Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Web Searches On VBS

As you can see at the bottom of this web page, I use SiteMeter to track how many visit my blog site. Site Meter tells me more than just how many people visit my site. It also tells me how you might have found my site, particularly if you used a search engine. This gives me valuable information as to what people are looking for.

However, fortunately for your security, it doesn’t tell who you are, what your email address is or any other personal information. Yet once in awhile, I see what people are looking for in their searches and I know resources that will help you! I wish there was a way I could get back to my readers!

Two searches particularly caught my eye. Someone was looking for VBS material on the life of King David. I just finished a unit of study for The Salvation Army called Growth Signs. This unit of study combines study of the fruit of the Spirit with stories from the lives of King Saul and Kind David. Use the link on the right to find out more. The website HopeShare doesn’t mention this material; however, you can use the email on that page to get more information. Please mention how you found out about Growth Signs.

Someone else was looking for VBS material with an Egyptian theme. Standard Publishing (see link on the right) did a VBS curriculum in 2003 called “Treasures of the Nile.” In my opinion, it was one of the finest VBS programs I’ve seen before or since. Follow the link to Standard Publishing and contact them to see if they still have material left from that year. Standard is in the process of remaking some of their previous units to use in their Anytime VBS series. I don’t know if they have plans to revisit this program or not. If you are interested – ask!

I’ve seen a number of searches for craft and snack ideas. There are many websites with wonderful craft and activity ideas. This blog could quickly become an idea shop, but that is not the vision I have for this blog. I intend for this blog to be an open forum where I can share my experiences as a teacher – what has worked and what worked for me. I want to encourage my fellow teachers to be the best they can be in serving the children of our generation, so we can follow the mandate of 2 Timothy 2:2.

However, if you don’t find what you are looking for in my site or in other sites, pose your specific question on my comments page. I will be glad to respond within another comment or I may turn your question into a blog entry.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Subscribe To "Inside The Classroom"

You can now receive “Inside The Classroom” via email.

Part of becoming a master teacher is the realization that I have never arrived. Hate to admit it, but I don't know it all. I don't have to know it all before I can teach others. What is truly necessary to be a good teacher is the humility to become a lifelong learner.

Learning involves change. If I learn something, it will change me. If I apply something I have learned and put it into practice into my own life, that application demands that I change in some way.

Change is not easy. Most of us resist change. Even if we know the change is for the better, the way we are seems preferable because it is more comfortable. It takes effort to change. When we teach, we have to recognize that we are asking our students to change. If we resist change, then we may be guilty of hypocrisy, for how can we ask our students to grow, stretch, move out of their comfort zones, or try new ideas and endeavors while we sit safely at our teacher’s desk? Teaching is getting out, rolling up our sleeves and learning one or hopefully five steps ahead of our students.

When we commit ourselves to learning, we gain compassion and empathy for what we are asking our students to do. We feel the frustration our students feel when learning doesn’t come easily. We share the excitement and joy when they discover something new because we know, oh do we know, what it feels like. We can more effectively urge our students onward because we’ve experienced what it is to work toward a goal.

I’ve been doing a bit of learning and growing myself. Technology does not come easily to me. Maybe I’m too old, maybe I’m part of the wrong generation, maybe I’ve just never had a grasp of how things are put together. I’m more an idea person, I guess. This whole blog thing has been a stretch for me. I work through the problem of setting up SiteMeter or FeedBlitz or connect to a blog ring, never quite sure what I did to arrive. Yet, what a thrill when I finally “get it”

In this spirit of becoming a life long learner so I can best serve my students and readers, I’m continuing to make changes to this blog site. The newest feature is on the right hand side of your screen. If you would like to receive notice of when my latest blog entry is up, please subscribe to the FeedBlitz email service. It’s easy, it’s really easy. So my college daughter tells me! If you have trouble following the directions, email her. No, I’m kidding! You really shouldn’t have any problems, unless you are techno-challenge like me. In that case, feel free to email me at
karenawingate@gmail.com and I’ll email my daughter and ask her how to help – er. I mean, I’ll help you through.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Tips for VBS Crafts

Many of you are already busy looking for craft ideas for this year’s VBS. As you plan what crafts you will offer, consider these tips:

Fit the craft to your purpose: Your purpose is to teach children the truths of God’s Word, not to teach art skills. Choose crafts that reinforce the Bible story or reflect that day’s application. With the theme oriented VBS curriculum currently available, it’s easy for craft directors to merely choose crafts that emulate the theme such as making maracas for a Fiesta theme. Go beyond the environment theme. Try to catch the Bible theme as well. Remember my guiding principle in Christian education: make every activity you do reflect your purpose.

