VBS 2017: The Rest of The Story

vbs-2017-rest-of-the-storyYou watched cars pour into the parking lot. You saw pictures of kids whacking each other with pool noodles on Facebook. And, you have heard some cute stories about kids singing, “Operation Arctic.” But do you really know all that happened at FBCE’s 2017 VBS?

If you can spare a few minutes, I will happily to tell you the “rest of the story” (as Paul Harvey used to say). Let’s get ready!

WHAT THE NUMBERS SAID:

VBS Average class attendance 2017

We did not know what to expect when we opened the doors to the Children’s Ministry Center (CMC) on Monday, June 5.  Over the last three years, FBCE’s VBS average  attendance has dropped after reaching a high of 254 kids per night in 2014. I was bracing for that negative to trend to continue.

Thankful my expectations were off base! I am excited to report that our average attendance per day shot up from 166 kids in 2016 to 218 kids in 2017. Our average attendance grew by more than thirty-one percent this year! And more than 50 of those kids  were coming to VBS via our bus ministry.

The largest growth took place in the middle school and upper elementary classes. The 7th and 8th grade class grew by forty-seven percent, the 6th grade class grew by seventy-one percent, and the 5th grade class grew by sixty-one percent. I loved seeing so many older kids excited about the gospel!

vbs classes by size

Though most of the numbers were unbelievably good, our kindergarten, 1st grade, and second grade classes all shrunk this year. This year may have been an anomaly. But those numbers are worth watching as we go forward. The lower elementary grades and the preschool classes often give us a glimpse of what our future ministry will look like.

Though we had far more kids than anticipated, FBCE’s VBS team meet the challenge with unparalleled poise. Kids were checked in easily (at least after Monday). Snacks came in and out of the rooms in the blink of an eye. Games were fun. Music was exciting. And, the crafts were engaging. Before the kids could blink, the two hours of Bible teaching and activities were over. I truly think organizationally and functionally, VBS 2017 was FBCE’s best VBS that I have experienced!

Our attendance reached a peak of 245 kids Wednesday night, June 7. But our Vacation Bible school was so well organized and run, you would have thought only 100 kids were in the building.

VBS attendance by day 2017It’s undeniable. God blessed the FBCE with a great team of VBS workers. Over 110 people cooked, drove buses, organized crafts, taught song motions, lead games, and shared the Scriptures during the week of June 5-9. And because our adults sacrificed their time and energy, FBCE was able to share Christ with over 250 kids throughout the week.

Though everyone is worthy of a mention, I only have to space to mention two people. I wish to thank Christy Wynn and Summer Sheffield for spending hours recruiting volunteers, problem solving, and answering questions. They kept VBS from being an tangled mess and freed me and others up talk to parents, to address sinful children, and to teach. Thank you guys! And thank you FBCE!

THE GOOD NEWS

And now for the real good news.

VBS is ultimately not all about attendance, numbers, and stats. (Though I do like them a bunch!)  VBS should be about the gospel! To have a successful VBS, a church must preach the gospel!

vbs 2017 2FBCE presented the gospel with gusto all week long! All of our teachers did an excellent job teaching the Bible and pointing kids to Christ. We loved using the Answer In Genesis Operation Arctic Curriculum as it equipped our teachers to teach the word. , FBCE’s VBS was a resounding success!

But the gospel was not just preached. God used it to transform lives!

We challenged our kids to raise $650 for missions at the beginning of the week. I thought the kids would fall short of their goal, lacking earthly incentives to give. (Yeppers, I did not want to take another pie in the face.) We asked the kids to give from a sincere heart. At the end of Thursday night, my dire expectations were almost our reality. The children had only given a little over $270. But then with time running out,

vbs missions

God did the amazing! By the time the last song ended on Sunday night, our kids gave $846.83 to missions! WOW! God is good!

The surest sign of God’s blessing this year was the outpouring of his spirit. Ten children made professions of faith during the week of VBS after hearing the gospel preached. We taught and they voluntarily responded! Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I think FBCE has mastered VBS! We licked our last major logistical challenges. By having snacks delivered to each class, by shortening the evening from a 2.5 hrs. time frame to a 2 hrs. time frame, and by having all the kids dropped off in the CMC, we did away with the free-time that fostered conflicts and eliminated the confusion that greeted families when they first arrived.

vbs 2017We also did a better job of connecting with kids’ parents. By moving our celebration to Sunday tonight, we had more than 300 people worship with us as the gospel was preached. We exceeded our Friday night celebration attendance by more than a 100 people. I believe we have found our VBS sweet spot.

Going forward, we do not need to make any major structural changes. But, I think we may need to spend some time reflecting on the purpose of VBS.

If VBS exists to expose churched kids to the gospel in an intense and fun environment, then having VBS when summer first begins at church for 2 hrs. during evening makes sense.

But if our purpose is to reach the lost (i.e. VBS is truly an evangelistic event) then we may need answer some probing questions: Should we move VBS to the end of the summer so that we can use VBS as a bridge into our Wednesday night kids’ program? Or should we leave the church building and have VBS in homes and neighborhoods across Eastman? If VBS is supposed to be about outreach, shouldn’t we go out?

I am not sure how to answer all of these questions. I invite you to ponder them with me as we prepare for 2018.

Enough from me. Now it’s your turn! I would love to hear your VBS stories, highlights and reflections! Please post them below in the comment section.

Why Will VBS 2017 Be Amazing?

operation-arctic-blog-postFBCE’s 2017 VBS is going to be…(wait for it)…Amazing!

