Faith Formation Kick-Off Ideas

Many of you are beginning Faith Formation classes. Directors, in September, you emailed hundreds of schedules and letters. You met with sacramental prep parents, your priest, teens, faith formation parents, new families, Catechists, volunteers, and assistants. You meticulously planned a faith formation kick-off and you are ready to go!

Catechists and volunteers, you’ve watched your director work tirelessly and you, too, are excited to meet parish children and families.

At God is Good VBS, we are excited about classroom ideas to get your classes off to a shiny beginning. Today we will introduce Behavior Management Incentives. Our next post will focus on ways to add energy to your classroom, and finally we’ll address Prayer Time. Some of these approaches, you may have already tried. Other thoughts may be new to you. So, without further ado:

Behavior Management Incentives Work

Regardless of the following method you choose, prepare expectations for children to follow, as “clear images of God.” We are all made in His image, but in order to be CLEAR images of God, children need to meet the following classroom expectations:

Love God

Love One Another

Listen

Raise your Hand to be Called upon to Speak

Hands to yourself

Cotton Ball Jars, Chance Slips and Bingo Charts are three fun ways to encourage children to follow the previous expectations and for them to strive to be clear images of God (behave during faith formation classes). When children cooperate during class, that leaves room for learning!

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Cotton Ball Jars: An empty jar, a bag of cotton balls and your classroom expectations are great reminders about good behavior. After discussing your expectations for the school year, explain to the children that, often, when you witness them loving one another, being prayerful, keeping their hands to themselves, contributing good answers and taking turns speaking, you will place a cotton ball in a clear jar. You are expecting them to strive to be clear images of God so their faiths can be formed; and you have chosen cotton balls as a reminder because they are quiet and soft.

Once your classroom jar is full of cotton balls, which should take at least a quarter or semester of the school year, celebrate with a Sundae party and a game. I like these rewards better than candy or separate prizes because the children worked to be well behaved together so they should be rewarded as a group. Also, parents prefer a sundae or slice of pizza over candy.

Chance Slips: This idea involves you creating and printing several “Chance Slips,” cutting them apart, and saving a clean ice-cream bucket. Chance Slips were introduced to me over two decades ago by my first cooperating teacher, when I student taught in her Catholic school classroom; and I use them in my classrooms and with my own children. My Chance Slips are about an inch wide and three inches long and they boast cute images and a compliment for the children receiving them.

When Mrs. D. caught her first grade students being clear images of God she handed out simple Chance Slips. They read, “Good Listening!” Or, “I saw you doing something kind.” Or, “You are an Image of God!” 

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Mrs. D. carried these magical slips in her pocket. And once an excited child received a Chance Slip, they printed their name on the slip (after reading the special message) and slipped it into a bucket before they left class that day. Each month, or every two weeks, Mrs. D. drew five or six names from the bucket. Those lucky children’s parents promptly received news about good behavior and all of the Chance Slips their child had earned, while the named children enjoyed a small treat, Saint Card or other small surprise. By handing in the winners’ Chance Slips, she reduced the number of slips in the bucket. This gave the other children a better opportunity to win, and encouraged the winners to try for more slips, again.

Near the end of the school year, Mrs. D. strategically drew a name that had not been read (she rigged it). But, it wasn’t because there were children who didn’t receive Chance Slips. I guarantee that the children in Mrs. D’s classroom earned plenty of those treasured slips. It just happened that one child’s slip continuously got missed in the draws.  

Be sure that by the end of the school year, every child gets their name gets drawn at least once. If there is a child who is not receiving chance slips, that’s a signal that you speak with their parents to encourage better behavior.

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Bingo Charts: Finally, to use Bingo Charts, print off a blank bingo chart for every child before they come into your classroom. They are easily found on the internet for free. Then, collect MANY small motivational stickers or stamps and prepare them for the first day.

