Tuesday, December 28, 2010

SonSurf Beach Bash VBS Snack

Here's a fun snack to help your students remember the story of the prodigal son from Luke 15:11-24. This story is the theme for Day 4 of SonSurf VBS. Use this snack to help the children understand that Jesus can change people's lives. Let your students help you combine in a large bowl 20 ounces of crushed pineapple with one cup mini marshmallows and an 8-ounce tub of whipped topping. Pass around the bowl so each child can help stir the mixture.

As the children work, talk about how Jesus changes lives. Provide some examples from your own life. Let your students share their own examples. Now let the children help sprinkle a 3.4-ounce box of pistachio pudding mix over the top of the mixture and watch the white change to green as they stir it. If you use this snack with your preschool group, add just a small amount of the pudding mix at a time, letting the children stir it after each addition. (Pass around the bowl once more so each child can help stir the mixture.) Serve cookies, juice, and a small amount of "green surprise" to each child.

If you have students interested in learning more about how Jesus can change their lives, talk with them individually and explain the plan of salvation. For helpful tips on discussing salvation with children, see the blog post from February 8, 2010 on "Leading a Child to Christ."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Lesson: Jesus' Birth

Here's a Bible lesson and some activity pages you can use with your students to help them understand the story of Jesus' birth. Have several children play the parts of an angel, Mary, shepherds, wise men, and King Herod. They will act out the story as it is read by you or one of your older students. Simple costumes are optional.

Click on the image below for a larger view and to download the teacher's lesson page along with the student pages. Feel free to copy these pages for your students and coworkers.

May God bless you this Christmas!
Click on the image above for the complete file.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mega Sports Camp 2011 VBS: Go the Distance

New for 2011, Mega Sports Camp: Go the Distance from Gospel Publishing House encourages kids to run the race of life God's way, all the way. Five sessions focus on key character traits that help them become better athletes and followers of Jesus. Welcome kids into the ultimate sports-camp experience. Everyone will learn Bible truths and good sportsmanship as they participate in a sports camp lead by Christian mentors.

A simple Key Point each day helps kids remember the point of the day, even if they have no prior church attendance or experience. The theme verse for 2011 is "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day." — 2 Timothy 4:7-8 (NIV)

Go the Distance Mega Sports Camp can be used in addition to your traditional VBS, providing a way to reach neighborhood kids who might not attend Vacation Bible school, but who would be interested in signing up for a sports camp. It's also a great way for kids to invite their friends who wouldn't be willing to come to a weekly church event.

Go the Distance Mega Sports Camp teaches kids to run the race of life God's way, all the way.
Go the Distance Starter Kit: $129.99

Take a look at the coloring pages we've included for the Go the Distance 
Mega Sports Camp. There are six pages: a cover plus a coloring page for each day of your VBS. Each page has a picture of Paul from the daily Bible story plus a portion of the memory verse in the New International Version. Day 5 includes the entire verse, 
2 Timothy 4:7-8 (NIV). You can copy as many of the coloring pages as you need each day—all for just $4.99 for the set! Visit Shop VBS to see all of the 2011 VBS programs and special offers. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

VBS 2011 Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Our church only uses the King James Version of the Bible. Which VBS programs can we use?
A: The following VBS programs are available in KJV:
  • Gold Rush VBS from Answers in Genesis uses the New King James Version for Bible memory verses. A KJV Supplement with student books and posters in the King James Version is available (the supplement works with the Super Starter Kit and the Starter Kit).
  • Kingdom of the Son: A Prayer Safari (This 2009 VBS is still available from Gospel Light and uses the KJV Bible.)
  • Jesus in Nazareth Preschool VBS coloring pages lists all memory verses in KJV first, followed by the NIV and NLT. Simply cover the extra verses or cut them off before copying your student sheets. All six coloring pages can be downloaded in the version you choose (KJV, NIV or NLT).
  • Inside Out and Upside Down on Main Street lists Scripture references only. It does not actually have the verses written out, and there are Bible Verse Posters available additionally in KJV.
  • The All-Stars Preschool All-in-One Kit lists all memory verses in KJV first, followed by the NIV. Simply cover the NIV verse or cut it off before copying your student sheets from the CD-ROM.
  • SonSurf VBS has Bible Teaching Posters in the Starter Kit with KJV verses on one side and NIV verses on the other. They also have KJV bookmarks available in packs of 50.
  • Regular Baptist Press also carries a VBS program in KJV.
Q: When is the Returns Deadline for VBS material?
A: Shop VBS closes on July 31, and this is our VBS returns deadline. If you have a late VBS and need to return some items, call us at 800-854-1531 and we can work with you. Please note that some items are non-returnable, and are clearly marked on our website as well as on the package.

