9 Practical Tips for Teaching Vacation Bible School

Being one of the greatest evangelistic outreaches from the local church, vacation Bible school takes a lot of planning, promotion, and preparation. There are cooks, counselors, decorators, teachers, and many other positions to fill to make vacation Bible school a success. I have a passion for teaching and for training teachers, and below I share a few things that I believe will help you teach this year. I have used them in my own teaching ministry, and have found great success from them.

1. Pray for God’s guidance, strength, and direction. Praying for God’s intervention is one of the most important ways to prepare. The Bible tells us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Prov. 3:5-6). When you pray for His guidance, strength, and direction, it is likely He will reveal things to you that you otherwise wouldn’t have seen. He will give you the courage and strength you need to lead. And He will give you the wisdom and direction to make the right decisions moment by moment. When we try to serve the Lord out of our own strength, we only accomplish human-size results. But when we serve through His strength, we accomplish God-sized results. That sounds better to me. I encourage you to depend on God as you teach during VBS. Without dependence and reliance on God, nothing fruitful can be accomplished.

2. Know how to lead a child to Christ. Every church’s main goal during VBS every year should not be great numbers or even to simply have a “good VBS.” Our main goal is the salvation of souls. Through your Bible teaching and prayers, it is our hope that many children will come to Christ. Essential to this is knowing how to lead a child to Christ. This should be elementary for the Christian – every believer should know how to lead someone to Jesus. You need to know how to lead a child to Christ if they were to ask you. Chances are, you will have one or two in each class (depending on the size) who want to be saved but don’t know how. In your leader material, usually it is always emphasized that you remind your kids each day how to be saved. Speak with the child on their level and simply present the gospel. There are many helpful ways to present the gospel of Christ. The classic ABC’s of salvation are fine (Admit, Believe, and Confess). The Romans Road is a favorite (Rom. 3:23; 5:8; 6:23). I typically follow this acronym in explaining salvation to anyone of any age: R. R. R. or the 3 R’s. 1) Realize. Realize you are a sinner in need of a Savior (Rom. 3:23). Make sure the child understands they are a sinner. If they don’t understand that they are sinners, they won’t recognize their need for a Savior. 2) Repent. Repentance involves a turning away from sin towards God. The child must understand this concept of turning away from all the wrong we have done and towards God. 3) Receive. Finally, we must receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. It’s not enough to realize we are sinners and repent of our sins—we must also put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ to be saved. If you feel inadequate for this task, but a child requests to be saved, see your pastor, youth pastor, elders or deacons, but never say no.

3. Set the atmosphere. VBS is a time for kids. The usual white wall class rooms you might use for your classes are not inviting. Decorate like crazy, and make sure it follows your VBS theme. Get on Pinterest for project ideas so you don’t spend much money. Most VBS material comes with a decorating guide as well. Go as far perhaps, as dressing up to match up with the theme. Think of ideas and ways to decorate your room to look to fit the theme.

4. Study the Bible. This is perhaps the most important tip for effective teaching. In fact, teaching effectively is impossible without it. You cannot teach the Bible rightly without studying it. Studying the Bible can be compared to mining for gold. If we make little effort and merely “sift through the pebbles in a stream,” we will only find a little gold dust. But the more we make an effort to really dig into it, the more reward we will gain for our effort. “I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word” (Psalm 119:16). Study the passages of Scripture that you are to teach (should be outlined in your leader material). Teaching the Bible is a great privilege, but it does take a lot of preparation and time.

5. Review your leader book. Your leader book will tell you just about everything you need to know. It will show you how to teach the children and some helpful tips on what to say and do. Remember, you don’t have to follow the strict schedule listed in your leader book. You don’t have to do or say everything that is included in it, but only use what is best fitting for the time and atmosphere. Another thing too is the crafts. There are many crafts incorporated into the leader book that it asks you to do. If you have a craft department, as we do this year, you don’t have to do the craft in the booklet unless you feel like it would be helpful to illustrate the lesson. Use your time wisely. Review your leader book as often as you can.