Children will print their names on their Bingo Sheets as you explain your expectations. Throughout the school year, students will strive to be clear images of God to earn a row of stamps and stickers, and then fill out the entire board. Once a child’s board is full, they will hand it into you so you can report good behavior to their parents, earn a small treat or perhaps spend special time alone for 10-15 minutes in a reading corner (many teachers set up a bean bag or soft chair for reading time).

Focusing on Bingo charts during class distracts the children, so keep mental track of students deserving of a few stamps. Then, stamp charts ,with two or three stamps or stickers, at the end of class. Of course, little ones will love shouting, “Bingo,” as they see their final stamp or sticker placed on their Bingo charts.

I have tried these three incentives with my own students and children many times and they work! At a workshop, I once led, I carefully suggested that Catechists try one of these methods. A focused man raised his hand (he was following my “Clear Images of God Expectations”) and asked me if these games were successful. When I enthusiastically chimed in that they definitely were, he responded by telling me not to “suggest” trying them, but to instruct Catechists to use them. And so, I am instructing you . . .  use one of these methods! They work.

Before the end of the month, I’ll discuss methods to energize your classroom, that are fun and helpful. Enjoy fruitful, first weeks of faith formation and if you’ve already started classes, it’s not too late to implement these creative behavior management ideas.

 

 

 

 

 

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Mother’s Day: Parenting, Planning and Working Reflections

Most of you are mothers.  When you are not Catechizing your own children, amidst the laundry, cleaning, errand running, cooking and tending to children, you help form the faith of other parents’ beautiful children.

Perhaps some of you are grandmothers and you are past the chaotic parenting days.  Listening to your words of wisdom is prudent for those of us who are still in the middle of this grand, parenting hurricane.  You have raised your child or children.  Hundreds of piles of laundry don’t intimidate you.  Mastering how to cook meat so it doesn’t make your family ill, but doesn’t become a hockey puck happened years ago for you.  Embracing changes in your family routine without counting down the hours until you enjoy that coveted glass of wine is easier than it used to be.

Grandmothers, I have not reached your level of wise parenting.  Working mothers, perhaps you are good at this dual role of parenting and working.  Maybe, you are clumsily growing in both roles, as I am.  I humbly share these reflections because it is valuable to think and pray about how our one and only audience, as we parent and work, is Christ.  Equally as important: we are performing these roles together!

Seventeen years ago, when I had my first child, I dreamt about quitting my Catholic school teaching job and being a stay-at-home mommy indefinitely.  My house was going to be perfect for my dear husband to come home to.  I would wear lipstick when he walked through the door and smell like baby powder and his favorite lotion.  His shirts would be freshly pressed and the baby clothes would smell heavenly.

My daughter arrived and although I looked into her big blue eyes and felt an unconditional, indescribable love, I was lucky to get a shower in every other day.  I quit wearing makeup.  When my husband walked through the door, I couldn’t wait to hand him our Emily, so that I could wipe the baby throw-up out of my hair.  Our home smelled like dirty diapers and I missed my classroom, just a little.  I loved being a mom, but the messes were not part of my plan.

Three years later, I taught preschool part-time while TWO Johnson children attended daycare and another classroom, in the same building.  Our firstborn continued to drink from a bottle at the age of four, as a few disgruntled teachers frowned at my weak parenting skills.   I nursed child number two in the coat closet at the preschool/daycare facility.  Although I loved teaching again, it wasn’t part of my plan.

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How quickly they grow . . .

As a third child, a set of IDENTICAL TWIN BOYS and our youngest daughter arrived at our scenes of craziness, I continued to substitute teach, tutor, teach faith formation, Catholic home school, and participate in parish vacation bible schools.  Our family enjoyed it all, but it was busy.  Finally, I began God is Good VBS a handful of years ago.  I was and I am passionate about this form of Catechesis, but, at first, It wasn’t part of my plan.