Q: Can I return opened packages of product for partial credit?
A: Because we receive product prepackaged from our vendors, we are unable to process returns of opened or partially used packages. If you do find yourself with a few extras, use them as special gift surprises for Sunday school, for siblings of students, or for those who couldn't attend VBS.

Q: I’ve never done VBS before. What should I do first?
A: Pray for God's guidance. Then dig into the Starter Kit(s) you’re interested in. Order more than one at Shop VBS...we offer a 30-day risk-free review on Starter Kits. Explore all the cool stuff, then find the Director’s Guide. This will give you the big picture of the theme, all the possibilities, and the activities that are included. Most Director’s Guides include a step-by-step planning calendar and training helps, too. Above all, decide what you want to accomplish in your VBS program: What do you want the kids to walk away with? Focus on that first! 

Then download our VBS Timeline and Planning Guide. Use this chart to stay on schedule and keep track of upcoming planning events. Click on the image below for a larger view of the complete timeline.

For more helpful ideas, take a look at our "Seven Steps to a Successful VBS" blog post.

Q: Can I use a VBS program in something other than a five-day format?
A: Most VBS programs nowadays are flexible. The Director Manuals contain different format options, including weekday mornings, weekday evenings, midweek clubs, day camp, Sunday mornings, or weekend retreats. If a specific program’s Director Manual does not contain these formats…improvise! Many options allow for the whole family to be involved.

Q: How do I figure out a budget for VBS?
A: The catalog for each program can help you plan your budget and choose the resources that will work best for you. (Remember to order early, as some items have limited quantities.)
If your church has had a VBS in the past, look at the registration numbers. Set a goal for how many kids you would like to reach this year. Then, using the catalog, write down the cost of each item you need and tally the cost. Visit Shop VBS to see VBS catalogs and online order forms from a number of publishers. Watch for coupons to help you save. Click on the coupons below for a larger view (they expire April 30, 2011.)

Find out what funds, if any, have been designated in the church budget. Determine if you will have a per-child registration fee to cover some costs. Make a wish list and work in conjunction with church staff to brainstorm ideas for additional funding (special offerings, fund-raisers, etc.).

You can even network with other local churches who are offering the same program this year and creatively collaborate for sharing some materials and resources.

Q: Do any of the VBS programs provide resources to guide children to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior?
A: Yes. Most of the VBS programs include helps for explaining the gospel message to children and counseling them about salvation.
  • Gospel Light has booklets to introduce children to Jesus Christ (God Loves You Evangelism Booklet) as well as booklets for children who are growing in Christ (Growing As God's Child Discipleship Booklets).
  • The Preschool All-in-One Kit has a section for the leader about "Leading a Young Child to Christ."
  • Wildwood Forest Director's Guide has reproducible resources to send home with a child who accepts Jesus Christ as Savior during your VBS. All Leader's Guides for this program have information on leading a child to Christ. Days 3 and 5 focus specifically on salvation lessons.
  • Share this blog post, Leading a Child to Christ, with your volunteers and coworkers. Decide how to follow up with any children who accept Christ during your VBS program.
Q: What if our space is limited or we don't have enough kids or leaders for VBS?
A: Talk with other area churches about hosting VBS jointly. In addition to increasing the number of kids and volunteers, cooperative VBS programs are great ecumenical opportunities in your community. Cooperative VBS programs often lead to future events among different churches that can strengthen individual congregations and the entire community.

Q: What’s the best way to do VBS—Classroom-based or Site-based?
A: The way that works best for you! There are plenty of fun options in every VBS program.                                              

Most programs can be set up as Classroom-based or Site-based. This means you can group kids by ages or grades to learn and interact in individual classrooms with teams of teachers and assistants (Classroom-based). Or you can group kids by ages or grades into small crews that move from site to site with their backyard crew guides (Site-based). Other VBS programs give the option of combining mixed ages of kids into one group (either Classroom- or Site-based). Some programs are not as easy to adjust one way or the other, so make sure you review your Director’s Guide before planning!

