Behind the Scenes: VBS Preview

The following is a guest post from one of our event coordinators, Andy Dukes.  Andy got to spend some time working behind the scenes at this year’s VBS preview events!

I love events! I love the energy that events create and the excitement that events build in people who attend them. It is part of the reason I do what I do for a living. One of those events I am humbled to work on is LifeWay’s Vacation Bible School Preview Events. I am blessed to work with LifeWay’s VBS Ministry Specialist, Jerry Wooley, in pulling off these great conferences that showcase the year’s VBS theme from LifeWay. It is amazing the work that goes into pulling off a 2-day event. In fact, it takes approximately 11 months of preparation! In some ways, our team begins to dream and plan for future events before the current event is even over. We do it because it’s a part of a larger effort to make every event better than the one before.

But all of that work doesn’t just go into a single 2-day event. Our season of VBS events begins the first week of January and run through the middle of February. This past year, we had 8 total VBS events spanning 6 weeks and 4 states. In total, almost 5000 people attended a VBS event across the country. In that context, it begins to make sense how much time and energy is put into VBS Previews!

At each location, our team shows up a couple of days in advance to ultimately transform our location into a world of VBS! Teaching faculty decorate their rooms in VBS decor, we set up a bookstore, an event store, our auditorium, and our famous VBS expo where conferees can go hands-on and experience all that VBS has to offer. And we do this week after week as thousands of people come to preview what VBS will feel like, sound like, taste like, and look like!

As an Event Coordinator, it is some of the most fun work I do. Not only do we have a great team, but we know our purpose is more than just provide a fun event for people. For so many, these events are a jumping off point as they remain faithful and obedient to what the Lord has called them to do and that is make the message of Jesus Christ clear to kids in their community through VBS. It excites me that the event does not end when people leave the Preview. Instead, it is just the beginning and God takes what they learn in 2 days and transforms it into a life-changing experience for kids and adults everywhere. And that is why I do what I do.

More VBS Decorating Ideas Coming Your Way

With VBS and camps just weeks away, we have some great tips and ideas to share on tomorrow’s Kids Ministry 101 Show.

Ann Oliver, preschool ministry leader from Paris, Tennessee, will share great preschool decorating ideas and fun extras for Amazing Wonders Aviation. Mark Jones, decorator extraordinaire from Oklahoma City, has AWA site ideas for even the most artistically challenged (which includes me).

CentriKid Camp specialists Jeremy Echols and Mary Carlisle will be on hand to help you get yourself and your kids ready for camp.

Also on the show will be Brian Haynes, author of Shift: What it Takes to Finally Reach Families Today, and Scott Kindig who will present three basic strategies parents and the church need to raise radical kids.

Join us tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. Central at

We’ll be looking for you.

Door hanger Template

Hi guys, I fielded a question regarding our VBS 2013 Door hanger template that is usually online in our downloadable section of the website. Unfortunately it’s not there yet, so I wanted to post it on the blog in the meantime. :)

We changed the designed this year, so the old template will no longer work.

Here are the templates! Enjoy!



Template Instructions


Hi guys, Keith again.  I noticed a function was not working correctly on the 12_Door_Hanger_TEMPLATE_2 and so I have gone back in to fix it. If you downloaded it before today (March 6, 2012), the file will not work correctly. Thanks all!


Wow! What an amazing and awesome weekend of VBS Previews we had at LifeWay January 26 – 28. Over 1600 enthusiastically over-the-top VBS fans brought the energy level of Nashville to an all time high!

Several years ago I gathered groups of people together in Nashville, Houston, and Oklahoma City with the mission of discovering what brings people back to VBS training events. We know that getting people to attend the first time takes a lot of work, but it takes even more work to get them to return the next year. We wanted to know the key element (ingredient, activity) that turns a casual attendee into a fan that will return year after year after year.

The single element that emerged from all three groups was “WOW!” People want to experience wow. People want to be wowed. People want to tell their friends about the wow.

