Who is Your Nineveh?

LittleSailor
Much like the prophet Jonah, we all have a “Nineveh”—people God is calling us to reach out to in spite of their animosity toward us or toward Him. As our culture continues to rush headlong away from Judeo-Christian values, the church in the US is facing more hostility than ever before, and experiencing the truth of Jesus’ words in very tangible ways: “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19)

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Why VBS Matters, Part I

VBS Reachout

Some time ago a meeting took me to the top of a Seattle high rise, giving me a new perspective—a bird’s-eye view–of an area I’d driven through thousands of times before. In the distance stood the snow-capped Olympic mountains; in the foreground, a landscape filled with the prolific firs of our Evergreen State—all except for one patch. Amid the sea of deep green stood a circle of trees you couldn’t miss, with stunningly brilliant red leaves.

In the landscape of the church’s ministries, I believe VBS similarly stands out from other (also beautiful) children’s programs. It’s such a significant, one-of-a-kind ministry—usually the church’s largest and often only evangelistic outreach to children—that to remove it from the church’s priorities leaves a truly momentous* hole. (*mo·men·tous:  adj. extremely important or crucial, especially in its effect on the future course of events)

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Why Not You?

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There has never before been as great a need for prayerful diligence and creative initiative in getting children engaged in reading and learning the Bible. According to the latest research done collaboratively by the Barna Group and the American Bible Society, Bible skepticism is inversely linked to Bible engagement. Their 2014 study revealed that “The number of those who are skeptical or agnostic toward the Bible—who believe that the Bible is ‘just another book of teachings written by men that contains stories and advice’—has nearly doubled from 10% to 19% in just three years.”* Their research showed that two-thirds of those are 48 or younger, and compared to all adults, this demographic is less likely to read or own a Bible, or to believe it contains all we need for living a meaningful life. Their conclusion was striking: “Given the increase in Millennials who don’t believe the Bible is sacred and the decrease in Bible awareness among Millennials, Bible skepticism will likely continue to rise in the next five years.”

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A Blessing Sent

VBS Reachout - A Blessing Sent

“I will bless you…” God’s pronouncement to Abraham was the theme of the Advent meditation I read recently from Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas. Her words were both life-giving and challenging during this month that should be all about quiet hearts anticipating Christ’s advent, but for me is way too often fraught with a frenetic December pace where life feels heavy and undoable. She writes,

 “But the weight of everything melts like thinning snow in the heat of His words: ‘I will bless you.’
…He will bless you—the God of invincible reliability, the God who has infinite resources,
the God who is insistent love.
You can always go ahead and breathe—He will bless.
You can always breathe when you know all is grace.

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VBS: Standing the True Test of Time

Ross-Sunday-School-LR

I just completed spearheading a great committee of people as we planned our church’s 75th “diamond jubilee” anniversary celebration. As we pored over the documents about our history, we found ourselves in awe of the ways God in His grace and faithfulness has sustained and built—and continues to build—His Church, and our church in particular. One of the stunning stories is of how one elderly “mystery couple” (no one knows their names) in the 1920’s began praying for the children who were playing in the streets of Seattle on Sunday mornings rather than going to church. They shared their burden with a woman and her daughter, Ida and Gladys Kaiser, who went on to begin a Sunday School ministry that bore tremendous fruit and eventually became a church—our church—that continues to this day.

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Summer Seaquest 2015!

Summer Seaquest 2015 - VBS Reachout Adventures

We’re working hard preparing our Summer Seaquest theme to set sail for VBS 2015! Getting ready to introduce kids to the wealth of spiritual treasure found in the Book of Jonah is exciting, inspiring, and keeps us on our knees—all at the same time. The Book of Jonah is far more than the story of a man being swallowed by a great fish. As it says in our Summer Seaquest Bible Lesson Curriculum, “[The Book of Jonah] tells us much about ourselves and our condition as human persons…It tells us much about our God. In Jonah we see played out the mystery of what it means to be human. We are not robots. We make a difference, and yet the Sovereign God, the Controller of the Universe, will not be thwarted. His purposes will be fulfilled.”

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Raising the Bar with Your VBS Music: The Significance of Discipling through Song

VBS Reachout Adventures - Raising the Bar with Your VBS Music

In this series we’ve looked at the compelling need to raise the bar at VBS, and proposed two key ways to do so: through in-depth Bible teaching and strong Scripture memory. Today’s post will begin to explore a third essential component in raising the bar at VBS: offering quality music with a meaningful message.

To be sure, when it comes to music in the church, emotions and opinions run deep! Godly, committed Christians differ widely in their views on the subject—most of us know folks who’ve left a church over its style of worship music—so we won’t go there! Where we will go, however, is to lay out what we at Reachout believe are some non-negotiables when it comes to VBS music.

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The Power of Scripture Memory: Two Beautiful Examples

VBS Reachout Adventures - The Power of Scripture Memory

Raising the Bar, Part 3

My last two posts addressed how we can and must combat the increasingly “lite” culture in our churches by offering children engaging and challenging VBS material. Here we’ll look at two very different but equally encouraging victories in the battle for our children’s hearts and minds.

One Sunday morning during worship, our congregation was reading the beautiful and poetic Philippians 2:5-11 passage, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God…” I happened to glance across the aisle, and noticed a young high schooler reciting it from memory. I couldn’t help but continue to watch as she flawlessly recited the verses through to the end. And I knew why. Kolleen had grown up going to Reachout VBS’s, including Upward Bound where she and other “Backpackers” memorized this wonderful hymn of the Early Church. Though it had been many years since she’d attended VBS, Kolleen still had those words—The Word—hidden in her heart.

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Returning to In-Depth Bible Teaching: A Lesson from the Past

VBS Reachout Adventures - A Lesson from the Past

Raising the Bar – Part 2

In my last post, Raise the Bar at Your VBS and Get Ready to be Amazed!, I proposed that we should do all we can to stem the tide of the current trend to “dumb down” VBS and instead make the most of the opportunity we have to teach kids the riches of God’s Word. Listen to this story of what one pastor years ago felt God was calling him to do, and the incredible way God worked through his obedience.

Can you visualize thousands of kids happily spending 5 weeks of their summer vacation studying the Bible, memorizing Scripture, and taking tests? Hard to imagine? Sound like a fairy tale? It was unheard of until a Pennsylvania pastor, concerned with lethargy, Biblical illiteracy, and a revolving door in his congregation and many others (sounds familiar?), committed the matter to prayer. Dr. Abraham Lance Lathem felt God leading him to start a Summer Bible School back in 1912 that would get children engaged in studying the Word.

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Raise the Bar at Your VBS and Get Ready to be Amazed!

VBS Reachout - Raise the Bar

“Children rise to the level of expectation set for them” has long been advocated and well documented in educational circles. Yet when it comes to VBS, churches tend to forget this golden truth!

Too often we set the bar low in what we think our kids can learn at VBS, and consequently decide to water down what we offer them. I don’t know all the reasons for that; perhaps it’s because in VBS we’re reaching out to kids who aren’t used to being in church or who don’t know much about the Bible or the Gospel, and we’re afraid of putting them off. Maybe it’s because we think kids won’t come if VBS feels too much like school, that they can’t possibly equate learning with having a fun time. Or maybe we think VBS is just too short a time for kids to really learn anything of consequence. Whatever the reason, many churches have reduced VBS to a “sports camp” week of fun and games with some basic “lite” teaching tacked on, rather than providing a life-changing time of learning deep truths from the Word of God while having great fun in the process.

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