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Preserving the Harvest Through Prayer – A prayer gathering idea

I recently became prayer coordinator for a local Christian women’s organization. As prayer coordinator, I am responsible to  plan monthly small group prayer gatherings or “prayer coffees” where the ladies pray for personal and community needs as well as supporting the larger community luncheon meetings with prayer.

Here is the meeting plan I used for November:

Theme: Harvesttable-setting-and-cake
Decoration ideas:  anything fall that relates to the harvest – apples, pumpkins, home canned goods.


Coffee, assorted teas or cider. Some kind of harvest type food.
I served a vintage apple cake recipe circa 1940 from my aunt called Jewish Apple Cake One of the attendees also brought a great caramel dip for sliced apples or crackers/ pretzels.

mason-jar-prayer-cardPrayer cards:

I made prayer cards which the ladies could use to write down the requests. These cards could be hung on the fridge or slipped into their Bibles – anywhere they would see them often and remember to pray through the month. For this meeting I made the prayer cards in the shape of canning jars about the size od a3x5 index card. One of the ladies jokingly said she needed a quart jar for her requests, rather than a pint sized jar. LOL!


Preserving the Harvest Through Prayer

Let’s do a little word association game today. Think of a one word answer and say the first word that pops into your head

Black Friday.
(Encourage the ladies to share their words and why they chose those words. My ladies associated  “crowds” with an unruly group of fans that recently destroyed property in their excitement following a college football game where their team won.)

Think about those crowds of people. How do you see them? (Greedy, jostling, pushy, impatient, impolite, tired angry, single-minded)

Now, how do you think Jesus sees those same crowds of people?

 Matthew 9:36. “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (NIV)

Jesus had compassion on those crowds of people. He looked at them and saw their individual emptiness, their needs, their shame, their hurts. He saw their hearts!

Now think about those crowds of people and look at them the way Jesus did. What do you see now? – a tired mom with a toddler in tow, a dad worried about losing his job before the holidays, a daughter whose mom isn’t expected to make it through the holidays…. They become individual people with needs.

But if we continue to read that passage in Matthew, Jesus saw something else in the crowds.

 Matthew 9: 37 and 38. “Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Pray to the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Here he saw more than just a crowd of people, he saw souls that needed to be harvested.

But he also saw something that saddened him – there weren’t enough laborers to gather that harvest so he told his disciples to pray over the harvest that there would be enough workers.

The devotion for today is called Preserving the harvest through prayer. Looking at the home canned food on the table we understand preserving – it’s the process of putting food into jars and preserving it so it lasts until we’re ready to eat it.  (One of my guests suggested that prayer is like the glass jar – it surrounds the person and helps to preserve them as the Lord works in their lives to bring them to himself.)

Prayer is our #1 tool to preserve the harvest! Let’s use it.Here’s several suggestions for usingthe tool of prayer to preserve the harvest:

  1. We can pray  for the individuals in the crowds.
    You might strike up a casual conversation while waiting in line at the check out. Something that is said may give you an inkling into the needs of that person so that you can pray for them.
  2. Blanket the crowd with prayer, targeting issues they may be facing.
    Example – With divorce rates over 50%, there will be at least 5 people out of ten in a room filled with people who have gone through divorce. You can pray for the Lord’s touch on those who have experienced divorce or any other life issue like domestic violence, abuse, etc.
  3. As Jesus directed us, we need to pray that the Lord will send people to minister to the people in the crowds.
  4. This is where it gets personal – Pray that you will have the right words, the right attitude, the compassion of Jesus as you are out in those crowds to be an influence in someone’s life each day!

End in prayer for wisdom and courage to become a prayer warrior and a worker in the harvest field.

Take prayer requests, having the ladies write each one on their prayer card. Take time to pray for each request and remind the ladies to put their prayer card somewhere they will see it often as a reminder to pray.

Please feel free to use this devotional, but if you do, be sure to leave a comment below and let me know how things went!



Let’s get ready for VBS part 6

Develop a plan to reach your VBS goals

Zig Ziglar said, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.”

That is so true. You’ve begun making all kinds of great plans for your VBS so now it’s time to create a time frame to pull it all together.

4-5 months in advance:

  • Bathe the VBS in prayer.

It’s never too early to begin praying for your VBS. Solicit prayer warriors to pray each day for the promotion, for the souls of the boys and girls attending, for the staff. As you plan the program, bring additional needs to these pray-ers like financial needs, etc.

  • Start by getting your staff in place.

Once you have your key volunteers in place, you can delegate the remaining jobs. For example – those who will be leading and helping with craft activities will be in charge of choosing age appropriate crafts, gathering craft materials and putting kits together for the children by a certain date. The same with games and snacks.