You might be wondering what creates the “wow” moment of a VBS training or Preview event? There is no easy or single answer. Every person who attends might possible be wowed by something different. For some it is a confetti cannon unexpectedly shooting off streamers at the end of a song. For someone else it is the content or presenter of a specific breakout session. For still others the wow moment is created by the sheer numbers of people and energy of the crowd.

Wow comes from the unexpected. You know you have created “wow” when an attendees parting words are, “This event was so much more than I expected.”

State and associational VBS leaders across the country are getting ready to provide regional and local VBS training events in the next four months. I’m often asked what it takes to get people to attend these event. While not a simple question to answer, we know part of the answer is Wow!

When people give up a Tuesday evening or Saturday morning to attend VBS training they are hoping (actually expecting) to be encouraged, challenged, inspired – in short, WOWED. People are not looking for someone to read the leader guide to them. Most are not even looking for someone to tell them how to conduct a Vacation Bible School.

People want to know what they can do to make their VBS or class stand out from the rest. They want to know the short cuts, the success stories, and the out-of-the-box ideas others have tried. People want to be encouraged, challenged, inspired – in short, WOWED!

If you are a VBS leader preparing to train others make sure you include the unexpected. Make sure you include the WOW!

Geek of the Week – X2!

Hey guys. Gordon here. This is not just another Geek of the Week. It’s actually two – three to be more exact! I met Melissa, Laura, and Georgina (Melissa’s Mom) at VBS Preview in Ridgecrest. Within moments of meeting them, it was clear. I was in the presence of future candidates for VBS Geek of the Week! So, it is with great appreciation we, the VBS team, bestow not one, not two, but three “Geek of the Week” awards to Melissa Lasseter, Laura Miller, and Georgina Watkins, aka “Mom”!

Melissa, Laura, and Georgina (aka Melissa's Mom) flying high at Ridgecrest Preview!

1. What is your geekiest VBS moment? [re: Melissa] “My first VBS announcement (for Saddle Ridge Ranch) caused quite a scene. I was so nervous! Dressed as a cowgirl with a pink cowboy hat and boots, I interrupted a deacon giving announcements in church that Sunday morning. His surprise was genuine! The congregation loved it and looks forward to the skits each year!

[re: Laura] One Saturday afternoon, Laura and I (Melissa) were out shopping for VBS decorating supplies. While driving down my street, Laura spotted a neighbor’s trash pile with a bunk bed thrown on top. She slammed on the brakes, threw the car in reverse and backed up claiming that she found the covered wagon! We spoke to the neighbor and the bunk bed ours. It weighed a ton so we recruited my husband to load it up. After some work, it became a fabulous Saddle Ridge Ranch covered wagon!  So, we are not above trash picking to find great props.

[re: 2011 January Preview in Ridgecrest] 9 women + 2 cars (caravan/road trip from Florida to Ridgecrest) + lots of snow and ice + 7 degree weather (“NOT FUNNY for a bunch of Miami girls!) = one great experience and mega excitement.

[re: registration for Previews] While in the middle of our VBS 2011, we made an appointment to watch the 2012 web launch. We registered for BOTH the January Preview AND the Kissimmee Preview!

[re: Laura] Laura squeals and does “The Happy Dance” in the middle of the office while opening supplies for VBS like brand new boxes of markers! It’s all for the cause!

[re: Mom] “I’m just along for the ride!”

2. The back story, how they met, what’s their VBS working relationship: April, 2010 was a defining moment for Laura Miller. Long story short and amid circumstances beyond her control, Laura found herself facing a giant – her struggling church as well as the surrounding community were counting on Miami Shores Baptist Church to conduct their annual VBS. On top of that, it was only 2 months away. Laura had taught VBS but never directed VBS.

Unwilling to give up, Laura invited Melissa to drop by her place of business where she told her the whole story. Since Laura hadn’t directed VBS before and Melissa had it seemed clear what had to be done…Melissa had to be the one in charge! Laura promised to be there every step of the way – she would be Melissa’s right and left arms!

