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Raising the Next Generation of Leaders

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My first church leadership position was as a student crew leader at a VBS a small church in Northern California nearly 15 years ago.  You might not think of a student crew leader at a VBS as someone on your church leadership team, but that church did.  I still remember hearing the pastor tell us that we were on the church staff for the week of VBS and that we needed to live into that reality.

It was a HUGE responsibility… and, looking back, it was my first step toward a career in vocational ministry.

I think of that summer every time that I look at pictures like the ones above.  You see, each year I give that same talk to our group of student leaders at VBS.  And, each year, that group grows.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence.

This last July, I sat in a room with 300 student leaders, preparing them for their 2 week commitment to VBS at Glenkirk.  For many, it was their first time attending our week-long training session for Student VBS leaders.  Many had once been children jumping on the pews during opening VBS worship, some were simply youth in our community looking to make a difference in the world around them – all of them were joining the ranks of our church staff for the better part of a month.  They were given the chance to live up to great expectations and to share God’s love with the kids who would be entrusted to their care.

As I watch many of them taking on greater leadership roles in the church (we have students serving on worship teams, leading kids’ ministry, on our church’s finance committee, leading mission trips and serving in countless other areas), I can’t help but dream about the next generation of leaders that God is raising up in our midst.

This past weekend, students who were once just VBS counselors were leading our church’s largest kids’ ministry service while I spoke in a different location on campus.  Without a single paid staff person around, that service had one of its highest attended Sundays in its history… and it didn’t miss a beat.   When we look to duplicate ourselves in ministry, I think the wise investment is often found when we pour our lives and energy into equipping our youth with the tools and knowledge it takes to make ministry happen.

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2010 in Kidmin

 

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The Big Announcement… a year in advance!

How far out do you advertise dates for your large events?

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From Glenkirk Church‘s Website:

This year’s VBS was the largest in our church’s history!

Over 600 children and 300 Jr. and Sr. High leaders spent a week on our campus for a life-changing time of Interactive Bible Stories, Daily Crafts, Mega Fantastic Games, a LIVE Worship Band and Waterslides! This year’s theme was Crocodile Dock, where Fearless Kids Shine God’s Light!
More than 150 children committed their lives to Jesus… a number that far surpassed even our biggest prayers!

For information regarding this year’s VBS Reunion, click HERE!

We are proud to announce that this year’s mission project, “Peanut Butter Jelly Time” brought in more than 1,000 jars of peanut butter and jelly for families served by Glendora’s Shepherd’s Pantry.

For more info email us: kids@glenkirkchurch.org or 626-914-4833 x122.

Do you miss hearing this year’s Superhero song?

Do you want to hear it again so you can practice your Superman pose before VBS next year?

Download it here!

Superhero.mp3 (right click and choose “save as” to download this song)

This live recording is from our closing ceremonies on Friday, July 18, 2008.

Glenkirk’s VBS dates for next year:

July 12-16, 2010

Mark your calendar NOW!

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In our community, people plan their vacations long before they take them.  To give our families an event’s dates a year in advance equips them to invite their friends while the excitement of this year’s event is fresh in their minds.

Is a year too much time between an announcement and the actual event?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section!

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2009 in Kidmin, Los Angeles

 

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Pictures from Crocodile Dock: Day 1

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Today was a good day.

Tomorrow will be better.
(pictures courtesy of “Doc” Riggs)

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2009 in Kidmin, Los Angeles

 

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What it takes to be a Leader

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Our youth leaders don’t have one look to them.  They might be jocks and cheerleaders from the local high school across the street. Some are youth group junkies from our church’s ministries or elsewhere in town. Others are lonely kids who need to be somewhere where people love them.

Our VBS is as much a ministry to the youth leaders who run the camp as it is to the campers.
We believe this with all of our hearts – which is why we have no faith restrictions when is comes to kids who want to serve on our leadership team for VBS.

You may think we’re crazy for doing this.  Let me walk you through our process… and let’s see if you call us “crazy” on the other side.