6. Pray for your children. In your prayer time alone with God, pray for your children. Pray for their salvation and that they would grow in their relationship with God. Pray for them by name. If the child mentions a need to you personally, pray for that need. Pray with your children during appropriate class times as well.

7. Get to know your children. Don’t distance yourself from your children. You need to get to know them. The best thing you can learn about them is their name. But also, learn what they enjoy doing. Learn who their parents are. Learn what grade they’re in or what sport they play. Eat with them during our meal times. Play outside with them during recreation times and get involved with them during craft time. Now, it takes time for some children to warm up to you, so expect this sometimes. Even some children will not warm up to you at all. Many of them come from backgrounds where they cannot trust an adult figure. But it shows a sincere concern for the child when you speak to them on their level and attempt to get to know them. Be intentionally friendly with them, but don’t overdo it to the point where they feel awkward.

8. Use classroom discipline when necessary. There is a need in every classroom for discipline. Maybe the children are too loud and your teaching can’t be heard. Maybe one child is acting up, or maybe there is another problem. Use patience with this, for there will always be some noise—you just have to deal with it. At other times when it is inappropriate, get your other teacher to help.

9. Keep a check on registration. All churches want to follow up with the kids they have at VBS. There should be an easy-to-find registration place for the kids that attend your VBS. At registration, we learn their emergency contact info, who brought them, who their parents are, and other important information. Take note of every new child you have each day, and get them registered as well.

Advertisements

Spurgeon on Confidence in God

Once again, as I was reading Charles Spurgeon’s classic devotional, Morning and Evening, I stumbled upon a theological gold mine that I’d like to share with you:

The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me.”  (Psalm 138:8)

“Most manifestly the confidence which the Psalmist here expressed was a divine confidence. He did not say, “I have grace enough to perfect that which concerneth me—my faith is so steady that it will not stagger—my love is so warm that it will never grow cold—my resolution is so firm that nothing can move it; no, his dependence was on the Lord alone. If we indulge in any confidence which is not grounded on the Rock of ages, our confidence is worse than a dream, it will fall upon us, and cover us with its ruins, to our sorrow and confusion. All that Nature spins time will unravel, to the eternal confusion of all who are clothed therein. The Psalmist was wise, he rested upon nothing short of the Lord’s work. It is the Lord who has begun the good work within us; it is He who has carried it on; and if he does not finish it, it never will be complete. If there be one stitch in the celestial garment of our righteousness which we are to insert ourselves, then we are lost; but this is our confidence, the Lord who began will perfect. He has done it all, must do it all, and will do it all. Our confidence must not be in what we have done, nor in what we have resolved to do, but entirely in what the Lord will do. Unbelief insinuates—”You will never be able to stand. Look at the evil of your heart, you can never conquer sin; remember the sinful pleasures and temptations of the world that beset you, you will be certainly allured by them and led astray.” Ah! yes, we should indeed perish if left to our own strength. If we had alone to navigate our frail vessels over so rough a sea, we might well give up the voyage in despair; but, thanks be to God, He will perfect that which concerneth us, and bring us to the desired haven. We can never be too confident when we confide in Him alone, and never too much concerned to have such a trust.” ¹

I’ve really struggled with giving God my best in my personal life and ministry here lately. I’ve prayed, “Lord, today I’m going to get back with the program,” or “God, I just need to get back to the way things used to be.” Now while I may have good intentions, I was missing the main point the whole time. I am weak, and I always will be. God is strong and He always will be. He just calls me to be confident in Him that He will work through me and give me the strength I need to be fully obedient to Him. God will “perfect that which concerneth me.”