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God help the mothers of Identical twin boys

Perhaps you just led First Communion Sunday at your parish, or Confirmation, or you are thinking about summer Catechesis and it’s becoming difficult to balance it all.  Maybe your parish is introducing a new priest to the flock or you are concerned about a parish child or family.  You may be taking care of a sick parent or your husband needs you because he is going through a difficult time.

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First Communion Sunday

If you’re like me then, during busy times, you pray in thanks for the blessings, but you raise your voice a bit too loudly at your own children.  You kick your shoes off a little too hard at the front door.  You confess the same sins you confessed two weeks ago.  You lament about parts of your day not being part of your plan.

Catechists and Catholic mothers, we are, together, performing, in this role we call motherhood and womanhood.  And, again, Christ is our audience.  He is watching us and although we are our hardest critics, guess what?  God is not a critic.  He is waiting for us to come falling into His comforting care.

And, what about the plan?  We know that our Mother in Heaven, Mary, asked about God’s plan when Angel Gabriel told her that she was with child . . .

 (Luke 34-37) Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”  

Then, Mary accepted His plan . . .

(Luke 38) Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

Mary is the one person who knows that God’s plan is the best plan, because She knew Him better than anyone else.  She carried Jesus in her womb for nine months and She was His Mother on earth and in heaven.  Coming close to Mary is the way to get close to Jesus and to listen to His plan.

As Catechists, His plan, for us, is to teach children to know, love and serve Him.  Whether we have finished raising our children and Catechesis is our main focus, or we are balancing faith formation with our own children and others’ children, we are blessed to be part of His plan.

So, on Mother’s Day, and through out this month of May, I will pray for the women in this group of Catechists.  May God bless you with His plan and may you accept it graciously, while embracing your Holy messes and Divine chaoses.  Happy Mother’s Day.

 

VBS: A Vacation from the Usual Methods of Catechesis

6007853effa66f7c47d5354bd85bc856Occasionally religious educators or parents ask what do games, art, music, and assemblies, in vacation bible school, have to do with Catechesis?  Some parish leaders continue with, “It’s so much work to prepare and lead VBS.  I’m not sure I want to do it again this year.”

Or parents tell these frustrated leaders, “I am looking forward to VBS so my children can play games and sing Catholic music, but I am not sure I want to volunteer.”

My response to these important people in children’s lives, is always the same: PLEASE, remember that VBS is a vacation from the usual methods of Catechesis, but it isn’t a vacation from learning and falling in love with our faith.

Let’s look at a lesson from our game station where children learn about the great difference between Jesus’ miracle and science tricks. Earlier in Assembly, children learn about the day’s VBS theme: “Miracles of Jesus in the Gospel according to Luke.”  To catch the children’s attention, in an anticipatory set, the VBS leader distributes magic jumping beans.  As children watch beans jumping in their warm, little hands discussion about the difference between science or magic tricks and the very real miracles performed by Jesus.

Later in the game station, children listen to Luke’s Gospel about Jesus’ miracle of healing the sick.  Participants discuss the entire Scripture reading (not just a verse).  After the short lesson, the children are given time to pretend to be jumping beans by jumping in a potato sack race.  Kinesthetic learners enjoy getting their energy out and everyone is enriched, as they learn about miracles by playing a game!

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The prior example, and countless others, are why we should embrace the vacation part of vacation bible school. In art stations our visual learners design and create.  In prayer stations children learn new prayers and spend time with Jesus in Adoration.  Hungry, adventurous participants try new Holy Land food in the snack station.  Dancing and singing fill the parish gathering space with joy and praising.

Although there are fine, quality Catechetical books to be read during the school year, we don’t advocate workbooks or worksheets during God is Good VBS weeks.  We believe, that Catholic schools should sometimes take a break from textbooks, too, and consider other methods of teaching during the school year.