In Psalm 119:9, we read these striking words:

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.

Our kids do not need Iphones, YouTube videos, understanding teachers, or a proper hate of gum smacking to make it in this crazy world. They need the Word of God. God’s Word keeps them from folly, sin, destruction. God’s Word contains all that they (and we) need for life and godliness. It has been rightfully dubbed the most amazing book of all time!

Because God’s Word is so essential to our kids’ well-being, I am excited to announce that this year’s VBS will be dedicated to exploring The Bible. Our kids will learn about how the Bible was made and about its amazing message of salvation. Trust me, you will want your kids to be at FBCE on June 5 at 6:30PM!

What’s Happening  

Our kids will spend the week of June 5-9 (Monday-Friday) exploring God’s Word with the help of a Polar Bear, an Artic Hare, a Musk OX, a Narwhal, and a Husky. All children PreK-8th grade are invited to come explore the Artic Circle with us.

girl-snow-boardingWe encourage parents to drop off their children in the Children’s Ministry Center (CMC) shortly before 6:30PM. By the time your kids finish their nightly exploration, they will have played games, eaten an amazing snack (I’ve peaked; yes we have some really good food on the way), learned new songs, made a creative craft, and heard the gospel clearly proclaimed. Our VBS explorations will end at 8:30PM each night. Children will be picked up in their CMC classroom. If you do not know where their classroom is, check your parent sticker or swing by the CMC welcome desk.

Important Things To Know

We have several exciting changes to reveal this year

1. VBS will go all week, Monday – Friday. VBS begins at 6:30PM and ends at 8:30PM.

2. When you arrive at 6:30PM, come to the Children’s Ministry Center to check-in. Do NOT go to the sanctuary or youth building (station).

3. We will have incredible snacks each night. But we do NOT serve dinner. We encourage kids to eat before they come to VBS.

4. There is no cost to attend. You can buy T-shirts, hats, devotional books, CDs, and other items in the VBS store located in C103. Prices are posted in the room.

5. We will close out our VBS week with a Sunday night Worship Celebration and Ice Cream Party on Sunday, June 11 at 6PM. On Friday night, we will follow our normal week-day-schedule.

For more information visit fbceastman.com  Husky Puppy Red and White

The State of VBS 2016

State of VBS 2016The back drop is down. The plastic fish are deflated. And, the extra t-shirts have been boxed for return. VBS 2016 is officially over. And though it’s finished, the benefits of VBS have just begun to roll in. As we look to build on our VBS efforts, I want to take a few minutes and reflect on what happened at VBS this year. Let’s take a look:

Praises

Over all, I think this was the best Vacation Bible School that I have overseen during my time at First Baptist Church Eastman. Every class and activity ran seamlessly. Outside of having to send a few kids home for fighting (a normal occurrence) and having to overcome a few barely noticeable organizational glitches, almost everythingn went according to plan. We had a great team of over 110 teachers. They teachers decorated their rooms well, taught well, and invested in their kids. And the kids responded! Instead of losing kids after Wednesday night (a typical occurrence), our nightly totals remained consistent all week long. We actually set a new record high for attendance on Friday!  VBS Daily Attendance 2016And as the kids and their family came, they heard the gospel clearly proclaimed. A couple of kids expressed interest in following Christ as their savior! Others responded by giving $660.45 to our IMB Missionaries. As a result, yours truly got a pie in the face. Click here to see the video! God greatly blessed FBCE’s 2016 VBS! I am very thankful for all who helped and for all the kids who attended.

VBS BY The Numbers

Now some of you may have noticed that our VBS numbers were down. We averaged 166 per night this year. Last year, we averaged 201 kids per night, In 2014 we averaged 257 kids per night. Over the past two years, our VBS attendance has dropped by over 1/3. Initially, I found these numbers discouraging. My heart is to reach Eastman and Dodge County with the gospel. It appeared that our VBS was missing the mark. But upon further examination, I discovered three hopeful trends hiding within the larger numbers. Let’s take a look:
First, the largest demographic drop off came with kids that attend other churches. In 2014, 134 kids from other churches attended our VBS. This year only 17 kids from other churches came to FBCE’s VBS. That is a drop off of more than 88%.VBS yearly trends
Secondly, over the past 3 years, FBCE kids’ ministry has experienced a net loss of 38 students. Thirty-Eight more students have graduated out of our kids’ ministry than have been born into it. In short, our birth rate is not sustaining our kids’ ministry. Thankfully, our church is doing a good of reaching2016 VBS Birth Rate new families as the number of FBCE kids attending VBS has actually gone up the last two years. But with each passing year, it will become harder to sustain our church attendance numbers unless we start having more babies and start doing an even better job of reaching young families.

And now for the really good news. We are reaching a larger and larger number of unchurched kids and bus kids. In 2016, we reached 83 kids with no church home. In 2014, we only reached 52. In 2015, we reached 61 kids with the bus ministry. This year we reached 71! The right numbers are going up!VBS Kids By Church Home

Finaly Thoughts

In short, our overall numbers dropped because we are not reaching kids who already have church home. I’m ok with that result. Our heart at FBCE is not to steal sheep. Our heart is to reach the lost. I am happy to report that our VBS is doing just that. Now, we can and must continue to find ways to more effectively reach the dying and the lost with the gospel. If you have ideas or thoughts on we can better connect with families, please share them below in the comment section. And then join me in thanking our God for giving us a great VBS!