Tag Archives: VBS

Lockdowns, Medical Teams & The Mom Squad

I care about safety.

And… anyone who knows me knows that that’s an understatement.  I live a life that’s built on rules, strategies, formulas and procedures.  So, for better or for worse, I bring my crazy-love for safety to the kidmin world that I work and live in.

While visiting a nearby VBS recently, I was once again reminded that not everyone in kidmin shares my same passion for keeping kids safe (it’s not that they want kids to be “unsafe” – I’m just pretty sure that they are living in a world where nothing bad ever happens, so they don’t plan for worst-case scenarios).

I had tried to contact the church for weeks to set up a time to observe one of their programs, but never received a reply.  So, I decided I’d swing by and try to meet someone during the program who could walk me around and give me a behind the scenes look at things (annually, we offer campus tours during VBS for parents and church leaders who want to hear what goes into putting together our camp… I was hoping for something similar from them).

During my hour-long visit, without any identification or uniform, I was able to walk freely across a church campus while programs were running. I was next to children during their opening worship time, I spoke with children and gave high-fives, I walked to and through small group rooms where pictures and names of children in those rooms were plastered on the windows, I took pictures and even walked past check in teams that were supposed to stop random guys like me who are walking onto the church campus. I know, that’s a long sentence and I’m pretty sure the grammar is pretty weak – but, you get the point.  I did all of that – and I was never once stopped.  Nobody said a word to me.

Now, I don’t bring that up to say that our church and our programs are perfect.  I bring it up because many people in kidmin don’t think through safety procedures unless you make them… and, many don’t know where to start.  So, today, I want to share with you 3 things that you can do to begin taking safety seriously during large programs that you run.  You can plug these into your next camp, VBS, whatever – with little effort and HUGE reward (in my world, keeping kids safe is a big deal – in fact, I’d say it’s priceless).

The Lowdown on the Lockdown

During our large events, we have Lockdown procedures for a variety of incidents that might happen while kids are at church.  Because we go out of our way to train our team on the methods and reasons behind lockdowns, we’ve been able to successfully lock down our church campus on multiple occasions over the course of the last few years.

We teach our lockdown procedures through story and examples and spend about half an hour of our VBS training talking through our expectations of our leaders and staff during an emergency.  We cover examples of what to do in the event that a camper is separated from their group (Level 1), what to do if an unescorted adult comes on campus (level 2) or if wildlife or another dangerous threat is within the immediate surroundings (level 3).

You can download the PDF of our emergency procedures (Lockdowns are on page 2) by clicking HERE.

Putting a lockdown procedure into place isn’t something that takes a lot of effort or money, but it saves you time and energy when everyone is on the same page during an emergency.

We need a Medic!

One of the major upgrades we made to our VBS program last year was the addition of a volunteer medical team and a medic station.  I actually stole the idea from another church who had done something similar – and… now you can steal it from me!

As a church, we have a pretty good sense of who our medical, fire and law enforcement personnel are in our congregation.  We have an idea of where they sit in church and what service they attend.  We know which officers are required to carry firearms while off duty and which ones have kids in our program.  So, building a medical team to be present during our large programs became as easy as phone calls.  In fact, that’s all it took!  We had nurses, doctors and firemen spend their days off with us in the church office tending to injuries that a bandaid and a hug couldn’t quite fix.

Parents LOVED the fact that we had trained professionals looking after kids with bumps and bruises and I loved the fact that I didn’t have to be the only qualified first responder on campus.  A week before VBS, we asked for a shopping list from one of the nurses so that we could have any supplies our team would need during the week.  We made one more trip on Monday to get some last minute items – and, from there, the process worked without a lot of intervention from me.  Kids were safe and their parents knew it – there aren’t many bigger “wins” in my book.

The Mom Squad. It’s like an Easy Button.
But Better.

Do you have moms who just kind of “hang around” during an event?  Give them a role!  A few of my favorite moms have figured out that, by the time they drop off their kids and get settled in back at their house, they’ll need to start getting ready to come pick them up again.  So – they became our Mom Squad.

Our Mom Squad patrols our campus during an event and serves as extra hands, feet and voices for the staff running the event.  Random guy walking on campus?  The Mom Squad knows to intercept him and walk him to the front office to check in.  Child wandering away from his group?  The Mom Squad can call in a lockdown until we reunite him with his team.  Parents trying to force their way in to see our closing ceremonies?  The Mom Squad has that covered and might even recruit a couple volunteers in the process.

