If your church hasn’t already had Vacation Bible School it almost certainly will be very soon. Hard numbers are difficult to come by, but LifeWay estimates millions of kids, teens, and adults have come into a relationship with Jesus Christ as a result of an introduction first made through VBS. It’s the largest outreach event and direct evangelistic push of the year for many churches.
Jenni Carter, GBC state missionary for Sunday School/Small Groups, former children’s minister at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Macon for 24 years, and longtime member of the state VBS training team, is currently traveling Georgia to various Vacation Bible Schools (she went to 27 last year). She sees the tremendous amount of work VBS teams put into that week, but also ten mistakes often made.
Thinking you can do it all. “Many times VBS Leaders think they should be in charge of follow-up. While they need to see that it gets done, it works much better if they assign a VBS Follow-Up director. The VBS director has about 1,243 details to take care of before, during, and after VBS and many times Follow-Up doesn’t get done because the director is too busy handling the other details.”
Promotion is done primarily inside the church. “While some promotion needs to be done inside the church to encourage members to attend and invite their friends, promotion needs to be done outside the walls through social media, yard signs at members’ homes, flyers given out anywhere families may be (ballparks, fast food restaurants, etc.), and any other creative way you can think to do.”
Family night isn’t seen as one of the first steps towards follow-up. “Churches need to have one time during the week when parents are invited to come and be a part of what has happened at VBS during the week. The children can sing songs, someone can prepare a fun video presentation from the week, you can play games or have inflatables, and of course, have a meal. The family time should be lots of fun, but it should also be evangelistic. There could also be a teaser – in other words show part of a video from the week and tell parents they need to attend church the following Sunday to see the completed video.”
Churches forget to make the following Sunday a little more kid friendly. “During VBS the children have been singing lots of fun songs with motions to almost every word and then the family returns to church the next Sunday to a service that doesn’t resemble what the child experienced during the week. The Sunday after VBS should include one or two of the VBS songs so that the child and their family feel more a part of the service.”
There are no new classes for the parents. “The Sunday after VBS is an excellent time to begin a new Sunday School class or Small Group. This could be a traditional class using the current literature, adult VBS Literature, or even a parenting class. Of course, these details need to be decided long before VBS begins, but this is a great way to reach out to the parents of the kids who attended VBS.”
Waiting too long to begin follow-up. “There’s no tired like the-last-day-of-VBS tired and because of this VBS follow-up sometimes doesn’t get done because the leaders are trying to get a little rest or even leave for vacation. As soon as the church schedules their VBS, they need to schedule days to begin following up on prospects discovered.”
Not using social media. “Before VBS begins churches should encourage parents to connect to their church or kids ministry Facebook or Instagram page. They can encourage them to do this by telling them the latest updates about VBS (what to bring, what to wear, Missions Offering information, etc.) will be posted on the page. This gets them on your page so that you can keep them informed about other upcoming events in your children’s ministry.”
Thinking snail mail is old school. “Snail mail is old school, but kids still love receiving mail. Have your VBS leaders write a quick personalized note to every child letting them know how much you enjoyed having them at VBS.”
Forgetting the personal touch. “A phone call from a staff member and a visit from Sunday School teachers will go a long way in reaching unchurched families. A great thing to do is hold back either a craft or a picture made of a child and take the item to the family on the visit. While the teachers are there they can find out where family members are spiritually and determine if there are needs that the church can help meet or pray about.”
Follow-up fellowship events. “Churches should always have another special event that they can invite the families to attend. This can be a church-wide event or even a Sunday School/Small group event.”