By Aaron Earls
Each summer millions of kids participate in Vacation Bible School. For many students, it’s their only encounter with a local church.
Recognizing this, church leaders spend months preparing for that special week. In all the planning, however, churches can often forget about follow-up.
Don’t leave to happenstance the special opportunity for outreach VBS provides. Churches need to follow up with children and families to help them connect with your congregation on a more permanent basis.
Plan ahead and think about how to encourage the unchurched to get plugged into your church not just during VBS week, but every week of the year.
Understand who you are as a church.
Think about the families who are regular attenders and those who have been visiting recently. What is your church doing that resonates with them? What activities engage the whole family?
Discover things you’ve been doing and think about new things you could start that would appeal to the kids and families who visited during VBS.
Make connections during VBS.
Follow-up is already happening when VBS starts. Children and their families are getting to know your church, and their experiences during that week will make them either more or less likely to attend again.
Have a VBS celebration or worship night during the week or at the end of VBS. Invite parents and family members. Have the kids sing songs, show off crafts, and quote memory verses.
Use these events to make connections outside the normal VBS time. Show kids that things happen at your church other times as well.
When families come for a VBS event, they’ll sit in your worship center and learn more about you. That way, coming for a visit on a Sunday won’t be so difficult or awkward.
Plan outreach ideas with VBS visitors in mind.
If they connected with your church because of VBS, they have children. What type of events could you have in the weeks following that would be attractive to those families?
Have a church cookout with games for kids. Host a family weekend where families can spend time together and in God’s Word.
Rent a local pool for a community fun day. If that’s not an option, buy some Slip ’N Slides and invite everyone back to the church for a water day. Develop a creative event that connects with the VBS theme you used. Don’t forget the snacks!
Whatever events you do, set the dates in advance so you can let kids and families know about them during VBS. Send a reminder card home with each child the last night with all of your upcoming events.
Involve your volunteers.
Help your church recognize VBS as the tremendous outreach tool it can be.
It’s not just about having dozens or hundreds of kids at church for one week. It’s about connecting families to your church for a lifetime. It’s about reaching individuals for Christ for eternity.
With that in mind, encourage volunteers to go beyond a one-week investment. They’ve already developed a relationship. Empower them to take charge of the follow-up.
Provide any training, resources, or guidance needed, but have the teachers reach out to the kids with whom they spent all week.
Plan one night shortly after VBS week for volunteers to go visit new families that came. Thank them, remind them of upcoming events, and offer to answer any questions they may have.
For interested families looking to take the next step, ask church families to reach out. Have spiritually mature families invite new families over for dinner.
Let them get to know your church better through your people in a relaxed environment.
Keep praying as you continue to reach out.
Let everything you do be saturated in prayer. Enlist individuals who couldn’t volunteer for VBS to be praying for the week and then all the follow-up.
Pray that children will hear the gospel and respond. Pray that families who are disconnected from church will become involved members of the body.
Continue praying and reaching out through the summer and beyond.
After door-to-door visits, follow up with a card or invitation to a specific event.
Plan a back-to-school rally and invite all the kids who came to VBS. Let them know about Christmas events. Send reminders of special emphasis Sundays.
Keep in contact with them even if they don’t show up to church again until the next VBS. By next Vacation Bible School, you’ve prayed for them for an entire year and let them know all about your church.
God may use your continued prayers and outreach as the means to bring them to salvation the next year. Be faithful.
Aaron is the senior writer at Lifeway Research.