Those who will be helping to teach the lessons, can help design and gather lesson materials, etc..

  • Set a budget

This is your financial framework. Be sure to include money for all aspects of the program including lesson and craft materials, snacks, games and  publicity.If you need to do some fundraising, that should be decided now to give ample time to carry it out so the money is available when o need it.

3-4 months in advance:

  • Give each group the results of the brainstorming session and give them a month or two to research the ideas and come up with a  plan.

For example,  there may be twenty ideas for crafts on the brainstorming cards. The crafts group will narrow down the ideas by researching how well each one fits with the message you want to get across to the children, how easy they are to do, the cost and the age appropriateness. Ideas that don’t fit will be put aside.

The group then needs to  put together a complete list of supplies they will need to complete the crafts which are chosen.. This should be done in January and February so they have time to order supplies later.

The group in charge of teaching will go over any ideas from the brainstorming cards and begin to choose  stories which fit the message Then they will gather items for object lessons or props for storytelling, etc. We will discuss more about writing curriculum in  a new series beginning soon.

  • Decide on a strategy for promotion

How will you get the word out about your VBS? Post cards to those who have come in previous years, a sign in the front yard, news ads and stories, a float in the Memorial Day parade? Get creative within your budget.

2-3 months:

  • Begin gathering supplies and decorations:

Depending on your budget, you will need to begin purchasing supplies for crafts, games, etc.  If you cannot purchase supplies, compile a detailed list and  ask for donations. Be sure to have a back up plan in case you don’t get everything you need in the form of donations.

Organize your supplies as you receive them so you have a clear idea of what is still needed.

  • Complete lesson plans

Assemble any props that go with the lesson and begin to practice  the lesson delivery. For example, if the lesson involves object lessons, science experiments or magic tricks, it is best to be prepared so you can deliver the lesson  without malfunctions.

If you’re using drama or puppets, begin practicing with those as well. Learn the songs you plan to use and begin promoting them in other children’s programs.The children will enjoy the VBS more and be able to help teach the songs to the visitors during the VBS if they already know the music.

  • Begin your publicity

Don’t wait until the last minute to promote. The earlier you start and the more thorough of a job you do, the better the attendance will be.

The last month before the event:

Be sure you have all your supplies for props, lessons and crafts – and be sure they are organized and accessible.. Begin to gather supplies for snacks (the ones which don’t spoil or get stale).

You can begin to put up a few decorations as a teaser, though the bulk of them should not be on display until the Sunday before the event to create additional excitement for the program.

Continue with promotions like postcards for the children to invite guests or the newspaper ads.

Be sure the staff is prepared  and ready to go. No one likes last minute surprises!

Step 6 Develop a plan and stick with it!

Let’s get ready for VBS part 5

Have a brainstorming session!

Now that you’ve got the framework in place for your VBS plans – your message, your teaching model, your visual theme, you might consider having a brainstorming meeting to generate as many ideas as possible for your program.

The process of brainstorming itself is a free-writing exercise designed to “turn off” the inner critic we all seem to have. When our brain generates an idea, immediately we attach a judgment to it. “Oh that’s great!” or “No that’s a stupid idea.” Or even, “Humph! That would take too much work!”

Brainstorming allows us to bypass that  judgment process to get as many ideas down on paper in a short period of time as possible. Because it  tends to become a game or fun activity,  the participants are more relaxed. You will be amazed at how many great ideas this process generates.

Here’s how it works:

First – emphasize to the group that there are no right or wrong, good or bad ideas.  Every idea has merit and even if it isn’t chosen for your program, it might work well in a future program

Next  – Make a list of categories across the top of a blackboard, dry erase board or a large sheet of paper. Categories might include:

Games – Snacks – Crafts – Activities – Decorations – Prizes – Publicity  –  or anything connected with your VBS

Distribute a stack of 3 x 5 notecards of slips of paper to each person present at the planning meeting. 

At the signal, they are to quickly jot down as many ideas as they can for the VBS. Remind them not to worry about categorizing their ideas right now. That will be a later step.

They are to place only one idea on each slip of paper and write down whatever comes to mind without stopping to critique that idea. If their idea is long and involved, they should just write down a few  key words on each card, using several cards to get it all down.  Remember the key is to generate as many ideas as possible, not to elaborate on them at this point.

Set a time limit of no more than 5 to 10 minutes.

At the end of the time,  collect the cards and shuffle them up so no one knows knows who wrote down each idea. Read each card aloud and have the group assign it to a category.