Melissa, though surprised by the request, accepted the challenge. With the decision made, the pair headed to lunch, where Melissa discovered that Laura had stashed the Saddle Ridge Ranch Super Sampler in her car in the hopes that Melissa would say YES and take the it from her. Brilliant!

With lots of prayer and optimism, the struggling church rallied and gathered 117 children for VBS! 11 of them accepted Christ as their Savior! The Lord took care of obstacles and cleared paths. They work together like a well-oiled machine – their strengths and weaknesses complement each other!

Saddle Ridge Ranch at Miami Shores Baptist Church

PS – to sum it all up – their working relationship amounts to: Melissa was officially voted on, Laura doesn’t let her forget it and (to quote) “We haven’t had this much fun working this hard in a long time!”

3. What’s your favorite part of VBS? We love every part of VBS! We love the planning, the decorating, the announcements, and the stress of getting things done!

[Melissa] I have come to love Friday Night Family Night.  I would attend in the past, but I was not a fan of the chaos, etc. One of my favorite parts is watching the children learn the music and motions. When they understand the meaning of the words and how the motions fit in with them – it makes me so happy.

[Laura] My favorite part is that the church voted on Melissa!

[Mom] I’m just along for the ride!

4. Why do you do VBS? Because we CAN’T NOT do it. How can we not share Jesus with the community and our church? How can we not give the children the opportunity to hear and experience the Good News? How can we not open the doors to our church and welcome the neighborhood kids? How can we not fulfill the Great Commission? How can we NOT? The song from Big Apple Adventure “I Will…” summed it up for Melissa!

There’s more to this story but we’re going to save it for another time. You’ve gotta hear how this team made their way to Ridgecrest from their home in sunny Florida. See ya’ll in Orlando!

Foto Friday. . .Preview Photos!

Wow! I can’t believe we have already finished 2 VBS Preview events (Ridgecrest & Ft. Worth)! We (the VBS Team) actually have a week off. . .not from work though. . .we are working on VBS 2013 right now! I can’t say what it is yet. :P

We have a week to rest up before setting up and hosting the Nashville VBS Preview. There is still a little room for the Thursday/Friday Preview (Jan 27-28).

We also have room for the Kissimmee, FL Preview (Feb 17-18), SO COME ON DOWN! Or come on up. . .if you live south of Kissimmee! lol! It should be nice and sunny! (actually I don’t know that) :P

If you come down to Kissimmee, I’ll tell you a joke that my 4 year old daughter told me! It’s funny!

Today on Foto Friday, I wanted to share just some random photos from the Ridgecrest and Ft. Worth events.

I just flew in and. . .(my arms are not tired!) :P

Great Bible overview Melita!

I don't remember their names but they had me laughing SO HARD!

GREAT t-shirt! ! !

Um, I think the flight is full! :P

These kids were great! Love the hats!

I’ve had people ask and yes, you CAN purchase our Super Sized Hangar Backdrop artwork and then send it to a sign company to print larger!

There's always one on the flight! :D

Gordon is flying Stand-By!

Jerry delivering the message. Thanks Jerry!

***We have several people about the “how-to” instructions for the foam airplane in the photos. We created that for the events, so the instructions are not readily available but we are going to work up a blog post on the “how-to” instructions and get them to you!***

VBS Community Online Live – Week 2

During the Fort Worth VBS Preview last week, a group of VBS leaders worked together to make the Idea Banks of LifeWay’s VBS Community come to life. Here are just a few of the many great ideas:

Follow Up

In addition to Family Night during the week of VBS, host a VBS Celebration Night a few weeks later as the first step in a series of events designed to provide continued connection with unchurched families.

End of Day Dismissal

Create a Parent Lounge and encourage parents to arrive a few minutes early for refreshments and a chance to meet other parents and church staff.

Create numbered boarding gates. Give parent and child a corresponding number and let them both know they can meet at their specified boarding gate.

I’ll share additional ideas next Tuesday. Until then check out and join the Community.