I’m sure you’ve seen the meme that seems to circulate every year about this time. There’s no tired like end of Vacation Bible School tired. That may well be true on Friday night or Saturday after VBS. But don’t throw in the towel just yet … just because VBS is over doesn’t mean your work is done.
There’s still one VERY IMPORTANT thing left to do. In fact, apart from sharing the gospel, it may be THE MOST important aspect of VBS. What is it?
It’s FOLLOW UP!
The days and weeks immediately following VBS are the most crucial for outreach. But so often this critical element seems to fall through the cracks. We all have good intentions for connecting with children and families again after VBS, but then the aftermath of VBS kicks in—the excitement of VBS is over, people are tired, life returns to normal, it’s time to go on vacation, and on and on the (valid) excuses go.
Follow-up WILL NOT magically happen on its own. You must have an intentional strategy in place BEFORE VBS and a follow-up plan ready to spring into action as soon as VBS is over.
Here are 10 tested and true tips to try as you connect with children and families:
- Enlist a “Follow Up Director” (just like you enlist a VBS Director) to work with a team and with VBS teachers to make sure every child is remembered after the week of VBS is over. This is especially important for children who are not already a part of the church family. The weeks soon after VBS may be the only time a church member is welcome in the home of an unchurched family. It can be a time of introducing what the church has to offer to the entire family.
- Activate follow-up teams immediately after VBS. Don’t lose the momentum of VBS by putting it off. People will never be more receptive to follow-up than they are immediately after the event.
- Embrace a relationship-building approach to follow-up. Follow-up must be more than a single postcard or phone call—it must be about building a relationship with children and their families. Acknowledge that relationships take time to develop and will require an ongoing strategy to move unchurched families into the life of the church.
- Train all VBS workers to connect with parents as well as the kids.
- Partner with other kids ministry leaders in your church to bridge VBS with other ongoing programming and summer events for kids. (For example, ask children’s Sunday School teachers to participate in follow-up alongside children’s VBS teachers. That way visiting kids will already know a familiar face when they visit again.)
- Conduct a family movie night, a cookout in a local park, or other all-family activity within two weeks of VBS to give unchurched families an opportunity to reconnect with the church. This year, why not throw a Total Solar Eclipse viewing party on Aug. 21st? It’s the biggest astronomical event of the century and perfectly on theme with Galactic Starveyors!
- Take the party to the streets! Host neighborhood block parties in the neighborhoods where prospective families live. Identify church members who are willing to host family activities in their homes and intentionally invite families from within your congregation AND those families discovered during VBS.
- Send information about the church directly to the homes. Don’t trust that fliers or handouts will make it home with kids from VBS.
- Plan a “VBS Reunion” once a quarter throughout the year. You don’t have to do another mini VBS each time, but plan for intentional touch points throughout the year between your church and your community. Be sure to invite everyone who attended VBS to come back for more fun. You can event rebrand events already on the church calendar (such as a “Back to School Bash” or Fall Festival) as a VBS Reunion.
- Take a small gift to the home of each child who visited your church during VBS. A Music for Preschoolers CD, Music for Kids CD, Starveyor Kit, or a Devotional Bible for Kids would make an excellent gift!