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Lifeway helps churches prepare early for VBS

VBS Preview attendees learn the music and motions for “Breaker Rock Beach” at the 2024 Houston VBS Preview, January 12-13, at Sugar Creek Baptist Church in Sugar Land, Texas. | Photo by Lifeway Kids

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. — As churches across the country are thinking about this year’s ministry opportunities, many of them are setting aside time during the early months to plan for VBS this summer. Lifeway provides training and encouragement for church leaders and volunteers because VBS makes a difference for kids, families, communities, churches and the world.

“When I was in elementary school, an elderly woman invited a group of children into her home to celebrate Jesus’s birthday,” said Lifeway President and CEO Ben Mandrell. “We ate cake in His honor, and she presented the plan of salvation. As John Wesley said, my heart was ‘strangely warmed,’ and I gave my life to Christ. The direction of my life was immediately altered. VBS is one of the best outreach opportunities for churches. It provides a fork in the road for children all over the world — many of whom will hear the Gospel for the first time this summer at VBS.”

This summer, kids and families who wouldn’t regularly enter church doors will be encountering Jesus through VBS. Lifeway Research found 6 in 10 Americans say they went to VBS growing up. Today, nearly 7 in 10 parents (69 percent) say they would encourage their child to attend VBS at a church they don’t attend if a friend invited them. Most American adults who attended VBS as children say they have positive memories of VBS and that it helped them understand the Bible better and positively influenced their spiritual growth.

Breaker Rock Beach

Chuck Peters, director of Lifeway Kids, said recent research from Lifeway in Flip the Script: Disrupting Tradition for the Sake of the Next Generation had a strong influence on this year’s VBS theme – “Breaker Rock Beach.”

“The research and data we found about the deep need that kids have for belonging and the big search, the quest they’re on to find identity are things we need to speak to everywhere,” Peters said. “VBS is a place where we want kids to find belonging in the church and their identity in Christ. The theme this year is informed by the research we’ve done to help us understand Gen Z and Generation Alpha and their unique needs.”

The biblical lessons in “Breaker Rock Beach” flow from the motto “God’s truth never changes!” and the theme verse, Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” (CSB).

Peters said each day of this year’s VBS is designed to help kids identify the partial truths they see in the world around them and contrast what the world says with the unchanging truth found in God’s Word.

“It’s straight up speaking to the culture and what kids are hearing at school and wherever they are,” Peters said. “It compares what kids have heard in the world and in the culture to what God says is true.”

Mandrell said each element of VBS is carefully crafted.

“I’m so proud of the work our Lifeway Kids Team does to create an incredible VBS experience for churches every year — and ‘Breaker Rock Beach’ is no exception,” he said. “I love the care and intentionality they put into every game, song, craft and Bible lesson so kids can learn more about Jesus.”

Preparing for what matters

Lifeway scheduled four VBS Preview events for January. Each preview event includes both English and Spanish breakout sessions to provide ministry leaders with valuable training and resources that build momentum and excitement for “Breaker Rock Beach” VBS.

“Churches are coming back to VBS,” Peters said. “It’s been a slow return since COVID, but more churches bringing more people to VBS Previews is a great sign that VBS is not only alive but continuing to grow and thrive.”

At the events, leaders get to experience what a worship rally and family night can look like, learn VBS music, preview videos, dig into resources, hone their skills as a teacher or director, bond with their team and network with other VBS leaders.

“We know from church reporting data that for every VBS leader trained there are 1.1 salvation decisions,” said Melita Thomas, Lifeway’s VBS specialist. “So, attending a VBS training is critically important for your team. It helps everyone understand how their role at VBS is part of an intentional strategy to make the Gospel clear and plain for boys and girls.”

Through main sessions and breakouts, VBS experts train VBS teams with the tools they need, including helps for developing classroom skills, providing a safe environment for kids and recruiting and mentoring new leaders.

“VBS Preview helps your leaders ‘catch the vision’ and understand the why behind what we do at VBS,” Thomas said. Lifeway also provides a VBS devotional for leaders and volunteers as they prepare their own hearts for a week of VBS.

Peters said that’s why training that happens as early as January sets churches up for success in the summer.

“We would love for every church to have an opportunity to attend a VBS Preview,” Peters said. “And if they didn’t this year, they need to put it on the calendar for next year.”

Training and tools

Alongside the VBS curriculum now available, Lifeway offers free training and tools for leaders to utilize leading up to their church’s VBS, including the “Breaker Rock Beach” music available on every streaming platform.

“We use our songs to teach the biblical content with the theme each day,” Peters said. “That’s a great way for leaders to get familiar with the music ahead of time and even for kids and families to listen to it leading up to the summer.”

For more information about Lifeway’s 2024 VBS, visit Lifeway.com/VBS.


Marissa Postell Sullivan is a writer for Lifeway Christian Resources.