STEP ONE: JOB PLACEMENT

During the application process, students fill out what is essentially a full job application in order to be considered for a position on our VBS team.

On that form, applicants list, among other things, their home church (if applicable), whether or not they have a personal relationship with Jesus, they must then describe that relationship, and they list an adult as a reference.

From there, we sort our LEADERSHIP kids in the following way:

To be a Crew Leader (lead a group of 8-12 children and coach a crew of 1 Co-Leader and 4-6 Crew Assistants) – the student must list a home church that our children’s ministry director (currently myself) has a relationship/partnership with. The student must indicate that they have a personal relationship with Jesus.  The student must be able to articulate a statement of faith.

To be a Crew Co-Leader (help coach a crew of 4-6 Crew Assistants) – the student must list a home church that our children’s ministry director (currently myself) has a relationship/partnership with. The student must indicate that they have a personal relationship with Jesus.  The student’s reference must be able to easily confirm that the student has placed his/her faith in Jesus.

We try to make sure that every VBS team has at least 1 Crew Leader and 1 Crew Co-Leader.  These are the leaders that are appointed to answer questions children may have about Jesus during the week and they are the first responders during the time when children are given a chance to give their lives to Jesus on the 4th day of camp.

Here is how we sort our ASSISTANT kids:

To be a Crew Assistant (provide oversight for 2 children. makes sure child is engaged and having fun) – The student must indicate that they have a personal relationship with Jesus.

To be a Crew Buddy (travel with group during rotations. in charge of head counts. helps decorate classrooms and campus) – Turn in a completed application.  Shows interest in working with children. Has a friend in the crew who is an Assistant, Co-Lead, or Lead.

To be a Rotation Buddy (assist rotation leaders) – Turn in a completed application.  Does not work well unsupervised.  Great worker if given direction from an adult.

To be on the Facilities Crew (assists facilities team) – Turn in a completed application.  Does not fit any other position.

STEP TWO: TRAINING

We spend 20+ hours training our youth leaders to ensure that every leader knows our policies and procedures as they relate to children on our campus.
To see what this training entails, read this post.

During training, our primary goals this year shifted from policy education and campus decoration to a focus on spiritual development of our leaders.  We wanted leaders who already had a relationship with Jesus to go into the next week EXCITED about their faith.  We wanted every leader who did not have a relationship with Jesus to go into next week WITH a relationship with Jesus.

STEP THREE: ACCOUNTABILITY

All along the way, there is a person directly in charge of each youth leader.  We try to avoid putting our youth in situations where they can fail.  Ultimately, the success of each youth leader is something that my VBS coordinator and I are directly accountable for.  We believe that with proper training, lots of prayer, and a structure of accountability, that our camp can be successfully run by students who may or may not have a personal relationship with Jesus.
Our Basic Structure is: Children’s Ministry Director -> VBS Coordinator -> Adult Rotation Leaders -> Crew Leader -> Crew Co-Leader -> Crew Assistant -> 2 Assigned Campers.

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I understand that not everyone will agree with the way we do things.
Every year, we have parents who initially push us on the fact that we have youth leaders at camp who may or may not have a relationship with Christ.
But, quite honestly, I think it’s one of the best things we do.

I think that the 29 counselors who accepted Jesus as their savior during training this year would agree.

Agree with what we do? Disagree?
Share your thoughts in the comments section!

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2009 in Kidmin, Los Angeles, Orange

 

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The Calm before the Storm

Tomorrow we launch the largest Vacation Bible School in the history of our church.

We spent no money on advertising this year.

We didn’t put a banner out on the corner of our property with dates and times of our event.

We’re seeing a 20% increase in registration over last year… which was a 20% increase over the year before.

Our student leaders, youth in the 6th-12th grade, have doubled in size over the last two years. (you can follow their journey here)

This year, we’ve added an adult prayer team that has been praying for our event over the last month and will continue to do so as the week continues.

Our prayer team will be offering classes during camp to teach parents how to pray for their children.

Nearly 30% of the kids who’ve signed up to spend the week with us, leaders included, have no church affiliation.