Divide the group into committees to develop plans for each area of the program and distribute the idea cards They will use their idea cards to build a plan for their program. During this time, the small group will choose the ideas which work best for this particular program. they might shelve other ideas for use in a later program. They also highlight ideas which they want to develop further.

Usually the brain storming process will generate even more creative ideas as the excitement and enthusiasm builds during the planning portion of the meeting. Often ideas which weren’t even listed will be generated  and implemented into the plan as the small group narrows its focus.

Brainstorming is a great way to involve people and give them a sense of ownership in their D-I-Y  Vacation Bible School program.

Step 5: Brainstorm to generate program ideas.

In a new series starting next week, we will discuss writing your own teaching materials for your VBS program

Getting Ready for VBS part 4

Assessing your human resources

One of the common complaints of small churches is the lack of trained workers for all the programs of the church. Often the workers who are already faithful  can’t take on one more thing without burning out. Work schedules may also prohibit good workers from participating in extra activities. Yet everyone wants to have a VBS program.

No doubt you took these concerns into consideration as you  worked on your message, your  visual decoration theme and the teaching model which will work best  for your VBS program.

Let’s take a more in depth look at your church’s human resources this morning..

  • · How many volunteers do you have who may be interested in working with your VBS program?

The type of teaching format you chose for your VBS will help determine the number of qualified personnel needed. Determine how many teachers will you need. Then estimate the number of children you expect to attend the VBS event.  You will need enough helpers to adequately monitor the anticipated attendance.  number.  Better to have more helpers than you need than not to have enough.

  • Do all of the teaching staff or volunteers have the proper clearances?

In the last ten years most of the churches have begun to require applications with references as well as criminal and abuse clearances in order to work with children. It’s not a comfortable requirement for volunteers, but it will safeguard the children and protect your church from  potential legal problems. Be sure of your church or denominational policy in this area.

Age is an important factor as well. Because of liability issues, teenagers may not be useable as teaching staff, even though they are readily available and generally willing to help. Do use them if possible as support staff as long as they are not in positions to be alone or in authority over children.

  • What specific talents and abilities do your volunteers have?

Many people think they cannot be involved in a children’s ministry because they are uneasy about being teachers. However, each person has abilities and interests unique to themselves that could be tapped for VBS. For example, a crafty person could design craft kits for the children’s activity time, even though they may not want to teach during craft time. Someone who knows how to “spin a good yarn” might make the perfect narrator for a continuing story during the week. 

During one of our VBS events, we incorporated a mom and daughter team who were expert clowns. They often  performed at  nursing homes and were excited about using their skills for our VBS program. They acted as MCs for the opening and also provided prizes, including balloon animals for the children though they didn’t teach the lessons

Look for those who have sewing skills, craft skills, building skills (for props), those with cooking sills to provide snacks or a special end of program treat.  People with unusual hobbies can often add an exciting and unique dimension to your VBS theme.

  • Assess people’s resources as well and how those resources might be used to promote or enhance the VBS program.

Business owners who attend your church might be willing to donate supplies in return for some free advertising. Crafters might be willing to donate handmade prizes or other items for decorating. If you have local farmers in your midst, they might be willing to donate hay bales or even a live animal to display during the program depending on your visual theme.

One man we knew owned a lemonade stand which he took to local carnivals. He didn’t want to teach, but he was willing to park his stand in the church parking lot and dole out homemade lemonade and popcorn to the children each night during our circus themed event.  He would not have been involved otherwise.

Pray and think outside the box for creative ways to involve as many of your church people as possible in the VBS. It will generate church unity, enthusiasm and a sense of ownership in the program, making it a huge success!

Step 4: Maximize your human resources for success!

Christmas Devotional for a ladies meeting–

As Prayer Coordinator for our local Christian Women’s group, I have to give a devotional at each meeting. I was never content to simply read a devotional because I know that people remember only 10% of what they hear. But by combining other physical senses in with the presentation, the lessons God wants to share with us will stay with us beyond the moment. 

For that reason, I love object lessons, because they  incorporate not only hearing, but sight, taste, touch and smell in the presentation. Not only will your group remember what you presented for a longer period of time, they are more interested during the presentation. Anticipation of what will happen next helps to hold their attention.

In our December Prayer Connection meeting. where we pray for our upcoming Christian Women’s luncheon, I chose a devotional by Mary Southerland of Girlfriends in God, called “Happy Birthday Jesus.” you can find it if you visit their site and check out the Devotional archives for December 8, 2010.