Especially during the summer, playing games, dancing, creating art, praying new prayers, role playing and reading Sacred Scripture is learning at its best and these activities create enthusiasm about our rich Catholic faith.  Learning and love for Jesus, His Church and the Bible is limitless with this vacation from the usual methods of teaching.

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Earlier in the school year  I was working with my six year old, out of a good reading program.  She understood the phonics because the teaching methods were presented correctly.  This curricula introduced a few games and one art project but I started to think that if games, art, music, technology, and snacks could consistently be introduced to this learning, that my little girl would learn even more and she would become much more excited reading.   Solid VBS Catechesis brings children closer to Christ and His Church.

That’s how VBS works. If your parish enthusiastically implements vibrant music, energetic assemblies and solid faith formation stations during VBS you are enriching Catechesis in a whole new way!  It’s important to ask for guidance from other educators and curricula developers, too.  We want to be there for you to make VBS Catechesis an amazing experience for everyone involved.

And what do parish leaders say to parents to get them involved in VBS?  Families meet lifelong friends through VBS and other unique parish events.  We must remind families that VBS is a community builder and that they will grow and fall in love with their faith, with their children, if they become  a small part of VBS weeks!  You may be surprised that your enthusiasm and love for our Church will grow, too!

A look back: Forming Faith in 2015

As readers well know, reflecting on our past faith formation experiences is important.

We released  Jesse Tree Journey VBS,  a year ago, in January 2015.  God is Good VBS was pleased to meet many new customers who taught their parish children about Jesus’ family tree.  Our most popular purchasing state became Texas!

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NCCL Conference Booth

In May, 2015, after attending the NCCL Conference in Buffalo, New York, we learned that it was important to add a technology station to our vacation bible school curricula. More than one workshop focused on the benefits of technology (i.e. embracing Twitter with our teens and tweeting about what they learned, positive Facebook interactions and using computer programs).

After May’s conference we began working on our third vacation bible school theme – technology station included.  We had already developed the fun study of what we believe, in Amazing Apostles’ Creed.  Again, Jesse Tree Journey was 2015’s theme.  Interestingly, we sold about the same number of both programs through out the nation.

In June, it was time to develop an energetic study of the Gospel according to Luke!  As far as we knew no other summer vacation bible school curricula had focused on the Gospels.  St. Luke is known as the Gospel author for women and children.  His writing is simple, yet beautiful and St. Luke’s detailed focus on the nativity and infancy of Jesus is unique to Sacred Scripture.  Finally, because this Church year is the Year of Mercy, the Gospel of Luke is perfect for studying because St. Luke emphasized forgiveness from Jesus and His mercy throughout his Gospel.   In fact, St. Luke’s Gospel is considered the Gospel of Mercy.

(Luke 17:3-4) “Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive.  And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.”

Our new theme was a labor of love as we introduced Luke’s divinely inspired writing.  We explored the annunciation, incarnation, nativity, parables, miracles and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, through the eyes of Luke, who we believe, learned much about Jesus from meeting the Virgin Mary and St. Paul.  We infused role plays, games, art, prayer, music and, now, technology into our curricula.

We completed the development of Our Magnificent Four: Luke the Evangelist, in the fall, just in time to take in two more conferences: in Bronx, New York and in San Jose, California.  These conferences were miles apart in distance, temperature, and cultures and I attended both in less than a month.

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New York was chaotic, overwhelming and exciting.
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St. Patrick’s, on an October Sunday morning,  in Manhattan was an amazing experience.

The trains, busses, subways and taxis in New York were exhausting but I met enthusiastic religious educators.  They were very interested in getting city children outside to play during a vacation bible school week.  Sister Zelide, from the Yonkers/Westchester Diocese hosted us and she was delightful and sweet.  My daughter and I enjoyed a day in Manhattan.    Mass at the conference was full of enthusiasm and Mass at St. Patrick’s  Cathedral was beautiful.