1. Spurgeon, Charles H. Morning and Evening (Scotland, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 1994), 304.

 

Books I’m Reading This Summer

Books function in a very interesting way. The author portrays images, settings, and plots that we can visualize as we read their words. Most of us will probably never have the privilege of talking with John Bunyan or John Piper, but we can sit down with them by reading their books. Their message can be engraved in our hearts by spending time with the books that they poured their energies into.

I think it is spiritually beneficial to read many, many books. And for those of us who love to read, we typically spend our free time in the Summer months reading. Of course, I play tennis, sweat doing yard work, plan ministry events, and other things that ministers do during the Summer. But I make it a priority to prevent myself from being so busy during the Summer that I neglect reading books. If I’m too busy to spend some time with some of the greatest authors in the literary universe, then I’m too busy. So I have a list of books I’m reading this Summer I wanted to share, and encourage you to add them to your list if you haven’t compiled a list already. Many of them I have already begun reading. So here they are:

Bunyan, John. The Pilgrim’s Progress (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2007).

I have heard this book referenced from pastors in sermons to scholars in commentaries, but I never read it. I started reading a few weeks ago, and this is a must read book for any Christian seeking to see his Christian pilgrimage in a different light. The author, John Bunyan, tells of a pilgrim named Christian on a journey to the Celestial City and all of the obstacles that he meets on the way. The theology of this book is deep. Written in 1661, Bunyan allegorically teaches the basic tenets of the Christian life by way of a pilgrim on his way to a great city, with the Lord as King. It’s a good book for college students like myself who are used to reading systematic theologies and textbooks, because it is a fiction book. It’s just a story, but it is the story of our lives as Christians, and this is easily seen from the first few sentences.

Mueller, George. Answers to Prayer (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2007).

The editor writes on the back cover, “When George Mueller could not get it out of his mind to open a house for orphans in late 1835, he purposed to do so “that God might be magnified by the fact that the orphans under my care are provided with all they need, only by prayer and faith.” George Mueller was a man of prayer and great faith.  Recorded in this book are thousands of answers to his prayers. When Mueller endeavored to open these orphan houses, he was only provided for by God and by the prayers he prayed. This book is a great encouragement to unceasing prayer.

Hamilton, James M. What is Biblical Theology? A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014).

The Bible tells one big story: God’s redemption for His people. That’s what Hamilton’s book is all about (from what I’ve read so far). In it, he provides a guide to interpreting the Bible’s clearly recognizable patterns and symbols that tells us about the big story of the Bible. There is a way that God intends for us to read the Bible, that is, in light of its big story. That’s what this book is all about: how we can read the Bible the way God intended. This book is endorsed by some of the greatest Bible teachers in our day.

Sproul, R. C. What is Reformed Theology? (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1997).

I’ve never read a book by Dr. Sproul that didn’t help me grow in my faith. I won’t write here about my struggle in my beliefs about the sovereignty of God (it’s a long story), but I have found Dr. R. C.’s teaching the most helpful on the subject. Long ago, when I fought against Calvinism and all tenets of reformed theology, I would never read anything by Sproul or any other author I suspected was reformed. But through the years, and through countless reading and study, I have come to accept reformed theology as entirely biblical. One of the books that helped me realize the truthfulness of reformed theology was Dr. Sproul’s book, Chosen by GodHe explained the grandest truths of Scripture like election, and man’s responsibility in easy-to-understand terms. Reading this book led me to desire a wider reading on the subject, so I picked up this book to read on the subject further. Now, I have tons of books on reformed theology ranging from Calvin to Horton, but I felt like Dr. Sproul is very gifted in explaining its deep content in a way where lay-readers and students can understand clearly.

Lee, Trip (William Lee Barefield, III). Rise: Get Up and Live in God’s Great Story (Nashville, TN: Nelson Books, 2015).

Trip Lee is a Christian rapper and committed follower of Jesus who has greatly impacted the lives of thousands of people. One of things you immediately recognize about him is his fervor against cultural identification and the need for standing out as a Christian. His latest album, Rise clearly reveals this. This book is the companion to that album. And the foreword is by John Piper, so you know it has to be good. It is also endorsed by a few of the greatest NFL players today.