Fit the craft to your time: Do whatever you can to make the craft flow easily for the children. Be organized. Have everything arranged and on the table before the children arrive. Have the supplies each child will need setting at each table. Write out directions on card stock and place several copies in the middle of the table. Give verbal directions too; some children learn best by hearing the directions. Have a sample craft made so children can see the finished result. Have something else to do for those children who finish their craft early.

Fit the craft to your students: Choose crafts that are appropriate to the age and skill levels of your children. Just as some kids have difficulty learning to read, other children have difficulty with their fine motor skills. If you find yourself doing most of the craft, then perhaps you have chosen too difficult a craft. I know some teachers who want every craft to look exactly the same; perfection is their goal. Other teachers value allowing the child to make the craft by themselves regardless how messy and imperfect it becomes because they want to build the child’s self esteem. Children want to be able to say, “I did it myself.” Whatever your style of teaching crafts, remember my guiding principle of Christian education: make every activity you do reflect your purpose. Your purpose is not to help children make beautiful keepsake crafts. Nor is it to promote artistic self expression. Your purpose is to teach God’s way and to show God’s love.

Fit the craft time to divine opportunities. As a craft director or teacher, it’s important for you to have a sense of the broader picture of what is happening that week in VBS. Teachers, storytellers and music leaders don’t have the time to have conversations with individual kids. You do.

A year ago, a five year old girl from an unchurched family had just left my storytelling session. She came down to crafts where my 18 year old daughter was in charge. The little girl said to Katherine, “That story was so sad about that friend dying.” Katherine, knowing the story was about Lazarus, said, “But Jesus brought him back to life.” The little girl said, “I wish God would do that for my grandpa.” Katherine said, “If you and your grandpa believe in Jesus, you’ll get to see him in Heaven.” The child went on to her seat, now smiling.

If Katherine had not known what my story was that day, she would have probably given a perfunctory, “Uh Hah,” to the child’s first comment. If she had focused only on helping children make crafts, she would have hurried the child on to the daily project. But, because Katherine had a sense of the purpose for VBS, she took the time to talk with a child who needed to know the hope we have behind our faith.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Youth Ministry: Persevere and Pass It On!

I’m proud of the members of my high school Sunday School class. At the beginning of December, they decided to earmark their weekly offering money for a special project with the Voice of the Martyrs ministry. If they raised $25, they could provide a care package for a teenager in guerilla torn Colombia.

We thought we could do it as a Christmas service project. But we have only six students in the class. And Christmas is a tough time on their wallets. I gave them the option of just donating whatever they had raised to another mission or to keep going until we reached our goal. They chose to keep going. It wasn’t until yesterday, March 4th, that they reached their goal.

Now that may not seem very impressive – six teenagers raising $25 in four months time. But I’m impressed. They did it on their own with their own money, not asking any adult to help them out. As the teacher, I could have bailed them out a number of times, yet I probably put in only two dollars to that total amount. When they realized yesterday that they were only a couple of dollars short, they dug deeper into their pockets and purses, counting out change to make up the difference.

I teach my high schoolers about seeking God’s will for their lives, how to apply God’s wisdom to their relationships and their career choices, how to avoid the temptations unique to youth and the need to share their faith. For the last quarter, I’ve taught them lessons about who Jesus was and what His ministry entailed. Yesterday they taught me lessons I don’t think I’ve covered with a group of kids in my twenty five years of teaching – the importance of persevering until you get the job done and faith that God can do something with even what seems like a small gift. What’s exciting is what God has the power to potentially do with that $25 in the form of a care package to an oppressed Christian teenager on the run for his faith!

If you are reading this blog, would you join me in praying that God use this $25 in an awesome way to encourage His people and change lives? Thanks.


A reader posted some great ideas on the comments page of last week's blog. Let's make this topic practical and share what other service projects we can lead and encourage our young people to do. Here’s the ideas we have so far:

1. Collect offering for a special mission project (check out Voice of the Martyrs. The usually have great projects teenagers can do.)
2. Plan a worship service to share with a shut in.
3. Do yard work and snow removal for the elderly in your church or community.
4. Prepare care packages for servicemen.

What has worked for your youth group? What about service projects for elementary school age children? I invite you to share your ideas on my comments page. I’ll compile the list for a future post.