California was as tiring as New York.  It is likely that this is because we brought our six children on the road trip to the San Jose Conference.  Before we arrived in sunny San Jose, we had already driven at least 2500 miles through Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Utah, Arizona and southern and central California.  After my husband and I spent more than thirty hours in the car with six children over five days, we relished standing in a conference booth meeting adults!

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Sunny and Seventy: San Jose Convention Center

Surprisingly, many of the attendees in San Jose were not familiar with vacation bible school so we spent a great deal of time explaining the concept of five day faith formation during the summer.  I wanted Catholic educators to understand how important it is to take this opportunity to teach our children about their faith in a fun, relaxed environment, by using curricula that takes a vacation from the typical faith formation.  I also learned that it is critical that we get a Spanish version of our curricula out soon, as New York, California and our very passionate customers in Texas are often bilingual.

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Three of our children driving themselves and their parents crazy on their way out west to California.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also led a workshop in Fresno, California about leading a successful VBS program.  Educators learned the importance of choosing a solid, Catholic program, the value of energetic music, the keys to an effective prayer station and more.

As our year drew to a close, we promoted one other program not already mentioned in this post: Jesse Tree Journey Day VBS.  This program is a condensed version of our week-long summer program that is especially perfect for Advent.  It was very popular and our hope is that many children learned about the birth of Christ by following His family tree, beginning with Jesse and David and ending, of course, with the miraculous birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

It is always sad to see the Christmas season end, but looking ahead to children learning about St. Luke this summer, brings joy to our hearts, at God is Good VBS.  May your parishes enjoy this last week of the Christmas season before the Baptism of our Lord, and may your students learn more about this rich, beautiful faith of ours in the new year.

 

God is Good in the Big Apple

A week ago my seventeen year old daughter, Emily, and I arrived at La Guardia Airport, on a rainy afternoon, to attend the New York Catechists Forum.  Friends work for an airline and we purchased buddy passes from them.  So, before we flew, we had already spent seven hours in our Minneapolis airport waiting to get on standby and when they called our names we felt as if we had won the lottery.

IMG_0245Parts of the hurricane that later pummeled the Carolinas were paying a short, less severe, visit to New York as we ventured into Manhattan.  Our luggage felt as if it was filled with bricks as two suitcases carried our vacation bible school curricula, the booth decor and several iPads for displaying Keynotes and our website,www.Godisgoodvbs.com.  A third suitcase held our clothing and seventeen year olds don’t travel lightly.

We purchased tickets for the bus that would take us to Harlem . . . where we planned to ride a train to Yonkers . . . and hoped to safely walk a half a mile in the dark to find our hotel.   These challenging steps were not wise for two women, with heavy luggage, in the rain, but we began the plan anyway.

An hour later,  my daughter and I were alone on the streets of Harlem, in the chilly, pouring rain, clueless to the location of the train station.  Of course, this isolation followed a tricky climb up and down bus steps with three heavy suitcases and countless snickers from bus riders who knew we weren’t locals.

I parked my daughter in a clothing store and, for the first time, attempted hailing a cab.  Waving both hands frantically, I juggled an umbrella that popped backwards in the wind.  Full cabs drove by me for a good twenty minutes and I questioned why people didn’t share taxis or if  I was hailing the cabs incorrectly.  Finally, an Uber driver stopped.  I threw my wet umbrella and drenched suitcase on his leather backseat as I ordered him to “wait right there while I retrieved my poor daughter and the remainder of our luggage.”  He must have been picturing a cold, scared toddler being watched by security.  In reality, my teenager and the store guard were safe and laughing as they watched my foolish cab hailing antics.

The warm, dry car was heavenly and our Yonkers hotel, that we finally arrived at, was lovely.  Emily and I headed to the Bronx’s Cardinal Spellman High School the next morning, bright and early, after a well deserved, sound sleep.  We were greeted by a regional director’s assistant, a nun, who was one of the sweetest people we had ever met.  I have never met a Sister I didn’t respect instantly, and she was another woman of Christ I knew I’d love.  Her sister, who is also “married to Jesus and His Church,” was the regional director of Catechesis for one of the neighborhoods in New York and she was the leader who invited us to attend.  She too is a lovely, strong, kind woman.  I’d like to be like just like these women “when I grow up.”