Q: How can we adapt a site-based model to a classroom model?
A: This may be easier for some programs than others. The steps outlined here are for general use of the classroom model. Modify them as needed.
  1. Determine how you will group your kids. The easiest way is to have one group per age/grade level. Recruit staff based on the number of Small Groups you anticipate. You'll need one Guide for each Small Group, as well as a Worship Leader, and other support staff as needed.
  2. Assign classroom space for each Small Group.
  3. Determine your large group gathering space(s) for the Opening and Closing times.
  4. Order your Leader and Student Resources
Q: How can our VBS program support faith formation at home?
A: Many student books feature a family activity for each day, and even if they don't, most kids like to share what they did at VBS with their families.
  • Including Adults and/or youth allows parents and teens to study the same Bible texts as the kids attending Vacation Bible School, either in their own small groups or at home.
  • Souvenirs, such as memory buddies, help the student to remember the Bible point and Bible memory verse for each day of VBS.
  • Giving each child a CD of the music from VBS helps them connect VBS worship at home. Consider giving children a CD when they register for VBS—then they will already know the songs when they come to VBS!
  • Some VBS programs include coloring pages for younger students and sheets that older children can take home each day to reinforce the daily theme and memory verse at home. Watch for free VBS Coloring Pages posted on this blog as they are created.
  • Follow up on the final day of VBS by inviting families to come back for your church worship service or Bible club or for your Harvest celebration.
Q: What schedule is best?
A: This depends on how much time you have. Most programs recommend at least three hours per day if you want to include all the activities provided, but that’s not always possible—especially if you have an evening VBS. You may need to modify the amount of time spent at each activity. Most Director’s Guides include sample schedules—modify them to suit your needs.

Q: What if I have more questions?
A: Visit Shop VBS for lots more free information and to see samples of these VBS programs. Then call one of our VBS consultants at 1-800-854-1531 (Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Pacific time) or send an email to info@cehouse.com and we'll be glad to help.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

2011 VBS Coupons and Special Offers

Here are some Vacation Bible School coupons you can use over at Shop VBS. Plus, preorder your VBS Starter Kit(s) by December  10 and receive "Learning About God" for Grades 1-2 (a $19.95 value) as a FREE download. You'll also receive free Classroom Decorations (a $16-$20 value) and  free shipping on your order of $150 or more. Use the coupons below to save even more. 

But hurry! This free bonus gift offer expires December 10, 2010. The VBS website is Shop VBS. Download a free VBS Planning Timeline, Comparison Chart, and Seven Steps To A Successful VBS at Shop VBS.

Coupons Expire 4-30-10
(Click image for a larger view)

Monday, November 29, 2010

2011 VBS Invitations for Kids

Outreach Idea: Main Street VBS and SonSurf VBS Invitations for Kids to Color

Here’s an invitation your students can color to invite their friends to come to VBS this summer. Copy or print one page for each child. Print your VBS information (date, time, place, ages, cost, etc.) on the back of each sheet. Print the information twice on each sheet so it backs up on the two invitation images. Then cut the sheets in half. Give one or two to each child. Let the child color the sheet(s) and personally give one to each friend he’d like to invite to VBS.

Print the invitation on the top for your main street VBS and the invitation on the bottom for your surf-themed VBS. Use these invitations before your VBS, but also print some to give to your attendees on the first day. Kids will be excited to tell their friends what's happening at Vacation Bible School as they hand out the invitations after their first day of VBS.

Visit Shop VBS to preview VBS Starter kits, listen to music clips, and see the Bible lesson overview for each VBS program. Use the money-saving coupons to save on your VBS supplies.
Click on the images above for a larger view.

Use these coupon codes to save on your VBS supplies.
Coupons expire 4-30-11. One coupon per church. Not valid with other coupons.

Monday, November 22, 2010

2011 VBS Timeline: 7-9 Months Before Your VBS

Here are some things to begin doing now in preparation for your 2011 VBS. First, start praying. You may want to organize a prayer team to start praying for potential leaders and workers for your VBS. Take a look at all the VBS options available and start deciding which ones look best for your church and community. Start choosing VBS Starter Kits to preview. Visit Shop VBS to select several kits to preview for 30 days, risk free. Kits will start shipping in December and January.

Click on the VBS Planning Timeline below to see the larger and expanded view. Print a copy for each of your VBS team members.

Use coupon code SAVEBIG to save $10 on your 2011 VBS Starter Kit when you order by December 10, 2010. You 'll also receive FREE Classroom Decorations plus a FREE book download, "Learning About God" for Grades 1-2. Visit Shop VBS to listen to music and video clips, see the daily Bible lessons and download a VBS Comparison Chart we've put together to help you decide which program(s) you'd like to review.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

7 Steps to a Successful VBS

1. Pray
This is a big job, so meet with your Christian Education Director, Children’s Pastor, or Sunday School Superintendent. Begin with prayer, asking the Lord to direct you and give you wisdom as you plan for your vacation Bible school. You may want to organize a prayer team who will continue to pray for your program before, during, and after your VBS dates.

