, youth and adults to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ."
The VBS preview offers leaders from churches of all sizes the opportunity to learn how to do the VBS crafts, snacks and decorations, as well as how-tos in creating an appealing VBS experience. The training attendees receive can be adapted for any size church.M'Lissa Flournoy Christopherson of Coupeville, Wash., said on Facebook, "These ideas are so good ... especially ideas for us small churches with almost no budget except for what we spend from our own pockets!"
"The average size VBS is 85 kids," said Lynne Norris, LifeWay's VBS editor and video producer. "That's an average. Many are much larger, but many are smaller."
Even some pastors, recognizing the importance of VBS, attended the preview and were treated to a conference designed just for them by Art Groomes, LifeWay's discipleship and ministry specialist.
"Vacation Bible School provides one of the best evangelistic opportunities all year," Groomes told the pastors. "There are team leaders to assist in many areas, but they need the pastor's support and leadership. You play a key role."
He said the pastor's involvement is crucial because people take notice and will follow his lead. Conversely, if the pastor doesn't show support, that can be noticeable, possibly diminishing the effectiveness of VBS.
Groomes suggested that pastors take advantage of social networking -- the church website, Facebook, Twitter, etc. -- to keep church members alerted to VBS needs. "Tweet one or two prayer requests a day. Mention an age group, a teacher or a specific need," he said. "Everyone else is using social networking, and you can, too."
Besides pastoral support, parental support is important to the success of VBS. "Parents are the primary spiritual leaders of their children, so we want to equip them to fill that role," Ann Edwards, LifeWay's childhood ministry specialist, said during a workshop about involving the family in VBS.
"Children and preschool workers are able to do home visits if no one else can," Edwards said. "Parents who let their children attend VBS are interested in what they did. You can take one of the child's projects to the home after VBS and through this have the opportunity to visit with the parents."
For more information about "Saddle Ridge Ranch," LifeWay's 2010 VBS, visit LifeWay.com/VBS.
Until next time...share the journey and enjoy the ride!