A proud church member once showed me a cabinet full of neatly stacked, banded, and labeled registration cards testifying to a decade of successfully attended Vacation Bible Schools. When asked why the cards were being kept for such a long time, the answer was, “We didn’t know what else to do with then and we hated to just throw them away.”
I have heard similar tales which leads me to ask, “What happened to the registration cards from your last Vacation Bible School?” Were they discarded in a recycle bin? Stored away for safe keeping? Or just maybe put to good use?
VBS continues to be one of the largest single events most churches conduct all year. Over three-million children, teens, and adults fill out registration cards each year, and well over ten percent of the registrants are not affiliated with a church or on-going Bible study. Yet, in far too many instances registration cards are being placed in cabinets instead of being used to identify prospects and build relationships with unchurched families.
Here are twelve tips for making good use of VBS registration cards.
- Plan VBS with follow up (Continued Connections) in mind. Too often people see the week of VBS as the big event when in reality it is just a prelude to the real event – evangelistic follow-up opportunities. VBS is the vehicle that allows your church to discover unchurched families, introduce the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and begin nurturing relationships. Viewing VBS as an end in itself can be a waste of valuable resources and opportunities.
- Don’t expect the Pastor to be responsible for follow up. Like every VBS worker and Sunday School leader, the Pastor should be a member of the follow-up team, but he should not have the responsibility of making all of the follow-up contacts. The pastor can not conduct VBS alone and shouldn’t be expected to conduct follow up alone.
- Enlist every VBS worker with the knowledge that he is expected to participate in follow-up activities. If VBS is viewed as an evangelistic event then every worker from Bible study leaders to members of the kitchen crew should see follow up as a task of their assignment.
- Enlist a Follow-Up Director. Done right, follow up can be as big of a task as all the other responsibilities of VBS combined. Effective VBS follow up requires planning, organization, and attention to detail. Without someone besides the VBS director taking the lead your registration cards may just end up collecting dust in a cabinet.
- Set goals. Along with establishing goals for the number of people, leaders, and classes you will plan for. Establish a goal for the number of unchurched individuals you plan to register. A good place to start is with the national average of ten percent.
- For some churches this may seem like an enormous goal, while churches that view VBS as a major evangelistic event may set a goal of fifty percent or more.
- Link VBS to Sunday School or an on-going Bible study ministry by recruiting Sunday School leadership from all age groups to be on the follow-up team. When a child attends VBS she brings outreach opportunities for more than just the children’s Sunday School. Each child represents a network of younger and older siblings, parents, grandparents, and other close relatives and friends connected to the family. An important aspect of the initial follow-up contact should be the discovery of the child’s family network. Once discovered, information should be passed on to other members of the follow-up team who should then invite each member of the family to the appropriate Bible study class.
- Provide follow up training. While Christians have the greatest news of all to share, there is typically great fear in sharing it. Provide training in appropriate ways to make phone calls and personal visits. Instruct every member of the team on how to share the plan of salvation.
- Make initial follow up assignments by the last day of VBS. Valuable opportunities are lost when follow up contacts are delayed for days or weeks. Capitalize on the energy and excitement created during VBS and make sure initial contacts are made immediately. It is hard to convince someone you are happy they attended VBS and would like to have them join you for Sunday School when you take weeks to tell them.
- Hold team members accountable. Assignments should be tracked to insure every contact is made. The busyness of life can cause even the most well-meaning team member to forget to make her assigned contacts. Create a reporting system that requires team members to report back in a timely manner.
- Don’t stop with just one contact. Create a follow-up plan that allows for multiple contacts including personal visits, phone calls, mailed information, and invitations to other events and special worship services.
- Plan events designed to continue the VBS experience. In the months following VBS create opportunities such as a VBS reunion, carnival, or Super Saturday activity for children and presents, for unchurched families to be reunited with people they met during VBS.
- Celebrate! Host a meal and debrief the follow-up experience. Report results to the congregation and if possible include testimonies from members of the team and individuals who made decisions as a result of VBS.
We're celebrating 90 - that's 90 years of providing the very best VBS curriculum, resources, and training - by going to the archives for ideas and advice that is just as relevant today as the day it was first printed. This post is an excerpt from a previously printed article by Jerry Wooley.