2. Plan
Once you have a budget, order several VBS starter kits to determine which one(s) will work best with your church and community. Return the kits you won’t need or keep an extra kit to use as an outreach program over spring break—or any time you need a special program. Your kids will enjoy the fun VBS crafts and gifts anytime. Visit Shop VBS to see a VBS Comparison Chart and print out a VBS Planning Guide and Timeline for organizing your VBS preparation. You'll receive a free set of Classroom Decorations and free shipping on your VBS order over $150.

3. Recruit
Ask the Lord to direct you to the people whom He wants to teach your precious children. Ask Him to prepare the hearts of these people to be receptive to becoming VBS leaders or helpers. Then make a list of qualified people who might be interested, and make an appointment to visit them in their homes. Explain the VBS program and the responsibilities of a VBS leader or helper. Ask him or her to pray about the decision, and if desired, leave a specific job description with him or her. To ensure your children the very best experiences in your VBS program, look for leaders and teachers with the following qualifications:
Are dedicated Christians who seek to live for Christ daily, who study God’s Word, and who know the plan of salvation
Are tuned in to kids, and able to build upon their natural interests
Enjoy sharing in the children’s joy of discovery
Are warm, outgoing, and have a genuine love and sensitivity for children
Appreciate and seek to follow God’s command to teach children
Have a basic understanding of children in terms of their physical, mental, and emotional development, and their spiritual needs
Are reliable and disciplined to prepare for each meeting
Are suitable role models for children

4. Prepare
Before you begin signing up children for VBS, print registration cards onto heavy stock. You can download free VBS Registration Cards. Design your own for VBS or use these. Give the cards to parents when they register their children. Have parents fill out a registration card for each child attending your program. The card should contain emergency information and a place to list allergies and other medical conditions of your students. For any child with allergies, create a special, brightly colored name badge with the allergies listed so all leaders and helpers are aware of the allergies and don’t inadvertently give the child something that might cause an allergic reaction.

5. Be Creative!
Creativity may not be your strong suit, but no doubt your church is full of creative talent just waiting to be put to good use. Someone who can paint backdrops, another person who can concoct inexpensive yet healthy snack options, a seamstress who can design skit costumes or theme decorations, a crafty mom who can modify the suggested VBS crafts into easy-to-prepare keepsakes made from household supplies—all of these people can play a role in kicking your VBS program up a notch. The key is to tap into their talents without giving them overwhelming responsibilities.

6. Pray (Continually!)
Each day during your VBS program, have volunteers arrive 15-20 minutes early for announcements and a time of prayer. You may want to provide coffee and juice each morning, with donuts or bagels and fruit the first day. Or provide dinner in the evening and invite your VBS families to come (have your volunteers arrive 15-20 minutes before dinner). Use your VBS theme for a brief devotion, then make announcements, share prayer requests and praises, and conclude with a time of prayer (for each other, for the children, and for God’s wisdom and discernment). Each day, let volunteers share stories of how God is working during VBS. Then take time to thank Him for the ways He is using each person to spread His Word and change lives.

7. Consider Including Preschoolers in Your VBS
VBS is a great way to introduce young families to your church. Consider including 2- to 5-year-olds in your VBS program. You may want to run a separate preschool program for your little ones. The hours can be the same as for your elementary program, but younger children can have their own learning centers, games, and age-appropriate crafts. The preschoolers can join the other children for your VBS opening and then go their own preschool rooms for the rest of the morning. If your VBS begins with everyone together for an opening song time, be prepared to have one or two helpers take younger children to your preschool classroom for free play if the large group setting becomes overwhelming. Read other blog articles for more ideas on including preschoolers in your VBS (See the article, "How to Have a Preschool-Friendly VBS"). Visit Shop VBS to take a look at Jesus in Nazareth for Preschoolers and the Preschool Summer All-in-One Kit—VBS curriculum written especially for your two- to five-year-olds.

And Finally…Evaluate!
Before your VBS ends, have thank-you notes and evaluation forms ready for your helpers. Gather feedback about what worked and what didn’t so you can make changes for next year. Make notes so if you are not involved, you can pass them on to your successor. Thank God for the ways He worked to change lives during VBS. Be sure to let your volunteers know how much they were appreciated. While they’re still excited about the great things that happened during VBS, ask if they would be willing to consider being a part of the team next year. (Just to get an idea, not for a firm commitment.) Then follow up around March or April (or just as soon as you set the next date) to have them start praying about volunteering for your next VBS program.

