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:


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!


3 Truths That Make VBS Survival Possible

VBS is an amazing week. It’s also an exhausting week. On VBS nights, I celebrate the end
of the day, with silence. Just the sofa and silence. After a few minutes, my mind is able to reboot from its recent information overload. VBS can knock off the best of us. And if we are not careful, we all might need to spend some time recuperating on a counselor’s sofa, talking about our childhood. To keep that from happening and to find joy during VBS, I have encourage you to join me in meditating on these three Biblical Truths:

1. Remember Joy Does Not = Comfort

Often when life is hard, when there are extra bills, or when the pipe breaks, we assume vbs-blog-2that God is angry with us. We assume that our suffering is directly tied to the verbal barrage we shot at our kids the other night. Thankfully, our God does not work this way. According to the scriptures, we often suffer not because of our sin but because God is working. As Romans 5:3 says, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,” Suffering is for our good. So if the kid who bites, yells, and throws punches winds up in our VBS class, we can still be joyful. That mean kid is here for our benefit. He is here to helps us get closer to God. And he is at our church to be exposed to the grace of God even it comes via discipline.

So are you having a rough day, night, or week at VBS? Take heart. God is at work. You can have joy because the source of our joy, God, never disappoints. Even the hard knocks we are going through right now have a purpose. Rejoice!

2. Don’t compare to others

Because we are people, we love to compare ourselves to other people. We ask: “Who has the better decorations? Who is the most artistic teacher? Who is the most fun? And, who is winning the most souls?” The simply solution is stop. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:7, “Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” Why are other teachers more popular than you; why do other churches have bigger VBS’s; and, why do other people get to lead more kids to Christ? The answer is simple. God is working. God is the one who saves. God is the one who gives the increase to that class or to this church (Mark 4;26-27). Admittedly, it’s more fun to reap the harvest than to plant the crop. Both tasks are important. Instead of comparing ourselves to others, and complaining, let’s be thankful that God is working in his church. Let’s boast in him (I Cor. 1:31).

Now, I am not against learning from those who do things better than us. Nor am I excusing sloth. But at the end of the day, we are charged with teaching the word of God and loving others as ourselves (Rom 10:17). If we have faithful taught the Scriptures and lived the Christian life, we are doing what God has called us to do. The results, the size of our VBS harvest is given by God (Mark 4:26-27). Don’t compare yourself to others.

3. Stay Focused on Heaven

Dealing with the girl who constantly trips, pushes, and verbally assaults other kids is not easy. In fact, such kids can make VBS seem downright pointless. But we must not give up. As Paul says in Galatians 6:9 “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season vbs-blogwe will reap, if we do not give up.” If we remain faithful to the word of God, we will reap eternal life. We should not be serving in VBS to impress the kids, our friends, or our pastors. We should serve in VBS because the Holy Spirit is working in us. He is motivating us “to do good to everyone” (Gal. 1:10). And when we are tempted to tie up a kid and toss her into the closet, we give her grace. We work with her because our reward is not a calm night and peace. Its heaven. And if we keep sowing according to the Spirit, we will reap fruit. We will reap eternal life.

And, we will reap blessings here on earth. We will see kids come to Christ. We will see people changed by the gospel. It may not happen today. It may not happen this week. And it may not happen this year. But it will happen. If we sow according to the Spirit, we will reap blessings. Don’t let a hard night or week distract you. You are children of the king! Don’t give up!


Are ready for another day of VBS?

Will Their Faith Make It To The Fall?

fall blog

Summer is kids’ ministry’s peak season. You have special events, VBS’s, and summer camps. Kids all over the United States will hear the gospel in a variety of setting ranging from mosquito filled fire pits to dodge ball filled gyms. And hordes of these kids will walk the aisle, raise their hands, and sign a card saying that asked Jesus into their hearts. Millions will claim they are now saved.

But will these good times last? Will these kids truly bear fruit, become missional teenagers, and turn into bible believing adults?  Or will they fall away, grow up malcontents, and write introspective books explaining how church camp missed it?