I joke around that having a Mom Squad is like having an Easy Button.  Our programs flow better when I don’t have to be everything and everywhere at once.  Having a group of moms who are patrolling our campus to watch for and care about the safety of our kids frees me up to give guided tours to other kidmin leaders in the area while we have 1400 minors on campus.  They require very little training, cost nothing and make our program 100 x’s better.


Some might say that 1200 words about safety is a little much.  I could write a short novel – there’s so much more to say.  However, I’ll end with this – all 3 of these ideas were things I’ve picked up along the way because I visited other churches, met with other church leaders and constantly take the brilliant ideas of others and make the best ones fit our setting.  If you have questions or ideas you’d like to share, please use the comments section below.  Without your voice in the conversation, we are all at a disadvantage.

I think safety matters – what do you think?


Posted by on July 21, 2011 in Kidmin, Resources, Thoughts


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

VBS, Trust & Skydiving

Last year, as we trained our 300 VBS Student Leaders, I shared a story of the first time I went skydiving.  What does skydiving have to do with VBS?  Well… here’s my story:

During my community college days, my buddy Forrest and I decided to take a day off of work and school to go jump out of a plane.  I wish I could say we put more thought into it than that… but, I don’t think we did.  It was a two hour drive from our small town to the nearest skydiving location and we used the drive to talk about life, music and what we might say at each other’s funerals if our chutes didn’t open.

When we arrived, all of my expectations for what a skydiving location might look like were shattered.  The guy running the place seemed a bit aloof, there was one tiny airplane on a runway that ended with a cliff and the “training” we went through to prepare for our jumps consisted of watching a VHS tape that cut in and out as it told us how our jump might go.

It hardly helped my fading confidence in our plan when I met our pilot – a student from another local community college who was working toward his pilot’s license.

Fast-forward to a little less than an hour later and I found myself staring out of the open door of an airplane at 10,000 ft above the ground.  At that moment, as the man strapped to my back began to rock back and forth and scoot me toward the edge, I had to decide where I was placing my trust.  Everything in me wanted to grab the sides of the doors and stay inside of the plane.  Yet, I had someone strapped to me telling me that it was all going to be okay – I just had to trust him.

And then he began to count down: 3, 2, 1…


Our instincts aren’t always trustworthy when we’re facing a new or scary challenge.  Sometimes, as I told the student leaders we had at our VBS last year, you have to trust the sweaty guy strapped to your back.  You have to trust that things aren’t always as they seem and that there is someone in control who has a bigger picture of what’s going on than you do.

So, this week, I’m thinking about the plane that Jesus wants me to jump out of and I’m trying to remind myself to trust that God has a bigger view of the picture than I do.  When I learn to trust and rely on the others that God has placed in my life, the blessings always outweigh the frustration.  I just have to remind myself of that the next time I want to hold on to everything I can get a grasp of.

I challenge you to do the same.

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 6, 2011 in Kidmin, Thoughts


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Getting ready for VBS

Less than a week from now, our church will be packed with kids and youth – all expecting one of the best weeks of their entire year.  At our church, VBS isn’t simply a fun week where kids spend time away from video games and television for a week.  Instead, it’s a rock concert, it’s Bible stories brought to life, it’s water slides, crafts, games and time when kids learn that there are people in their lives that love them and there’s a God who created them on purpose and for a purpose.  It’s such an amazing experience for kids that we have a handful who travel from out of state in order to spend the week with us.  Here’s a quick video of what last year looked like:

When I have a chance to talk with other ministry leaders about why and how our VBS has tripled in size since my friend, Staci Travisano, and I took the helm I often point to three things I think have worked in our favor:

Our Community Trusts our Church

We have a Senior Pastor who believes that our church should function as a resource center for lost and broken families in our surrounding communities.  Because of that, we’ve been able to launch after school clubs at local elementary schools that reach out to kids and families who may have never stepped foot onto a church campus before.  By bringing our programming to them, and doing so in a way that shows that we care more about those families feeling loved than pushing kids into crisis conversion moments, we’ve built trust in our community.

Now, when a Glenkirk family invites a friend to church or VBS, there’s less hesitation on the part of families who aren’t connected to our church – and that, my friends, is priceless.

Our VBS is Youth Driven, Church Supported

Today, 400 Middle School and High School students will begin arriving for a week of intense training as they prepare to be VBS counselors next week.  All in all, they’ll spend around 30 hours getting ready for their chance to lead a group of campers through VBS.  Every year, that number grows and I believe that our VBS grows because of it.

If you spend just a few minutes watching Nick or Disney this week, you’ll discover that programming aimed at elementary aged kids is primarily dominated by characters who are in Middle School and High School.  I know a ton of 3rd grade boys who are reading the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books – a series that documents a boy’s experiences in Middle School.

