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Make Vacation Bible School Follow-Up a Priority
By: Chris Forbes

All across our land (and around the world), a scene is playing out where churches miss one of their greatest opportunities to connect with the families in their community–Vacation Bible School (VBS). It may not work everywhere, but if VBS works in your town, make sure you don't miss getting the most out of it!

The Church's Annual Missed Opportunity
It usually happens like this: A church has a block party to promote Vacation Bible School the following week. Everyone praises the Lord when scores of kids enroll in the VBS. The church carries out the VBS and hosts a family night service. A couple of new families join the church. All in all, a great event!

Since everyone is tired from the block party and VBS, the church leaders all take the next week off. When they get back into action, it is time to start planning the back-to-school calendar. They also know they need to follow up on the families of the kids from VBS, but they haven't even had time to evaluate the block party, let alone the VBS.

The church leaders decide to do some evangelism training to prepare them for the follow-up of the VBS. They take three or four weeks in their mid-week Bible study to prepare. Then, on the fourth week or so, a trained church visitation team (often comprised of people who didn't have anything to do with the VBS or block party) goes out in groups and visits in the homes of the parents of the kids who came to VBS. But, a problem arises; each team is met with resistance. None of the families seem as open to the church as they were during VBS. None of the teams were able to bring a single parent of the dozens of kids to visit in the church!

What Went Wrong?
The block party was a great way to get kids into the VBS. The parents appreciated the VBS program for the kids. But, the church didn't do any thinking about how to meet the needs of the parents.

In addition, they were not ready to follow up on the parents until five or six weeks after VBS. Many of the parents had forgotten about VBS and had lost the good feelings they had about the church.

The church could have used the block party and VBS to learn more about the parents in the area to try to determine their needs.

The church could have built in ministry that introduced the parents to the new church.

The names and addresses of the parents could have been used to send out special letters or other materials to keep the name of the church in front of the people so they would not forget the new congregation was starting.

Perhaps the personal testimony of the two families who joined the church could have been a part of the marketing plans.

They just had a block party and a VBS without thinking beyond to what comes next for the families.

What Can You Do to Improve Your VBS Follow-Up?
Don't take a break after VBS; get to know the families during VBS. VBS is a time to get to know parents as much as it is a time to get to know kids. Start cultivating relationships and making friends now.

Take a longer point of view and think about what VBS could lead into (much as the block party leads into the VBS). Perhaps you could have your fall calendar ready and introduce the parents to your fall ministry programs at this time.

Don't think you can't plan ahead. VBS comes every year. You have 12 months to plan the entire outreach emphasis. So, while you are recruiting VBS teachers, you can just as easily recruit (and train) a follow-up crew.

Make a DVD of the VBS musical and hand deliver it with a picture of the parent's child when you visit them. (You could even include a brief message about your church from the pastor in the video). Delivering the video is a great reason to visit, and it beats a "cold call" visit weeks after VBS anytime.

Send out a mid-week newsletter update about VBS to the parents who send their children to VBS. Make sure it's not filled with insider-speak, but targeted at people who are new to your church.

Involve visitation teams in the block party and VBS so they can get to know the children and parents.

Develop a brief survey about community needs or "test market" ideas for new ministries of your church in a brief questionnaire to parents.

Stay in touch with parents. One idea is to keep sending your nonmember-friendly newsletter to the parents for three or four months after VBS. Include helpful parenting tips, fun community event ideas (besides your church's), kid movie and book reviews, and even recipes kids can do with their parents. If you work on this during the year, you can write the articles any time of year for use during the summer and back-to-school months.

Chris Forbes is the founder of Ministry Marketing Coach, www.ministrymarketingcoach.com.

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