Often kids fall away because they believed the wrong thing. They trusted in a shrunken gospel. Because they never met Jesus, many kids will fall away from their faith as the leaves start to change color. As teachers, we need to make sure offer the complete gospel this summer

So what does a truncated gospel look like?

The Easy Gospel

Often a water down gospel looks easy. We simply call kids to accept Jesus as the savior without explaining the cost. We reduce the gospel to a repeat-after-me prayer, or to a hand raised while everyone closes their eyes. As a result, we zap the power right out of the gospel. We turn salvation into a game of follow the leader.

If kids (or anyone else for that matter) truly understand their sin, and the glories of God, they do not have to be spoon feed salvation. They do not have to be coaxed into a divine agreement. Those who love God, will willingly repent. You can’t find one example of someone being forced by the disciples or Jesus into believing. Jesus never told people to close their eyes and then raise their hands if they said a secret prayer.

I knew of one student who professed Christ at a revival. She prayed a repeat-after-me prayer. She walked the aisle while emotion music played. And, she filled out a card checking the “saved” box. She performed the salvation trifecta. She is now a number in someone’s newsletter. But, she did not get saved.

As I followed up with her, I saw that she never understood the gospel. She never grasped what it means to die to sin and to live for Christ. She never understood that to love God we must obey him (John 14:15). She simply followed the easy, socially acceptable path to salvation, seeking to please the adults in the room. She never repented and believed.

The gospel is not easy to believe or accept (Matt 7). The crowds that followed Jesus found the gospel offensive. The rich young ruler walked away from Jesus. The gospel is foolishness and a stumbling block (I Cor. 1:23). The solution is not to make the gospel easier to follow. Apart from the Holy Spirit no one can come to Christ. Our best efforts to save people can never replace the work of the Holy Spirit. The solution is to preach the full gospel and to trust God to do the impossible.

The Horror Film Gospel

We also short change the gospel by turning it into a horror Film. It’s easy to scare kids into professions. Spend a few minutes describing hell. Tell the kids the you are going to heaven. And then ask them who wants to escape damnation and join you in paradise. Most every kid will raise their hands. It’s the logical thing to do.

But in that moment, the kids have not embraced the gospel. They do not love Jesus. They simply want to get out of hell. And who can blame them. Hell is a real and very scary place. As a kid, I would pray for weeks at a time for God to save me from hell. But God never answered those prayers.

Salvation is more than just fire insurance. Salvation is trusting in Jesus. Salvation is loving and obeying the heavenly father. To be saved we have to want the gospel; we have to want Jesus. And once I confessed Christ as my Lord and God, he saved me. Salvation is about a relationship with the heavenly father. It is much more than a get out of jail free card!

We can scare a bunch of kids. But this will not get them to heaven. We need to offer them the full gospel!

The Full Gospel

The full gospel is the hard gospel. It is proclaiming that God is the creator,
that man sinned, that Jesus died to pay for our sins, that men and women must respond. The true gospel calls kids to repent while reminding them of the cost of dying to self. The gospel tells kids that they are ugly, horrible people in need of a savior. And it offers kids hope through the life and death of Christ.

We preach the gospel trusting God to work. And guess what? If the Holy Spirit awakens a little soul, we will not have to coax them into salvation. We will not have to pray the sinner’s prayer for them. Yes, we will need to teach them and disciple them. There is no salvation apart from the preached word of God. But once we preach; we are done. We don’t bring conviction and regeneration. The Holy Spirit does that work.

If you are looking for a great resource that explains the gospel, I encourage to grab a copy of Greg Gilbert’s What is the Gospel.

Final Thoughts

So will our kids’ faith make it till the fall? Did they embrace an easy or fearful gospel? Then probably not. But if they embraced the Jesus of the Bible, then yes! And big question we must all answer is this, “Are we going to offer the full Gospel to our kids this summer?”