IMG_0247Once our booth was set up we attended Mass with one thousand New York Catechists.  Our Minnesota population is not blessed with many Spanish speaking Catechists as we are mostly Norwegian and Irish, and it struck my daughter and me how passionate these men and women were during Mass.  The music made the Mass more charismatic than we are used to in our stoic midwest, and although the congregation was enthusiastic they also remained quite reverent and respectful.  Their deep love for Christ and the Mass moved us.

Mass reflects why teachers, children and all Catholics rely on the beauties and Divine inspirations of our faith and do not depend upon trends or novelties.  Children’s Catholic curricula, too, does not need to be filled strange themes that have nothing to do with our Catholic Church.  Emily and I were reminded of this during the Mass that Emily and I spent with New York Catechists.

After Mass we met many Catechists, Directors of Religious Education, priests, sisters and regional directors at our God is Good VBS booth.  Many leaders, surprisingly, in this area of the United States, had never tried vacation bible school!  We explained that solid, Catholic VBS programs like ours are unique methods of Catechesis that allow children to rotate to learning stations to play games, create art, pray, sing and dance!  The teachers and directors expressed tremendous interest and we hope that we will meet many of them as customers.

A particular program many Catechists expressed interest in was our Day VBS program.   Catechists prepare a day of  learning, singing, dancing, and rotating to faith formation stations to learn about the Jesse Tree – Jesus’ family tree.  This is an ideal program, to lead children to Christmas, for a Saturday during Advent or faith formation evening.  Several teachers purchased this Jesse Tree Journey Day VBS!

MailDesignerImage-71E4673F-A4D3-4D39-9924-D974C70B4F8C-image-8We hope that many leaders throughout the nation will teach children about Advent using this Jesse Tree Journey Day VBS program, which is placed on a flash drive, so that children can come to know about Jesus’ birthday.  Getting up from desks and creating Joseph coats, slinging “stones” to remember David, praying parts of the Rosary as they remember the Virgin Mary, dancing, and singing is a unique way to celebrate the days leading up to Christmas.

Finally, we introduced our Director’s Kits that contained five days of curricula, decorations, music and more.  We showed leaders Amazing Apostles’ Creed (a program that teaches children what we believe as Catholics in an energetic manner), Jesse Tree Journey (the week-long version of the Day VBS) and Our Magnificent Four: St. Luke the Evangelist (a special exploration of St. Luke’s beautiful Gospel).

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The description of this special day read, “Directors and Coordinators of Religious Education, Parish Catechists and all people interested in Church teachings are invited to this year’s premier event for personal and professional development and enrichment.”  We hope that teachers were enriched by the workshops they attended and learned about our new methods of Catechizing!  It will be a delight to know these passionate people as customers before Advent!

By the way, Emily and I visited the gorgeous St. Patrick’s Cathedral and attended a whimsical musical, on Sunday, after the Cateehetical Forum, and we even learned to ride the buses and trains without drama.

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For more information about our company, God is Good VBS call us at 952-290-0483 or visit www.Godisgoodvbs.com.  New York City and the Sisters and catechists who welcomed us, we thank you.

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Day VBS Programs – Another Method for Catechists

I never tire of visiting with customers.  Enthusiastic religious educators who seek many ways to Catechize and evangelize are people blessed with character.  This summer, among many leaders I shared phone conversations and meetings with, one director of religious education stays in my heart and on my mind while I work on our new project.  I did not ask for permission to reveal her name, so we’ll call her “Myrtle.”  If she’s reading this, she’ll understand why I picked this lovely name and I am hoping for a giggle.