During our 20+ hours of volunteer training leading up to the event, 29 student leaders accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Another 150 recommitted their lives to serving Him.

I’ll now spend the next 24 hours praying that I don’t get in God’s way this week.
It should be a blast.

We welcome your prayers as well.

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2009 in Kidmin, Los Angeles

 

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VBS Training Recap

We rely heavily on youth leaders (Jr. and Sr. high students) to run our church’s annual Vacation Bible School. As a team, this is our third attempt at putting together the best program possible… and we’ve made some pretty serious changes over these last years.
Here’s our basic training schedule for the week before our event:

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Monday: Adult leader training.
2 hours of walking adults through their roles for the week. Mostly Preschool Leaders (our preschool VBS program has an adult lead for every group) attend this event.  We want the adults on our campus to have a consistant voice as they interact with student leaders, children, and parents during the week.  This training session helps us all get on the same page.

Tuesday: 2 training events.
We split up our Jr. High and Sr. High leaders for training on this day.
For three hours each, we go over procedures with our students and drill into their heads their responsibilities for the next week. Every leader should know what we’re doing in the event of an emergency.  Every leader should know the system we use to color code our campus during VBS.  Jr. Highers should know that they’re primary responsibility at VBS is making sure that the campers are engaged and enjoying themselves.  Sr. High leaders are primarily in charge of directing their group and coaching their Jr. High team.  Our Pastor of Family Life gives a talk at each of these events to encourage the students as they get ready for the week ahead.

Wednesday: Worship team training
We use live music to engage our elementary aged kids at the beginning and end of each VBS day.  The band that provides the music is made up of a handful of student leaders, some of whom are Jr. and Sr. High leaders, all of whom are actively involved in our church and our youth groups. They spend 4 hours tightening up the music they’ve been practicing during the weeks leading up to VBS.  Our church’s Worship Director leads this team and is in charge of this training event.

Thursday: Full team training
We kick into high gear from 9am-5pm on Thursday.  This is the day we assign groups, rotations, and space on campus for the following week.  Our teams begin to tackle decorating our sanctuary, our church’s lobby and their classrooms.  Teams develop a mission statement for the next week – something that they’ll be able to point to during VBS to evaluate if they’re doing what they want to be doing.  Students hear a message from our Director of Student Ministries on this day and a BBQ lunch is provided.  The Swamp Staff 09 Blog is also launched on this day to provide a community space where students can share their thoughts over the next week and a half.

Friday: Full team training
This year, Friday is the last day we have to makeover the church’s worship spaces before the weekend worship services.  Students arrive at 10am and leave at 4pm on this day.  We are clearly presenting the gospel message in order to provide student leaders a chance to make a recommitment of faith or decide to follow Jesus for the first time in thier lives.  Though we do ask if student leaders have a relationship with Christ on their applications, our leadership positions are open to any and all who want to serve.  This is one of our chances to intentionally minister to students who have yet to decide to follow Jesus.  Also on the agenda for Friday is a giant pizza party and some fun activities to faciliate team building.

Sunday: Full team training
After church services on Sunday, students spend the afternoon putting finishing touches on the campus.  We answer FAQ’s that have arrisen during the week and provide some encouraging words before the students leave for the night.  This is the calm before the storm.

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And there it is!  One of the changes I’m most proud of this year, as I read back through our schedule, is the choice we made to intentionally have a the gospel clearly presented during Friday’s training.  In the past, we’ve had students make faith commitments during VBS, when the children are asked to do so… but, how much greater will this year be if those students know Jesus before the week gets under way?  I guess we’ll see.

Talking to leaders of other VBS programs around town, I’ve noticed that we’re one of the few programs that takes training our youth leaders this seriously.  After this week, our student leaders will have put in more than 20 hours of training time – and that’s before the 20+ hours they’ll be spending on campus next week during camp.
We’d love to hear what others around the country who run programs like this are doing to train their leaders.

Thoughts?  Suggestions?  Add yours to the comments section!

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2009 in Kidmin, Los Angeles

 

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