Jerry Wooley, VBS specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources, described VBS previews as "great moments of bringing people together from all across the country" to build momentum for this summer's outreach.
"We host classes on crafts. We sing all the music. We teach high-tech and low-budget decorations and we look at the Bible content," Wooley said. "We do everything in VBS in a compact 24-hour period."
This year's VBS theme is drawn from Psalm 147:5: "Our Lord is great, vast in power; His understanding is infinite" (HCSB). The curriculum uses 1930s and 1940s aviation to help VBS participants encounter God and His power by exploring some of the world's greatest natural wonders.
VBS 2012 will immerse participants in daily worship before sending them on a make-believe journey from the Amazing Wonders Aviation airstrip to such wonders as the Grand Canyon in Arizona, Victoria Falls in Africa, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps, the polar Northern Lights and Paricutin volcano in Mexico.
In addition to learning of God's power in nature, VBS participants will learn of His power over sin, death and life by exploring Bible stories with similar themes and lessons, with Wooley noting, "We want everyone who attends VBS to know the power of our awesome God."
PRAYER & VBS
During the VBS preview at LifeWay's home office in Nashville, Tenn., discussion leaders encouraged attendees to pray that VBS students will personally experience God's power.
Cindi White, minister of preschoolers at First Baptist Church in Smyrna, Ga., who has been a part of VBS at the local church level for 15 years, said she was pleased with the prayer aspect of the preview.
Describing prayer as foundational to VBS success, White said, "We should be praying first and foremost for the children. God already knows who is coming to our Vacation Bible School. We need to bathe them in prayer."
Dawn Tucker, early childhood minister at CrossPoint church (SBC) in Trussville, Ala., and a first-time preview attendee, said she "especially loved the information about the prayer guides and brochures" which gave prayer helps for before, during and after VBS.
"We can give these to the parents, teachers and volunteers to encourage them to participate by praying," Tucker said. "If we don't emphasize prayer, then our volunteers may run the risk of just going through their checklist of things to do for that day."
Additional 2012 VBS preview events were held at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina, Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, and First Baptist Church in Kissimmee, Fla.
PASTORS & VBS
In his session titled "Pastoral Leadership During VBS," Mike Smith, LifeWay's leadership and evangelism specialist, exchanged creative ideas for increasing prayer for VBS sessions, such as giving prayer lists to homebound church members, hosting a prayer room each Wednesday night leading up to VBS, and writing workers' names on rubber band bracelets as prayer reminders.
Smith's session also touched on how pastors can encourage and enhance their churches' VBS through intentional participation.
"Pastors can be great cheerleaders for VBS," Smith said. "It's so crucial that pastors be team players. Interact with those kids. You will learn things about the kids, and they will learn things about you and the church.
"Once you've interacted and gotten to know some things about the kids, then you can intercede and pray more specifically for them," Smith said.
ETERNITY & VBS
"VBS is worth it," Smith said. "Because of VBS, eternity is going to be changed. Kids' lives are going to be changed. Families are going to be changed."
Rhonda VanCleave, LifeWay's VBS editorial project leader, said VBS continues to be "the flagship event for many churches across the country. about 25 percent of reported baptisms are a direct result of VBS."
In 2010 (the latest figures available), more than 25,000 churches hosted VBS, enrolling more than 2.8 million children, students and adults. More than 88,000 people made professions of faith in Christ.
SLAUGHTER & VBS
Jeff Slaughter this year ends his journey with Lifeway's VBS team after 17 years of writing, traveling, performing and teaching the curriculum.
"For the past 17 years, millions of children and families through VBS have benefitted from a talented and enthusiastic music minister whose name is synonymous with VBS," Wooley said. "Jeff's contribution has helped shape VBS as it is known today."
Wooley presented Slaughter a framed plaque signed by many of his music ministry co-workers and containing logos of all of the VBS themes to which Slaughter has contributed. During his VBS career, Slaughter produced more than 22 themes and 133 songs.
"The VBS team appreciates Jeff. God has not only used Jeff to impact the lives of millions, but he has impacted each of us here at LifeWay," Wooley said. " music has reached into the hearts of kids and the motions he choreographed have helped the lyrics become personal and the message of Christ memorable."
Slaughter will continue as a creative team member of LifeWay's CentriKids camps and a writer for the LifeWay Worship music area.
Jon D. Wilke is media relations manager for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net