Download a PDF version of these "7 Steps to a Successful VBS" so you can share them with your coworkers.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

PandaMania Coloring Pages

Here are some coloring pages we’ve created for the PandaMania VBS. There is a coloring page for each day—a total of five. Each coloring page has the daily memory verse and the lesson focus. There is a set of coloring pages for the New International Version and a separate set for the New Living Translation. (The New Living Translation is used on the memory makers and other PandaMania printed materials.) If you use a different Bible version than the ones given, feel free to cut off or white out the verse and replace it with the version you prefer. Each coloring page shows a picture of the Bible story being taught that day or a modern-day application of that Bible point.
The coloring pages come in sets of five pages for just $4.99 per set. The best part is, you can make as many copies as you need!

You may want to make a coloring booklet for each child with coloring pages for each day stapled together. At the end of your VBS week, your students will have a booklet with the entire VBS points and memory verses—a fun keepsake reminder of their week at PandaMania Vacation Bible School.

Check back each week for additional coloring pages—we’re working on a set for the other 2011 VBS programs. (Hometown Nazareth coloring pages were posted October 12.) If you have another VBS program for which you’d like coloring pages, just leave a comment.

If you’d like to take a look at any of these VBS Starter Kits, visit Shop VBS for more information and to order your Starter Kits.

You can make as many copies of these coloring pages as you need for your VBS program. May God bless you as you prepare to teach children (and their families) about Jesus' love for them!

(Click on the images above to download the pages—
NLT is on the left and NIV is on the right)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Go Fish Guys 2011 VBS: Kickin' It Old School

In a world that is always searching for the “next big thing”, some things will never change and can never be improved upon. God, His Promises, His Word, and the Gospel are unchangeable, which is why the Go Fish Guys invite you to KICK IT OLD SCHOOL!

With Kickin’ It Old School, the Go Fish Guys continue with their concert theme, but with an 80s, retro hip-hop influence! Once again, your leaders and kids will be “hands on” with the Bible. This program is not dependent on the theme, the music, or the Go Fish Guys. It’s all about the Bible which means that it WILL be effective!

Using classic hymns from their new CD Kickin’ It Old School, your kids will love the new songs, videos, and karaoke times!

Your kids will travel through the Old Testament as well as the New Testament to learn several attributes of God. From Adam and Eve to the Passover to the building of the tabernacle to Jesus on the cross, your kids will learn how God’s holiness and separation from sin have never changed. Kids churched and unchurched alike will hear and understand the Gospel in a whole new way. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. It’s time to kick it old school!

Here's an overview of the Kickin' It Old School VBS program. Click on the image below for a larger view. Visit Shop VBS for previews of more 2011 VBS programs and special offers.

Below is a list of the daily themes that go along with each day of the Kickin’ It Old School VBS (hi-res posters are FREE in digital format with curriculum). You can also download the Day 1 Bible Lesson for FREE by visiting our website, ChristianEdWarehouse.com.

Day 1 - This Is My Father's World - God Is Our Creator

Day 2 - Before The Throne Of God - God Is Our King

Day 3 - I Love To Tell The Story - Jesus Is Our Savior

Day 4 - I'm A Soldier In The Army Of The Lord - God Is Our Truth

Day 5 - The Solid Rock - God Is Our Rock

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Standard's 2011 Main Street VBS

On Main Street, kids will be drawn into stories Jesus told about everyday people in everyday situations. But His stories were anything but ordinary! Jesus turned lives upside down and hearts inside out through parables that challenged people to look at themselves and others in new and unexpected ways.

So come join us on Main Street, for an inside-out, upside-down experience like no other...and let Jesus make a difference in YOU!
Here are the Bible points kids will learn each day on Main Street. Click on the image below for a larger view. Visit Shop VBS for previews of more 2011 VBS programs and special offers.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

SonSurf Beach Bash VBS Coloring Pages

Here are some coloring pages we’ve created for the SonSurf Beach Bash VBS. There is a coloring page for each day—a total of five—plus a cover sheet. Each coloring page has the daily memory verse and the lesson focus as well as the day's Scripture. There is a set of coloring pages for the New International Version and a separate set for the King James Version. (The NIV verses are used on the Connection Cards and other SonSurf printed materials.) If you use a different Bible version than the ones given, feel free to cut off or white out the verse and replace it with the version you prefer. Each coloring page shows a picture of the Bible story being taught that day.

You may want to make a coloring booklet for each child with the coloring pages for each day stapled together and the cover page on top. At the end of your VBS week, your students will have a booklet with the entire VBS points and memory verses—a fun keepsake reminder of their week at SonSurf Vacation Bible School.

Check back each week for additional coloring pages—we’re working on a set for the other 2011 VBS programs. (Hometown Nazareth coloring pages were posted October 12.) If you have another VBS program for which you’d like coloring pages, just leave a comment.

