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VBS Happy Days

Are you ready for the happy days of this summer's VBS? To ensure that your VBS is a rockin' event, we've already started the selection process for you. Our reviewers sifted through every inch of every kit to help you find the top 3 bee-boppin, sho-wappin, shang-a-lang-a-ding-dong hottest VBS programs that'll rock the charts in 1999.

Remember the old TV show Happy Days? Life seemed much simpler then. The show made it seem like no one had anything better to do than hang out at the local malt shop. And people's biggest problems could be solved with "the look" or a laid-back "hey" from the Fonz.

We don't have the Fonz! But we do have 15 experienced children's ministers and VBS veterans who've helped us help you. Each of our 14 participating VBS publishers was kind enough to send us three sample kits. Then we sent the kits out to our reviewers. Two reviewers examined each kit to ensure a checks-and-balances system.

Before you feast your eyes on the top three picks, let's talk about lingo. Here's what we mean when we say...

Active learning-Children learn deeply by being involved in activities that evoke emotions. It's learning that involves everyone and is focused through reflection, interpretation, and application questions.
Interactive learning-Children work together in pairs or groups to accomplish shared goals. The success of the group is dependent upon each group member. Children teach and learn from each other.
Learner-based VBS-The learning environment focuses on children by gearing lessons to how children learn best. Learner-based classrooms accommodate varied learning styles (how children learn best) and multiple intelligences (innate cognitive strengths).
Center-based VBS-Groups of six to eight children move to various activity centers each day, such as story, craft, game, and snack centers. The entire VBS is focused on the same lesson for the day.
Site-based VBS-Larger groups of children attend one activity site for the entire time, and they attend all five sites throughout the week. Every day, the five different lessons are taught at these sites, and all the components of the specific lesson happen at that site.
Traditional VBS-Children remain primarily in one classroom or location with the same teacher for the duration of the VBS each day. The entire VBS is focused on the same lesson for the day.

Jungle Journey uses a South American theme and five Amazon creatures as object lessons. The Bible stories focus on how God kept all his promises in Jesus. The Scriptures pinpoint reasons for fears and show that children don't need to fear any more.

The Jungle Journey is definitely learner-based. The variety of ideas and options sugessted to present the material and involve the students is very impressive. Children will love the jungle theme and learning all about the interesting jungle creatures. Did you know there's a lizard named the Jesus Christ lizard? It got its name because of its ability to walk on water to get away from danger.

See what we mean! Children love learning new and interesting facts about animals.

1. Hands-on activities. Questions encourage student interaction. Enough material to create an interactive setting.

2. Content-Well-planned and sequential. Bible-based with daily life application. Service and mission projects. Doesn't include specific information on how to lead a child to Christ.

3. Director materials-Detailed step-by-step format. Contains preplanning schedules, training session material, job descriptions, relational tips, registration procedures, ideas for extended sessions, emergency plans, and security ideas.

4. Teacher materials-Each age group contains teacher tips for age-level insights, discipline, and special-needs children. Details the life application in each lesson. Informative program introduction. Great resources for future events or classes. Preparation is not too intensive.

5. Student materials-Attractive and colorful. Contain real information with reinforcement of the lesson objectives. Used effectively for review and life application. Provides parents a quick and easy report of the day. Inviting to unchurched children.

6. User friendliness-Easy to use and prepare. Information is easy to find. Easy-to-follow directions. Craft kits are ready to go. Lesson patterns and objects are ready to be copied. Teacher packets are available and include CDs.

7.Publicity helps-There are 10 pages of publicity ideas including ways to craft your own publicity plan. Colorful, kid-friendly posters, door knob hangers, and postcards. Other items available for purchase. Emphasis on children inviting their friends.

8. Teacher aids-Extra resources available such as a decorating guide, teacher packet with easy-to-use materials and idea helps, and a skit book.

9. Theme-The jungle theme is attractive to kids of all ages. The theme is interwoven into all the activities. Evangelistic in nature.

10. Art-Vivid, colorful, and child-friendly. Real-life photos and cartoon characters create an appealing combination.

11. Crafts-Great craft ideas relate to the Bible lesson for the day. Prepackaged, ready-to-assemble crafts are a bit pricey but very easy. There's also the option of gathering your own craft supplies.

12. Music-Lively, upbeat, and easy to learn. Catchy, simple tunes relate to the lesson themes. Appealing to girls and boys. Split-track CDs and cassettes, music song books, and lyrics books are available.

13. Games-Simple noncompetitive games tie in with the theme. Good mix of age-appropriate games for lesson connections.

14. Snacks-Easy to assemble with easy-to-find ingredients. Snacks relate to the theme. Kids are involved in snack preparation. Cost-effective for large groups.

15. Adaptability-Many options for expanding each lesson for a 10-day program or summer Sunday school curriculum. Suitable for a backyard Bible club or camp setting. Family Fun Pak offers ideas to make the VBS intergenerational.

16. Opening/Closing-Simple opening celebration. Ideas for a closing event with the parents. Skit includes the same characters from their 1998 VBS.

17. Drama-Lots of opportunities for skits and role playing. Drama takes place mostly in the Bible-story review.

18. Format-Full of possibilities for solid relational connections between children and adults. Class time takes on a small-group feel. Schedule options for center-based and traditional programs.

19. Follow-Up-Demonstrates strong value in connecting to unchurched families with ideas for follow-up visits and activities.

20. Registration-Preregistration ideas and strategies for hassle-free registration. Reproducible registration forms included. Colorful, theme-related registration cards are available.

21. Vital statistics-Starter kit, $39.99. Concordia Publishing House, 3558 S. Jefferson Ave., St. Louis, Missouri 63118. Or call 800-325-3040 or (519) 748-2200.

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