By running a VBS that’s Youth Driven, we provide our campers a week in a program that feels like a show you’d watch on the Disney Channel… and we get to talk about Jesus, which is something that makes what we do a little more lasting than Disney.

If you want to get a sense of what our leader roles look like at VBS, check out this post

We Keep Unchurched Families in Mind

I cannot stress this idea enough – many VBS programs only pull in churched kids because they only program with churched kids in mind.  This philosophy starts from the top of our church – our Senior Pastor is constantly reminding us that what we do is not about us… we run programs and gather as a community in order to show lost people who Jesus is.

This frees us up to do all sorts of cool things.

Our church’s “Sanctuary” is transformed during the weeks leading up to and following VBS.  And, I’m not just talking about a backdrop that we purchased from Oriental Trading Company.  I’m talking all out transformation – we’ve built pirate ships, castles, science labs, swamps, full-size swinging rope ladders, larger-than life Swiss Family Robinson-esque tree houses – all in order to create a space where kids feel like they’re in a whole new world.  Church kids are (sometimes) comfortable in a church’s sanctuary… but, for an unchurched kid, churches often feel a little stuffy.  For about a month every summer, our main adult worship space on campus is the least “church-y” room at our church.

We also never assume that kids have heard a Bible story before – we never begin with phrases like, “We all know who Peter was…” because we expect that not everyone knows what we’re talking about.  We spend twice as much time playing games than we spend doing any other one thing – because we know that kids like games and don’t spend NEARLY enough time playing outside in the summer.

And we tell our church families, over and over and over, that VBS isn’t just for their kids – it’s for their friends.  We have families who are out of town for VBS inviting their friends because they know that it’s an experience that’s been created in order to change lives.  And it does.


As much as I can over the next week, I’ll be posting more thoughts and updates on VBS at Glenkirk.  It’s one of my favorite seasons of the year – and I can hardly wait.






1 Comment

Posted by on July 5, 2011 in Kidmin


Tags: , , , ,

Kids’ Worship: Where We’re Going

I throw my hands up in the air sometimes
Saying AYO
Gotta let go
I wanna celebrate and live my life
Saying AYO
Baby, let’s go

‘Cause we gon’ rock this club
We gon’ go all night
We gon’ light it up
Like it’s dynamite
Cause I told you once
Now I told you twice
We gon’ light it up
Like it’s dynamite

Here’s a quick relevancy test: are those lyrics familiar to you?  Chances are, they’re familiar to the kids in the community you live in.  More on that in just a moment.

Today’s post wraps up a series on Kids’ Worship: Where we’ve been, what our transition looked like, where we are today… and today’s post will cover some dreams I have for the future of kids’ worship in our ministry.

Student Led Worship

Since our transition (from something to nothing and back to something), I’ve been the primary worship leader for our kids on Sunday mornings.  On the occasion that I’m out of town or sick, our church’s worship director has taken time out of his busy Sunday to come over and lead worship for our kids.

One of my hopes for the coming year is that I shift away from being the worship leader in our Elementary environment and that we get to a place where the youth in our church are leading our kids in worship.  We’re in the midst of raising up multiple teams who can do this well – I hope to see this transition happen before the end of this school year.  Two thoughts behind this move:
1) Kids love seeing high school students in leadership roles.  If guys on our high school football team can rock out for Jesus on a Sunday morning, it gives our kids the freedom to join in – their coolness factor isn’t on the line (because, let’s be honest, singing along to a lady or old guy with a CD player can be a sure way to embarrass a kids in front of their visiting friend).
2) When students take leadership roles in your church’s ministries, they grow in their faith and in their commitment to the Church.  I truly believe that high school students learn more about their faith by serving than they do by spending a Sunday morning in Bible studies.  Call me crazy.

Kid Owned Experiences

For our church, Sunday is the road IN to our community and the Faith.  Sunday mornings at Glenkirk are meant to provide space for people, young and old, to ASK “who is Jesus?” in their lives.  With that in mind, we always want to think about our first time visitors when programming our kids’ worship time on a Sunday… because we know we’ll have them.  We also recognize that our kids need a place where they feel welcomed if they’re going to welcome others.

That’s what led to our great idea that then lead to the card you see at the top of our post.  We started thinking – “how cool would it be if kids had significant input on the Sunday morning experience?”  If kids knew that they had influence over the way a Sunday morning looked, maybe they’d be more likely to attend regularly, invite friends, and get involved during the time they spend with us.