Murray, David Philip. Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2013).

I’ll be honest: I struggle when I try to preach from the Old Testament. I simply don’t have the experience preaching in the Old Testament like I do in the New Testament. But it is my conviction that the Old Testament is just as much the Bible as the New Testament is. Paul says that “All Scripture is inspired by God,” (2 Tim. 3:16), and that includes the largest portion of the Bible: the Old Testament. The area I struggle with the most is finding out how an Old Testament narrative or prophecy relates directly to Jesus. I know that it does, for all of the Bible is Christ-centered. I just want to know how. That is why I picked up this book. From the reviews I have read, it looks like it will do the trick.

Mohler Jr., R. Albert. He is Not Silent (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2008).

Dr. Mohler has impacted my life in more ways than I can count, and especially in the area of preaching. He is one of the leading voices in the evangelical world today for the need of expository preaching in our churches. Expository preaching is proclaiming the Bible the way the authors intended for us to proclaim it. It is preaching the true meaning of biblical texts that is relevant to everyday life. From reading Mohler often, I felt I needed this book. It seems that in it, Mohler provides a theology of preaching and presents the real necessity for expository preaching in our day.

What are you reading this Summer?

War of the Soul: Introduction

In the Beginning, There Was War

Our great country was born in war and, throughout its history, war has shaped this nation. Ever since our birth we have been fighting wars for various reasons, and it has framed our government and expanded our borders. It has united us as citizens but also divided us in dissent and grief. Through the course of our existence as a nation, we have faced an enemy that we felt obligated to fight. From battling the British tyranny in the American Revolution to our current war on terrorism, we have always faced a war with a great enemy.

It true of war that you face an enemy, and to conquer it, you must have the right economic and social resources. This is an ideal image to describe the daily war that takes place in the Christian life. For Christians, there is a war going on. It is real, it is deadly, and it is costly. According to the Bible, there are three enemies that we face: Satan, the world, and our sin nature. All of which are waging an ongoing, costly, deadly war against us.

1. Satan is our enemy. Since creation, Satan has been at war with the people of God. Peter tells us to be watchful, as soldiers, on guard against him: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Contrary to many images circulating on the internet, Satan is not in an equal war against God with his soldiers, with ourselves caught in the middle. Satan is in a war against us, and he prowls around like a hungry lion, seeking someone weak, who isn’t keeping watch. He wars against us by tempting us to sin, deceiving us, and sometimes inflicting us.

2. The world is our enemy. The worldviews, desires, and influence of the world is at war against us also. The world’s ideas, desires and influence are against God and against Christians. You can see this evident more today than ever before in the history of the world. Today, the basic tenets of the Christian worldview are considered as hate-crime or arrogance. James tells us that we are to keep ourselves from being influenced by the world and associating with its worldviews and desires: “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4). Because we are different, because we are God’s people, we suffer persecution and rejection from the world because we are “not of this world” (John 17:16).

3. Our sin nature is our enemy. Satan is powerful and the world can exert a strong influence on us, but no enemy is as powerful as ourselves. The 90’s rock band Lit had it right they said, “It’s no surprise to me that I am my own worst enemy.” The Bible does warn us strongly about keeping guard against Satan and the world, as the Scriptures above testify. But no warning is as strong as the warning against our own sin nature: “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11). No other passage of Scripture is as stark in its warning. The passions of our flesh wage war against the most valuable thing we possess: our souls. 

We are all fighting a war of desire to do what God wants, and to do what we want and commit sin. In this series, we will see what we are fighting, why we are fighting, and how to battle what we are fighting. The outline of the series is as follows:

1. The Battle Within (1 Peter 2:11-12)

2. Sin’s Greatest Weapon (James 1:12-15)

3. Empowered to Fight (Gal. 5:16-18)