If you’d like to take a look at any of these VBS Starter Kits, visit Shop VBS for more information and to order your Starter Kits.

You can make as many copies of these coloring pages as you need for your VBS program. May God bless you as you prepare to teach children (and their families) how to get to know Jesus!

(Click on the images above to download the pages—
KJV is on the left and NIV is on the right)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Nazareth VBS Coloring Pages

Here are some coloring pages we’ve created for the Hometown Nazareth VBS. There is a coloring page for each day—a total of five — plus the cover sheet. Each coloring page has the daily memory verse and the lesson focus. There is a set of coloring pages for the New International Version and a separate set for the New Living Translation and the King James Version. (The New Living Translation is used on the memory makers and other Hometown Nazareth printed materials.) If you use a different Bible version than the ones given, feel free to cut off or white out the verse and replace it with the version you prefer. Each coloring page shows a picture of the Bible story or children learning about God's Word.

You may want to make a coloring booklet for each child with the cover on top, followed by the coloring pages for each day. At the end of your VBS week, your students will have a booklet with the entire VBS points and memory verses—a fun keepsake reminder of their week at Hometown Nazareth Vacation Bible School.

Check back each week for additional coloring pages—we’re working on a set for the other 2011 VBS programs. If you have another VBS program for which you’d like coloring pages, just leave a comment.

If you’d like to take a look at any of these VBS Starter Kits, visit Shop VBS for more information and to order your Starter Kits.

You can make as many copies of these coloring pages as you need for your VBS program. May God bless you as you prepare to teach children (and their families) about how much God loves them!

(Click on the images above to download the pages—
KJV is on the top left, NIV is on the right, and NLT is on the bottom)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Make Your Own Play Clay

Play clay can provide children with hours of entertainment, but the fun doubles when the play clay is homemade. Children love working with something they've made themselves or have watched being made by an adult. There are other added benefits to making your own play clay—you get to choose what color to make it, and you have the option of making it scented! Adding a teaspoon of peppermint or cinnamon flavoring to the play clay mixture gives it added pizzazz.

Before your VBS, combine 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup salt, and 2 teaspoons cream of tartar. Add 1 cup water, 1 tablespoon cooking oil, a few drops of food coloring, and a fragrant flavoring such as wintergreen, cloves, vanilla, cinnamon, orange, lemon, or peppermint extract. Cook three minutes over medium heat or until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pad. Remove from the pan and knead slightly almost immediately. Do not let the children help with cooking or kneading since the dough may be hot. After it cools, the children will enjoy having a chance to mold and knead it.

This play clay will keep for several weeks, if stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. A small can with a plastic lid (especially a colored plastic lid) makes an ideal storage container.

This clay has a soft, almost velvety feeling, making it very pleasing to the children. Keep some on hand during your VBS week, Sunday school, or Bible club for students who arrive early or need to stay late. Let them sculpt a reminder of the day's lesson.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Decorating for Harvest

Use harvest season decorations to give your church a new, inviting look for fall. Choose creative church members to select ideas from the following suggestions. They also may have some creative ideas of their own, using items available in your community. The helpers can do the decorations themselves or form a decorating committee. Have your Sunday school classes, Bible clubs, mom's groups and others meeting at your church make harvest decorations to spruce up your church.

Cut leaf shapes in various colors and sizes to use as wall decorations and name tags for your harvest events. Make pumpkin garlands from orange construction paper. Use the garlands along with orange, green, and brown crepe paper around doorways, windows, hung from the ceiling, and as runners across table tops.

Ask families to bring in harvest items from home to decorate hallways, windowsills, shelves, and table tops: pumpkins, gourds, miniature bales of hay, colorful leaves, nuts, apples, squash, dried corn husks, scarecrows, baskets, bushel barrels, cornucopias, colorful rocks, pussy willows, fall flowers, etc. Make a large banner for one or more walls that reads, "The Harvest Is the Lord's." Post a similar banner at the children's eye level for your young students to decorate with crayons or markers.

Have children draw pictures of people for whom they are thankful. Hang the pictures on the walls after they are signed by their artists.

Draw harvest fruits and vegetables onto construction paper. Cut them out and hang them from drinking straws or dowel rods to make mobiles. Hang extra shapes from ceilings, windows, and in doorways.

Collect canned food to give to a local homeless shelter or food pantry. Let your students decorate large collection boxes to place around your church campus. Have bundles of dried corn stalks standing nearby. Arrange pumpkins, squash, and dried gourds around the base. Use these as collection spots for your food drive.