Good ideas often lead to new experiments, which (more often than not) lead to failures.  The cool thing is – failures can allow us to learn how to succeed in the future… if we try to learn from them.

Our idea was this: What if, as a first step into giving kids ownership over a Sunday morning, we allowed kids the ability to choose what songs we sing during our worship time?  So, we developed a card that kids could fill out for song requests.  In fact, we might even use their song suggestions in our worship service at 11:11am (kids begin that service with their parents in church for community worship before being dismissed to programming).  As soon as I announced the new change, one 1st grade girl ran to the stage to pick one up… I had hardly finished my sentence and she had taken the card to the back of the room to begin writing furiously with a purple crayon.

I was excited when she brought it back to me at the end of the morning… and I knew that I had to share it with you.  It was too classic to let it slide (at the same time, I realized that I had to provide SOME context to the post – hence the series on Kids’ Worship).

I clearly didn’t set the parameters well – our great idea wasn’t defined well enough for the kids to understand what we were going for.  Instead, multiple cards were turned in with song requests for our worship team to perform cover songs.  The cards are helping me shape some of the music we play through our sound system during pre-service activities (creating a welcoming environment includes being intentional about the music playing in the room when children arrive)… but, that’s about it.

So, we’ll go back to the drawing board on that one and try to figure out other ways to get our kids actively involved in owning their Sunday morning experience.  If you have ideas or suggestions you’ve seen work in your context, feel free to post them below in the comments section.

That wraps up my initial thoughts on this series.  Shaping our Sunday mornings is still in process and I love getting input from parents and other kidmin leaders across the country (though, you get bonus points if you live on the West Coast).

You can connect with me via facebook (, twitter ( or through the comments section below.


Posted by on November 24, 2010 in Kidmin


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kids’ Worship: Where We Are

You’re going to laugh when you see what inspired this series of posts.

But, that’s something I’ll share on Monday.

Today, I want to give you a glimpse into where we’re at with kids’ worship at our church and the impact our shift has made on our camp experience as well as the massive VBS that we run in the summer.

Sunday Mornings: Keeping it Simple

One of the best things about killing off music on Sunday mornings was that it allowed us to rebuild intentionally.  We were able to make singing fun again and slowly begin to shape what worship looked like for our kids because of that.  On a typical Sunday, the music time our kids experience doesn’t look incredibly different from the back of the room than most kids’ program out there.  But, the view I get from up front every weekend is amazing – our kids actually worship Jesus through singing.  It rocks.

A typical Sunday looks like this:

I do a typical welcome from the front of the room, introduce myself and give any quick announcements we might have.  This allows kids to transition from coming into the room to finding a seat and looking forward.  It also gives our small group leaders time to find a seat in the midst of the kids.

We then launch into singing with two fast/fun songs.  One of those songs always has a teaching element to it – whether that’s because it’s a Bible verse set to song, has a theme that ties into the morning, or anything else I can leverage to make that song mean something to the kids.  The other fast song is simply joyful.  We reinforce two ideas with this set up – a) the words to songs matter and b) singing songs at church can be FUN and even feel like a mini rock concert.

We always wrap up our time of worship with a song that our kids might hear if they went to church w/ their parents or if their family listens to CCM around the house.  As an introduction, I always talk about thinking through the words to the song and I’ll teach through any tough words that might be in the lyircs (God of Wonders, for example, is a favorite for our kids… but the word “Tabernacle” means nothing to a second grade girl.  So, I talk through the words we’re about to sing before we sing them).  I’ll tell you something – it took a year of teaching kids that singing songs at church can be fun and that the words to the songs we sing matter before I even started adding a third song to our rotation.

Nothing I just wrote should be revolutionary by any means.  However, being intentional about the songs we sing and the way we made our transition has changed the way our kids worship in song.  Our kids are just as likely to sing along to Fee’s “Glory to God, Forever” when it plays on our Sunday morning mix as they will to “Fireflies” by Owl City (that’s right, Owl City is on our Sunday morning mix… I’d hope you’re not offended by that).  What’s even cooler is the impact this shift has had on worship in other settings.

Leading the pack at VBS

Our VBS is abnormally large.  The picture about is a picture of about 1/5 of the room we host our worship time in.  But, that’s not the point of this aside.  Rather, the atmosphere of worship at VBS has changed dramatically since we overhauled our Sunday morning worship.  VBS at our church was once a place where kids just sang along to songs.  If a kid was engaged in the music, they probably were from a different church in town.  In fact, kids visiting church for the first time at VBS would have assumed that our kids were visitors too – they took no ownership over that time and really only enjoyed the fact that they could be loud in the church’s sanctuary without getting in trouble.