When Myrtle ordered Jesse Tree Journey VBS, in March this year,  she was tentative about her new plans for the summer program at her parish.  The year before, as a DRE, she cancelled her parish VBS because potential volunteers needed to work during Monday through Friday.  She made a decision to offer a Saturday VBS for the summer of 2015.  We discussed how the five-day curriculum from God is Good VBS could be altered to fit into a day program.  As she got closer to the summer I would help her plan her parish’s Saturday using our Jesse Tree Journey VBS

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Jesse Tree Journey VBS Director’s Kit

It turns out I didn’t need to assist this dynamic VBS leader a lot, but I enjoyed talking with her.  Myrtle called me in the spring and already had many, many participants signing up for her summer Jesse Tree Journey.  Parents and volunteers were signing up, too.  This year was going to be a success with numbers, and preparing the curricula was looking easy, too!

At the beginning of June, we heard from many DREs and VBS leaders to answer questions, order tees, CDs and extra materials.  God is Good VBS looked forward to praying for and assisting leaders in VBS throughout the summer.  Feedback was positive and things were going smoothly.  Myrtle reached out to us in the middle of June and she and I confirmed her unique routine for Saturday VBS.  Again, this parish leader did not require a lot of help, because her enormous enthusiasm for the people of her parish and for VBS (a way of teaching about our Church and Scripture in a relaxed, unique manner) gave her the energy she needed for setting things in motion.  Together, we set up a special, seven hour day that began with an assembly, continued with faith formation stations that enriched what she taught in the morning and lunch.  Then, she scheduled another afternoon assembly, a few more faith formation stations and a closing assembly with more dancing and music to end the day.

Besides the very concise and organized routine we were both impressed with the improvement in attendance and enthusiasm her parish showed for Saturday VBS!  The VBS attendance for her parish included at least 75 participants and almost as many volunteers!

A touching parish story was shared by Myrtle before she led Saturday’s VBS.  A new parish member was considering volunteering at this Saturday VBS.    The young mother and her husband had recently moved, with their family, and she was unsure about Godparents for her youngest.  Because religious educators are always looking for new ways to evangelize and Catechize, Myrtle suggested that she volunteer at the VBS to get to know the other volunteers.  In fact, the VBS leader offered, enthusiastically, to introduce the young mother to many other volunteers!  Here was an opportunity to meet other Catholics that could quickly become like-minded friends.  And perhaps there would be a Godparent for this mom’s child!  The very next day, the mom phoned our amazing VBS leader and volunteered herself and her husband for the VBS Saturday.  As so often happens, the vacation bible school event was going to be much more than a “vacation classroom setting.”  It was becoming a parish wide event where children and adults alike could become a better community and learn about Christ and His Church together, in an energetic, fun manner.  And that is the true definition of a successful VBS!

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, dear readers, that this Catholic VBS was a huge success.  I received an email after the Saturday VBS and it went, not surprisingly, wonderfully!  6007853effa66f7c47d5354bd85bc856 Does your parish struggle with getting parents to commit to week-long VBS programs?  Are schedules interrupting your opportunity to introduce Catholic Vacation Bible Schools to your parish?  You’re not alone  That is why God is Good VBS is excited to announce that in September we will be offering Jesse Tree Journey VBS in an eBook format as a Day VBS program.  The opportunities are limitless with this format.  Here’s why:

  1. Again, if your parish can’t commit to a week-long VBS, these eBook Day VBS programs are an excellent option!
  2. eBooks are less expensive.  We are analyzing prices in August, but it looks as if Jesse Tree Journey Day VBS  will be half as much as our Director’s Kits.
  3. If you’d like to add a Day VBS program to your school year faith formation, you can lead it two different ways.  Add Jesse Tree Journey Day VBS  to your parish calendar on a Saturday during Advent!  Or, split the Jesse Tree Journey Day VBS into two afternoon classes during Faith Formation classes!  Classroom teachers can lead the stations by age groups.
  4. God is Good VBS continues to provide week-long VBS programs for parishes that are accustomed to the five-day format.
  5. Directors at the dioceses’ levels are always looking for different formats to educate our youth.  We would be remiss if we turned away from vacation bible school styles of educating – even during the school year!

