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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.

New Year’s Eve: Reflection and Anticipation

The following message was delivered at Ohio Valley Baptist Church, December 31, 2014:

God is the giver of many wonderful new things.

He gives us a new birth (John 3:3), He gives us a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26), a new life (2 Cor. 5:17), a new hope (Rom. 5:2), and a new task (Matt. 28:19-20). Finally, when our heart has beat its last, He will give us a new body in a new home called heaven. In fact, God says “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev. 21:5).

And now, for those of us here tonight, God has given us another new year. Tonight contains an opportunity that never comes again until another year has passed us by.

There are two main things that happen tonight that normally do not happen any other time during the whole year: reflection, and anticipation. Reflection occurs as we think about our year’s past; Anticipation occurs as we think about our new year’s future.

I would like us to turn to a text in Scripture where this phenomenon takes place. A passage of Scripture that describes this idea of reflection and anticipation.

There was someone in the Bible who reflected on not just his past year, but his past few years and they were very dark—very full of sorrow. In fact, it was the worst few years he had probably ever seen. This person was Jeremiah, and he pens a 5 chapter book, lamenting and sorrowing over what had happened to the nation of Israel.

Israel was in some deep sin, and God sent Jeremiah the prophet to them to call them back to Him in hopes that they would repent and remain faithful to God again. However, Israel did not heed the warnings of Jeremiah to repent and turn to the Lord, so they were destroyed by Babylon. Jeremiah writes the results of this destruction in the book of Lamentations.

But as he describes Israel’s death, their starvation, and their weeping—he pens something that shines brightly, like a brilliant light in a dark, wet, solitary cave; and tells us something about reflecting on the past, and anticipating, looking forward to the future:

“21 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Jeremiah 3:21-23, ESV)

I. Jeremiah Reflects and Anticipates

In v. 21, it is easy to see that two things are taking place: Jeremiah is remembering, and Jeremiah is anticipating.

Notice that he is reflecting/remembering: “But this I call to mind.” He is remembering something—that’s what he means by “this I call to mind.” When something is called to your mind, it is brought to your attention again.

Notice also, that he is anticipating: “and therefore I have hope.” Hope is always for the future—hope is what we need for the future; for the future, unlike the past, is not fixed. Things happen in the future that are unexpected because they are in the future—which we do not know.

II. The Object of Reflection and Anticipation: God’s Faithfulness

So Jeremiah is reflecting on the past, and what he remembers is what gives him hope for the future. But what is it that he is reflecting and remembering? And what is it that gives him hope for the future? Well it isn’t difficult to find the answer if you look at what he says next: “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (v. 22-23).

Jeremiah had seen the destruction of Israel—he had seen the families who were killed, the people who had been starved, and their weeping and affliction—but in light of that, Jeremiah had hope for the future: God was a faithful, loving, merciful, covenant God. He writes about four truths that give him hope for the future:

1. Jeremiah says that God’s love never ceases. His love doesn’t end because your love for Him isn’t what it should be—God’s love never quits or gives up—that’s one thing that gave Jeremiah hope for the coming days and years.

2. Jeremiah says that God’s mercies never come to an end. God’s compassion and forgiveness never runs out—God’s mercy is not measured by some amount, in fact, it cannot be measured. Everything else can be measured; you can measure lifespan, temperature, blood cell count, distances, time, etc. It’s not that God’s mercy can’t be measured because it doesn’t exist, but it cannot be measured because it has no beginning and end.

3. Jeremiah says that God’s mercies are new every morning. He makes a comparison—just as each day presents new opportunities, so every day is an opportunity to experience the grace of God—and this grace will always be there, just as the sun rises every day to usher in a new day—so God’s grace will always be there, and you can trust it just as you trust the sun to rise.

4. Jeremiah says that God’s faithfulness is great. This is a summary statement to everything he has said about God’s love and mercies—“great is your faithfulness.” God’s faithfulness and promise-keeping remain intact no matter what happens.

III. Our Reflection and Anticipation

We are now reflecting on our past year—we are thinking about all the troubles we had been through—how we didn’t expect them to happen.

We are reflecting on our failures and sins that we struggled with this past year—and how we wish we could go back in time and rewrite our history. We are reflecting on the past New Year’s Resolutions that faded out within the first two months, and we regret that. But according to the Bible, if we want true hope for the future, and power to fulfill our New Year’s resolutions, we need to be reflecting on the faithfulness of God to us in the past year.

Name one time God failed you this past year—can’t do it; because He never failed. God kept every promise to you this past year—He has sustained you and brought you through all of our failures and all of your difficulties and trials you endured this past year. Something that should boil up praise in every Christian is reflection on the faithfulness of God in the past.

Are you pondering, as Jeremiah did, on God’s faithfulness in the past? In what ways did God prove His faithfulness to you this past year?

Not only are we reflecting on our past year, but we are anticipating the one to come. We are anticipating new goals to be fulfilled. We call those New Year’s resolutions, sometimes we even pray for God’s help in fulfilling those resolutions—I read a prayer once about someone who wanted God’s help in fulfilling their resolutions: “Dear God, my prayer for 2015 is a FAT bank account and a THIN body. Please don’t mix it up like you did this year.”

But we are anticipating new opportunities, new relationships, new ministry opportunities, and so many things. But like Jeremiah, we need to anticipate God’s faithfulness in the future. It is always a challenge to trust God for the future, because we don’t know the future. But that’s the awesome thing about God—He knows the future; and calls us to trust Him as a loving Father with our futures. With a new year comes new problems. New difficulties. New troubles. Things that are going to happen to us that we never could’ve imagined on this night. But we need to put our trust now, daily, and throughout the year, in the One who knows our lives (including our futures) from beginning to end. Are you trusting God for the future now? When you think about the new problems you will face—and when they come your way, say with Jeremiah, “This I call to mind, therefore I have hope.”

Conclusion

The hymnist, Frances Havergal penned these words in 1874:

“Another year is dawning;

Dear Father, let it be,

In working or in waiting,

Another year with Thee;

Another year of progress,

Another year of praise,

Another year of proving Thy presence all the days.”¹

As we celebrate a new year, let us reflect on God’s faithfulness in the past, and anticipate God’s faithfulness for the upcoming year as we trust Him for whatever we may encounter.


1. Adapted from Robert J. Morgan’s, Preacher’s Sourcebook of Creative Sermon Illustrations, Another Year is Dawning (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007), 587.