In her devotional, Mary shared four gifts that those around Jesus gave to Him at Christmas along with a scripture verse for each gift:

  • God’s gift to us – Luke 2:8-12
  • Mary gave the gift of trust – Proverbs 3:5-6
  • Joseph gave Him obedience – John 14:15
  • The shepherds gave a gift of praise Psalm 50:6
  • And the Wise Men gave the gift of sacrifice. (No scripture noted here)

I added   Romans 12:1 to the Wise Men’s section of the devotional and added one more  short points to the devotional since it was our Christmas prayer meeting.

  • Prayer is our gift to others this Christmas season – James 5:16

To set up the object lesson, I printed out each portion of scripture and tucked each one in a small box. The boxes were wrapped and placed randomly around the tables before the meal so they appeared to be decorations. During the devotional time, I instructed the ladies sitting nearest each gift to unwrap it and read the verse inside for each point of the devotional. This helped the lesson to be more visual and interactive.

As we readied our hearts for prayer – I shared that prayer is a gift we can give to  those around us – praying for salvation for those attending our luncheon; for our speaker’s words to be infused with the Spirit’s power; prayer for the needs of our friends, neighbors and others in our community.

I placed a “favor” at each place for decoration as well as a reminder  to pray. I used
Tea bag holders with a poem on the front:

Prayer Reminder
When I sit down with cup of tea
May I the needs of others see.
And may I lift those needs in love
To my Father up above.
~Bonnie Winters 12/10 ~


A tutorial for making the tea bag holders is at http://www.splitcoaststampers.com/resources/tutorials/teabagholder/

You could also use a small treat box for mints or candies as a favor and make up your own rhyme.You can find a wide variety of small treat box templates online as well by googling “treat box templates.” 

Quilting Bee – women’s spring banquet idea

We will be starting our planning in January for our Spring women’s banquet (formerly the mother/daughter event). So far we’ve done a Victorian theme, complete with hats for old-fashioned sepia colored photos, a home cooking theme with an actual cooking demo and an herbal theme with a guest who makes her own soaps and herb blends. It’s getting harder to top each one, but I think I’ve come up with a winner – a quilting bee theme!

Here’s some of the ideas I;ve come up with so far:

Invitations will be printed on “quilted cards.” I love making handmade greeting cards with various quilt block patterns on the front. they can be pieced with various design paper shapes or traced and colored in. Or perhaps take a photo of a favorite quilts/quilts and make computer generated photo cards for invitations.

Decorations can include a quilt frame with a quilt top in it, quilted wall hangings and actual quilts on display with note cards telling about each one’s history. Even framed quilt blocks or quilt photos can be used. Perhaps even old sewing machines or anything to do with quilting. Maybe even a tree decorated with quilted ornaments.

 I plan to cover the tables with white paper table cloths and make simple runners consisting of a single strip of 6-8 inch blocks sewn together which I happen to have already cut in my fabric stash.Fabric flowers would make a fun accent in vases in the center of each table as well. I will be looking for patterns to post  as I find them. They could also be used for door prizes  or favors.

Speaking of favors, there are lots of fun ideas – little sewing kits, small counted cross-stitch kits,  quilted potholders, quilted ornaments. My sister in law would probably find a pattern for plastic canvas that looked like a little quilted box to hold nuts and mints. LOL! A few years ago, I found some wooden trivets at Michaels which looked like quilt blocks and were relatively inexpensive. There are probably all sorts of inexpensive things to purchase or make for favors.

Quilts speak of warmth, love and friendship.During the early part of our country’s westward expansion, women made friendship quilts and signed each block so the recipient would have something of her friends to carry with her to her new home. They didn’t know if they would ever meet again. In Amish communities, women make quilts as gifts for their sisters who are getting married or about to have a baby. They work together, stitching love and best wishes into each one. This would make a great theme for a speaker.

We love games where  the attendees can mingle and get to know each other before the meal. How about “Name the quilt pattern”? You can place a few patterns on each table and the ladies have to go from table to table to  complete their list.

Or how about an activity where each one receives a muslin square when they come in. Fabric paint markers might be placed on the various tables (all the yellow markers on one table, all the red on another, etc.) so the ladies have to go from table to table to find the color they need. I realize if you have a large group, this might not be practical, but it works well for smaller gatherings.  All the squares should be signed, then gathered up and made into a friendship quilt after the dinner. The quilt may later be used to raise funds for  a missions project or as a gift for the pastor’s wife, etc.  

If you were really ambitious, you could send out or distribute the squares a few weeks before the dinner and assemble them for a grand prize drawing!

For the younger set (and the young at heart LOL!), you could pre-cut pieces of clear contact paper the size of placements and let them stick various shapes of design paper scraps to it to make a “crazy quilt” place mat.

The possibilities are endless for this theme. I can’t wait to see what my ladies come up with – but our banquet will probably be near the end of April in 2011. Wanna come?

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