Witkowski Memo: Amissville Baptist Church

peter-and-april-1I was elected by unanimous vote to become the next Senior Pastor of Amissville Baptist this past Sunday, February 25, 2018! For past several months, April and I have fervently sought God’s will for us and our family. We are firmly convinced that God has led and is leading us to serve with the wonderful people of Amissville Baptist church located in Amissville, Virginia.

Over the past five plus years, April and I have learned much about the character and power of God as we served at First Baptist Church, Eastman. We have faced some of our darkest days at FBCE, burying our first born son, Peter Alexander Witkowski, and walking through a variety of trials that have stretched and shaped us into the image of Christ. But we have also been blessed by our heavenly Father and by the amazing love, support, and generosity of God’s people at FBCE. Though April and I have experienced some of the hardest times of our lives, we have also experienced some of the greatest moments of our lives while at FBCE.

downloadWe will leave behind many cherished friends who have lovingly worked, laughed, and cried with us as we sought to reach the families of Eastman, Georgia with the gospel. We thank God for our church family and for all those who have lovingly served in the nursery, on Wednesday Nights, in Sunday school, and during the summer months! FBCE is filled with many amazing, men, women, and youth! Thank you!

I especially want to thank Joe Daniel (former FBCE Pastor of Discipleship), the M4G Kids’ Ministry Leadership Team, and the Bus Ministry team for their selflessness, kindness, and support. The success of the FBCE’s Kids’ Ministry is directly tied to their ideas and to their never ending labors of love that have shaped everything from the Wednesday Night Quest to the Back to School Connection. April and I have been blessed to call all of you our friends these last five plus years. We will miss you as we move to Virginia. If we could take you with us, we would. But we are excited to see how God will use you at FBCE in the days ahead!

Our last day at FBCE will be Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018. During the next few weeks, we will be vigorously working to equip our FBCE family to continue the FBCE’s Kids’ Ministry. We will also be diligently working with our ABC family to prepare for our arrival in Mid-April, 2018.

am_baptWe know that many things in our life are about to change. We enter this new phase of life with hearts full of joy and excitement, trusting in the sovereignty of God. We have seen the hand of God preparing us for ABC and leading us to ABC. We look forward to partnering with our new ABC family for the purpose expanding our shared faith and for the purpose of reaching Northern Virginia with the gospel!

On to Virginia!

To God be the Glory!

Peter and April Witkowski

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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