If you have questions regarding this new product, we will be placing it on our website at www.Godisgoodvbs.com by September.  We do love to chat about Catechesis and you can call us at 952-290-0483 to discuss these fun eBooks!  Until then, a unique thanks is expressed  to “Myrtle” and our other Saturday VBS customers who inspired us to continue to find ways to Catechize and evangelize in different forms of curricula!  In fact, all of our customers inspire us with their God-given strengths to Catechize our children, and we are grateful! Jesse Tree LOGO

Decorating your Parish VBS Space with “Treemendous” Trees

As God is Good VBS customers prepare for their VBS week, we hear from them.  A handful of parish leaders, VBS volunteers and Directors of Religious Education choose to leave most of their VBS parish space empty until children excitedly arrive to help decorate their learning and creating space.  Decorating exceptions include the blank assembly mural we strongly suggest for Amazing Apostles’ Creed or an empty mural of an olive tree for Jesse Tree Journey.  Adorning walls with Scripture posters, Jesse Tree symbols, faith formation station signs and welcome signs (provided on the Director’s Flash Drive) is an extra touch leaders use before children arrive.

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Jesse Tree Symbols go on walls and are prepared for an assembly Jesse Tree.

Although giving children the independence toward decorating their own space is sound practice for educating, and leaders should avoid going over-board with decor, so children do not lose focus of what they are exploring, a few dazzling decorations to excite the young and young at art (enthusiastic leaders) is fun.  One way to jump start your Amazing Apostles’ Creed “Garden of Eden” or your Jesse Tree Journey “Holy Land” is to create “Palm Noodle Trees.”

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Noodle Tree featuring tulle, rather than construction paper “leaves.”

“Creating Treemendous Trees”  Volunteers can easily create Palm Noodle Trees for either theme..  These beautiful trees were originally made by “She Bakes and Creates Blogger.”  Palm, olive and cypress trees are three common trees one might see in the Holy Land.  You can find materials and directions for these gorgeous trees at her link: http://shebakesandcreates.com/2013/08/13/make-your-own-palm-trees-with-pool-noodles/

Many basement gathering places are graced, if you want to call it that, with support posts.  A second “treemendous tree idea” we’ve seen for the Garden of Eden or Holy Land is to wrap posts with brown bulletin board paper.  Then, top the paper with bugle shaped green construction paper or palms so that each post resembles a tree!

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This photo was chosen from a Pinterest stock photo and we see these in gathering spaces often for VBS weeks.

A third decorating  idea, VBS customers have shared with me, that works nicely with Jesse Tree Journey is to add “summer Christmas trees” to an assembly space.  Although large parishes will rely on large screens to display Jesse Tree symbols, hanging the provided 8.5″ x 11″ posters, on artificial Christmas trees is fun too!  You’ll want to explain that Christmas in June, July or August is a great joy they’ll celebrate, but the type of tree we are accustomed to for Christmas was not found in the Holy Land where Joseph, David, Isaac, Mary and Abraham lived long ago.

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Although we aren’t likely to cut down real Christmas trees in July, Knights of Columbus and other volunteers will be happy to set up fake Christmas trees for assembly spaces during Jesse Tree Journey VBS.  Children will delight in this decorating idea!

Next week check back with our God is Good VBS Blog, or like us at https://www.facebook.com/godisgoodvbs, to decorate with heavenly clouds that may have been floating over the Garden of Eden or David and Goliath’s battle.  June 8th VBS  leaders may even want to call us to find out to create those clouds.  I’ll fill you in.at 952-290-0483.  God bless your parish VBS experiences!