For more harvest decorating and outreach ideas, take a look at A Church Family Harvest Celebration program book with CD-ROM from Christian Ed Warehouse.

If your church holds a harvest festival or other fall event, invite your community to join your congregation. Then invite the visitors to return for worship, Sunday school, and Bible clubs!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Those Precocious Preteens

Preteens are moving toward adolescence but no longer feeling like young children. They long to be treated as teens (or even young adults), but they still enjoy the games and silliness of childhood. Their minds and bodies are growing rapidly, and their emotions seem to be taking them on a roller coaster ride. So how do we help them grow in the knowledge of Jesus when they seem unpredictable, emotional, and overly dramatic one minute and serious, deep-thinking individuals the next?

First, we let preteens take on leadership roles during VBS week. They can assist adult helpers, especially in your preschool and kindergarten areas. They can help with crafts, snacks, games, song time, and much more. They often thrive when given responsibility, as long as the expectations are clear. Provide strong leaders to help guide the preteens with specific directions and clear assignments. Don't give them time to just hang out with friends until the VBS attendees have gone home for the day.

Second, we can use a variety of methods in our Sunday school teaching as we help the preteens focus on the lesson theme or Scripture passage. Object lessons, skits, pantomimes, stories, role-plays, worship and praise music, reader's theater, relays, art projects, games, quizzes, prayer, Bible reading, discussions, and many more teaching methods can be used to capture and hold their attention. Using more than one teaching method each week also gives us a chance to reach children of all learning styles and abilities.

Transition times, moving from one activity to another, can be difficult for preteens, causing them to lose focus, begin talking about unrelated subjects, etc. For this reason, the teacher must be prepared to move quickly from one activity to the next. Planning ahead and going through the lesson the week before will help you to iron out any rough spots before you stand in front of your class. To keep your students focused on the topic at hand, clearly state your expectations before beginning a new activity. Let the kids know if it's okay to talk softly while they work or if you need their undivided attention. If you expect them to raise their hands before answering, tell them. Or, if it's okay for them to just call out answers, say so.

If an activity will get your students up and moving, be sure to explain all the instructions before having them begin to move. Then ask for one of your preteens to restate the instructions. Clarify any  of the rules, if necessary. Finally, ask if there are any questions. Have a student answer the question, whenever possible. If there are no more questions, you're ready to begin the game or activity.

Provide a balance of active and quiet activities to help keep your students attentive, interested, and looking forward to the next activity. If your preteens begin to yawn or lose interest, quickly move on to your next activity or begin a discussion to recapture their interest.

Your older students will appreciate having leadership roles such as handing out pencils, serving the snack, leading the prayer time, etc. But it's still up to you, the teacher, to let your students know what's expected of them for each activity. Explaining your expectations for appropriate behavior up front will help prevent many behavior problems before they start. Lighten up and be prepared to have fun. Now you can begin enjoying your preteens as the interesting, dynamic, creative creatures God intended them to be!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Salt Dough Cross Craft

Let your students make salt dough crosses to reinforce your Bible story about Jesus' death and resurrection. Before your lesson or VBS day, make salt dough by mixing together 1/2 cup salt, 1 cup flour, and 1/2 cup water. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Knead the dough on a floured surface until it is elastic and smooth. Roll it out to about 1/4” thick. Cut a small cross for each child (one batch makes about 20). Use a drinking straw to cut a hole in the top of each cross. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 2 hours. Cool completely. 

The day of the lesson, cover the work area with newspapers. Give each child paint shirt, a salt dough cross, a chenille wire, and a paintbrush. Let him paint the ornament, initial the back, and thread a chenille wire hanger through the hole. Provide wet wipes for clean up and small plastic bags for taking the crosses home.

As the children work, talk about the fact that Jesus died on the cross for our sins (the wrong things we say and do). Invite children to talk with you individually if they have questions or would like to join God's family.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Storytelling Tips

By Brenda Mills

Everyone loves a story. Children move to the edge of their chairs when they hear, “Let’s have a story.” Use this method of teaching to reach young hearts with Christ’s love during your VBS program. It’s your responsibility to become the best storyteller you can.

Note that we said storyteller. Reading stories to children is an art in itself to be discussed later. First we’ll concentrate on the techniques of telling the story.

Prepare your introduction carefully. Begin your story smoothly. If you fumble through your first few statements, you’ll become frustrated and may lose your train of thought. If you stammer to a stop and have to start over, you’ll want to leave the room and never return! Never memorize a story word for word. But if it makes you feel more comfortable, memorize the first few lines for a snappy opening.