We live in a different reality now.  Half the songs we sing at VBS are songs you’d hear if you visited our church’s modern worship service on a Sunday morning – and our kids LOVE the time they get to spend in worship.  We run one of the most visitor-friendly VBS programs I know of (over half of the 1200 kids and students in attendance this last year have no church home on Sunday mornings), and yet our kids create such a cool environment by singing their hearts out during the song portion of the morning that their friends join right in.

Living it out “up the mountain”

Twice a year, our kids make the trip up the mountain to camp at Forest Home (  I circle back to talking about camp because this is the place where I first got the sense that our kids didn’t understand worshiping God in song.  And, by “got the sense”, I mean to say that our kids napped and cracked jokes during worship the first time I took our kids there 4 years ago.

As you can see in the picture above, our kids aren’t those kids anymore.  Instead, we’re the obnoxious church that jumps up on stage to lead everyone in crazy camp songs.  Our leaders (each cabin has an adult leader, assisted by a high energy high school or college age assistant) struggle to sing louder than our campers.  One of the things I love about Forest Home is that I get a set list of songs they’ll be singing at camp that I can teach our kids before we head up – our kids already have the songs in their heads by the time we get up there so that everything that happens is an expression of their hearts.  For us, what happens at camp is an amplified version of what happens on Sunday mornings – I’m thrilled to say that it’s amplified enthusiasm rather than what was once amplified boredom.

Where we’re heading

I’m excited to say that I’m happy with where we’re at these days in the arena of kids’ worship.  However, I still know we have areas we can grow in.  Monday’s post will talk through my hopes and dreams for the future of kids’ worship at our church.  I’ll actually lead in with a bit of a Fail that recently happened as we continue to try to make our worship experience more interactive and kid-lead.

Here’s a recap of this series so far:

Our Journey” gave some scope to the series:

Karaoke Worship” took a look at where our journey started, with kids totally disengaged by the video worship we were providing:

Nothing is Better than Something” talked through the at-first-unpopular choice we made to stop singing altogether on Sunday mornings:

Starting Simple” talked about the first steps in our process in re-teaching kids how to worship God through singing… and kind of hinted at how Video Curriculum can hurt your ministry if your team isn’t actually facilitating what’s going on in the room:


Posted by on November 20, 2010 in Kidmin


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Big Announcement… a year in advance!

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


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: 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!


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!


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


Tags: , , , , ,

You get a band aid, you get a phone call

bandaid-kid.jpg bandaid-kid image by originalsmazzle

We have a simple policy that we drill into the hearts and minds of our leadership team at VBS during their 20+ hours of training:
If a child gets a band aid, their parents get a phone call.

Let me explain…

A large number of the kids attending our summer program have no affiliation with our church.  Only 30% of the kids attending our VBS list our church as their home church… and about a third of them don’t actually attend, they simply write our church’s name in because they go to our VBS.

My goal, for the week of camp, is to make contact with the 70% of families who don’t call Glenkirk their “home” church.
I use band aids to contact about half of these families.

We all know that kids get hurt.  They trip, slip, fall, tumble, crash and spill their way across campus during the 5 days we have them at camp… at one point or another, they’re going to scrape or bruise something!
And that’s where our Ouch Reports come in.
Each of our crews pick up a handful of Ouch Reports at the beginning of each day with the expectation that they’ll be filling them out.  As children get bumped up during the day, our leaders diligently fill out their forms and turn them in at the end of our time together.
After everyone has gone home, I spend the next few hours in my office calling each family to make sure that their little camper is okay.

Parents LOVE this.

Parents want to know that their child is more than a name on our roster… that we actually care about them!
Phone calls home allow me to ask what a child’s favorite part of VBS has been.
I can ask the parents what church they go to.
I even hear the kids yelling my name in the background and screaming out their favorite part of camp.

I love it.
(well, I actually HATE talking on the phone. But, I LOVE that I make the calls.  It’s one of the better things we do, IMHO)

I give calls for more than just band aids.  Kids get splinters.  Preschoolers clip nametags to their tongues.  Parents forget to write down starch allergies.
I look at our followup phone calls as a HUGE ministry to families who may or may not know that our church is a place that cares about their kids.

So, what do you do to make connections with families visiting your campus?
Injuries don’t happen to every kid… so we have to have other nets to catch parents who won’t be getting Ouch Report phone calls.
What nets are you using?


Posted by on July 7, 2009 in Kidmin, Los Angeles


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: