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Churches get creative with VBS, report record number of decisions

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Richard Kirk has a suggestion for a course offering at Southern Baptist seminaries: Vacation Bible School Survival 101.
Kirk, minister of education at First Baptist Church, Bothell, Wash., literally went “above and beyond” the call of duty recently to add excitement to his congregation’s VBS. The church used materials published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention which were built around a mountain climbing/adventure theme.
A member of Kirk’s church works for the rescue unit of the Seattle Fire Department. He rigged cables from a tent hanging in the air at the top of the church’s balcony to the front of the auditorium. When it came time for the VBS pledges, Kirk came out of the tent yelling, “Don’t start without me; I’m coming down from the mountain,” and was lowered to the floor.
“I led the pledges in the harness and helmet,” Kirk said in an e-mail to a LifeWay consultant. “It was a riot. Then our music minister came down the same way, playing the theme song on his guitar. … I think they should offer VBS survival classes in seminary.”
That’s just one example of the creative ways Southern Baptist churches are carrying out LifeWay’s 1999 VBS theme, “Mt. Extreme: The Ultimate Good News Challenge” this summer. Many are reporting record numbers in both enrollment and professions of faith.
More than 900 children attended VBS at Bear Creek Baptist Church in Houston. Minister of education Omar Garcia reported the church held one VBS in the morning and another in the afternoon, reaching a different group of kids each session.
“We had over 200 faculty and 90 percent of our teachers taught both sessions,” Garcia said. “Another group of volunteers took the children of our teachers on field trips in the afternoon, so they could be free to teach. It was really a team effort.”
Linda Hall, director of Bear Creek’s VBS, got the leaders and kids “totally immersed in the Mt. Extreme experience,” Garcia recounted. “We had rooms decorated from floor to ceiling and stations with everything from a mountain biking area to a snow scene where kids had to wear snow shoes and ‘ski’ across a floor of white packing ‘peanuts.’
“It was a lot of fun, but it had a serious point, too. Everything reinforced the Bible stories.”
Garcia said 89 professions of faith were recorded during Bear Creek’s VBS, adding contact was made with 200 unchurched families in the community. The church delivers a follow-up package to each family, including information about its children’s ministry, a needs survey and fun stuff for the kids.
“For families that are concerned about having a quality experience for their children, there’s nothing better than VBS,” Garcia said. “And it’s an incredible evangelistic tool, too. We’ve found it’s a great vehicle for getting the gospel into the homes of unchurched boomers and busters in our community.”
First Baptist Church of McAllen, Texas, broke its all-time enrollment record with 840 kids registered in its VBS this summer. More importantly, 54 decisions for Christ were reported during the week.
VBS director Becky Richardson said the church had good luck with a van route which picked up kids from several nearby elementary schools. Other vehicles used to attract children included a 25-foot high inflatable (and climbable) mountain, an obstacle course and moon walk.
The church also gave away mountain bikes to the boy and girl who brought the most friends with them to VBS. (The winning girl brought 20.) In addition, about 400 pounds of coins were collected from kids during the week for a missions offering. The money, which is still being counted, will be used to sponsor a Vacation Bible School in Africa.
Members at Park Place Baptist, an inner-city church in Houston, used scaffolding and paper to create a 35-foot peak in its sanctuary.
“Houston isn’t exactly known for mountains, so we built our own,” Jerry Wooley, minister of education at the church, joked. “Each night, the pastor spoke from a different level. It was a fun theme.”
Park Place offered VBS for all age groups, preschool to adults. Wooley said 371 people attended and 15 made professions of faith.
“It’s really our primary outreach event of the year,” he said. “We gain several hundred prospects through VBS.”
According to other VBS reports received by LifeWay:
— First Baptist Church, Jonesboro, Ga., enrolled 742 children, its highest total in years. Twenty-two children accepted Christ.
“Our buildings were transformed into mountainsides and streams and campsites,” Debra Neyland, minister to children, said. “The theme created so much excitement and enthusiasm in our children and staff. Our attendance went up every day.”
— 400 children attended VBS at First Baptist Church of Pelham, Ala., near Birmingham. According to pastor Mike Shaw, 66 spiritual decisions were reported during the week, including 50 professions of faith. “It was our best Bible school ever,” he said. “We had people getting saved before we even got around to giving an invitation.”
— 576 kids enrolled at VBS at The Jersey Baptist Church in Pataskala, Ohio. According to director Thomas J. Cook, 27 spiritual decisions were made and 80 prospects were discovered during the week. In addition, 27 people from the church traveled to Thailand in June to conduct a “Mt. Extreme” VBS for the children of International Mission Board missionaries.
— Vacation Bible School isn’t just for kids anymore. Residents at Oklahoma City’s Baptist Retirement Center also participated in a “Mt. Extreme” experience. In addition to crafts, music and Bible study, residents also enjoyed a picnic and helped put clothes in order and sort medications at the local Baptist Mission Center.
Another popular feature of LifeWay’s ’99 VBS materials is its accompanying Internet web site, located at www.lifeway.com/yourvbs. Jim Johnston, development specialist in the agency’s marketing planning department, reported thousands of people from around the world have visited the site which includes everything from helpful VBS articles and ideas to downloadable clip art and PowerPoint presentations. An interactive area also allows customers to ask questions of LifeWay editors.
Johnston said the site will be updated Sept. 1 with LifeWay’s VBS theme for the year 2000.

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  • Chip Alford