An introduction with interest-catching appeal will capture your listeners from the first word. “Mac had been Peter’s dog for as long as Peter could remember, and they were real pals.” Doesn’t that sound like a lot more fun than “Peter had a dog named Mac?” Use your imagination and knowledge of the group to make your introduction sparkle.

Progress naturally from the introduction, building to the climax or most exciting or interesting portion of the story. Then finish the story with a brief conclusion. Don’t attempt to delay the conclusion, for once the climax of the story has been reached, listeners’ interest drops. A story is a unique teaching tool. Most contain a moral or teach a lesson. Let the story do it! Don’t attempt to tack on your own “sermonette” on the end of the story. Weave the moral into the plot in such a way that your hearers can’t miss it as you tell your story. When you’ve finished telling the story, stop!

Being yourself is important. Thorough preparation and practice will lead to naturalness in storytelling. You’ll probably feel most comfortable if you sit in a circle or semi-circle with your listeners. It suggests intimacy with the group and conversation at their level. If you must stand, due to a large group, stand naturally and relaxed. Never hide behind a podium.

Use gestures such as the shrug of the shoulders, a raised hand, a finger over the lips to indicate quietness. But don’t force or overuse them. And by all means, use facial expression. Raise your eyebrow, smile, frown, show enthusiasm. Try to portray the feelings of the story characters.

Some storytellers show pictures while telling their stories. This is fine, but don’t show 27 pictures during a four-minute story! Have several attractive illustrations to use at the appropriate times. Display them so all can see, then put them aside.

Place your hands quietly in your lap when you aren’t holding a picture or gesturing. Avoid the “gymnastics” of too many hand motions. They only draw attention to yourself. Beware of distracting habits, such as playing with a string of beads or a button on a jacket. Remember, you are the means to help your listeners SEE the story in their minds. The less they see of you, the better! Thorough practice, perhaps in front of a mirror, will help you know where and when to use gestures effectively. If well used, they can add life to the story. If overused, they can distract and spoil the story.

Your voice tells the story. Use your natural voice. By all means avoid a whiny, monotonous, or honeyed tone. Practice to develop variety in inflection. Let your voice reflect wonder, strength, sadness, etc. Imitate noises and sounds indicated in the story, such as “Buzzzz — was the sound Kate kept hearing outside her bedroom window.” Practice these sounds beforehand so they resemble the natural sounds. Pause to impress or to increase suspense. Work on projecting your voice. Record your own voice — it may surprise you!

Use dialog or direct discourse frequently to bring your characters to life. Make them speak to your hearers, rather than always telling your hearers what the characters say. “Hi, Mom!” is much more realistic than, “Jerry greeted his mother when she entered the room.” Change the voice to indicate the different characters. Use action verbs and colorful adjectives to tell your story. Never use words your listeners may not know.

If you suddenly discover that you’ve left out an important point, don’t try to correct it by saying, “Oh, I forgot to say…” Continue on, and if it is an integral part, weave it in. But don’t interrupt your story to apologize for your goof!

When you’re telling a Bible story, hold your Bible so all can see it. This especially impresses little children with the fact that your story is from God’s Word.

“Let’s have a story.” Do your students’ eyes brighten at the sound of those words? Use these helps to make story-time an exciting high point of your VBS program.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pandamania Craft: Butterfly Puppet

The Bible story for Day 4 of PandaMania VBS is from Luke  23:1–24:12, where Jesus dies and comes back to life. Have your students make this fun butterfly craft to help them remember the day's memory verse, Psalm 129:34—"Lead me along the path of everlasting life."

Before your VBS week, send a note home asking church members to bring old, clean socks so you have one for each child. Also cut a 5-inch “square” pair of wings (connected) from felt for each child. Give each child a sock, a chenille wire, a felt pair of wings, two wiggle eyes, glue, felt scraps, scissors, and a marker. Make a sample puppet to show the children. Encourage older children to help younger ones with this craft.

Show the child how to put his fist in the sock and draw a smiling mouth on it. Let him glue wiggle eyes above the mouth. While the eyes dry, let him glue felt shapes onto the wings to give them color. Help him glue the wings a couple of inches below the sock toe. Help him push the chenille wire through the sock just above the wings and back out again. Let him twist each end of the wire to make antennae. 

When the wings are dry, show the child how to turn the sock inside out slightly so the wings and antennae no longer show but so the eyes still show. The sock will look like a fat caterpillar. Let the child tell the story of how Jesus changes us and gives us new life just as the caterpillar changes into a beautiful butterfly. Have him turn the sock right-side-out so the wings show, put his hand in the sock, and let the butterfly fly.

This would be a good time to explain the salvation story. Talk individually with any child who wants to learn more.