This article originally appeared in the December 2011 issue.
By Jonathan Norris
Jonathan Norris is marketing coordinator for Regular Baptist Press, www.rbpstore.org.
Are you looking for an event that brings the whole church together and results in spiritual and numerical growth in one week’s time? Consider Vacation Bible School for all ages!
The benefits of VBS will outweigh any time and effort you put into it. VBS will help you evangelize unsaved children while energizing those who have already trusted Christ. It will also provide a gateway to bringing families into your church.
Evangelism & Discipleship
Children and Youth
A clear presentation of the gospel and an invitation to respond to it are crucial parts of each VBS day. Not all VBS programs emphasize evangelism and discipleship in each lesson. When choosing your church’s VBS program, make sure each lesson includes a gospel presentation.
VBS should be more than just for having fun or for drawing children to your church’s children’s ministries. Even teaching good morals and Biblical values is not enough. Unsaved children desperately need the gospel, the “power of God to salvation.” You are not guaranteed other opportunities to reach these children, so make the most of the ones you have.
Next, the gospel invitation in the VBS material must be clear and pressure free. You don’t want the children responding to please the teacher or to fit in with their friends.
How do your VBS materials present the gospel—in concrete terms that even younger students can understand? Do the materials clearly present the need for salvation as well as the way of salvation?
Finally, every worker in your VBS should be able to lead a child to Christ. Make clear gospel materials available to all your VBS workers. Some publishers help by printing the ABCs of salvation on the back covers of their teacher books and on posters.
Check the director’s guides and teacher’s guides for articles on how to present gospel in age-appropriate ways. Use these to train your workers to share the gospel. Your VBS will be most effective if all your workers are prepared and willing to share the gospel.
Don’t stop with children and youth, draw parents and adults into your VBS and present the gospel to them, too. An adult VBS is an unintimidating way to introduce a friend or neighbor to the Savior. Use a short evangelistic Bible study that piques their interest and has something for saved learner,s too. Be sure all advance publicity announces that there is an adult Bible study at your VBS.
Gateway for Church Growth
VBS can be your biggest evangelistic outreach event of the year. Bringing new families into your church begins with your church family. Everyone—not just those who work directly in VBS—should be involved with VBS. Here are ideas for involving the entire church family before, during, and after VBS.
- Keep everyone at your church informed so they can participate in prayer, planning, and preparation.
- Invite church members who aren’t working in VBS to attend the adult Bible study and befriend visiting parents.
- Form prayer teams that will meet before, during, and after VBS to pray for the workers, students, and parents. Pray that parents will stay for the study when they come to drop off their children. Pray for sensitivity toward people who are new to church and have little Bible knowledge.
- Ask for volunteers to plan fun activities for the weeks after VBS to pull VBS families back into the church and help them feel that they belong.
- Encourage everyone to invite friends and neighbors—both the children and their parents. People are much more likely to attend church if a friend invites them and offers to attend with them.
- Assign some workers from each department to greet parents as they drop off and pick up their children. Remind all workers that the time just before and after VBS each day should be reserved for interacting with students and their families.
- Invite your pastors to take a visible part in VBS and in the closing program. It is important for people to meet and feel comfortable with your pastoral staff.
- Offer a tour of the church facilities near the time when parents drop off or pick up their children.
- Make sure students know which classrooms to go to when they return on Sunday. If possible, introduce the Sunday School teachers.
- Keep your church people actively involved. Remind them that the VBS closing program provides an opportunity to interact with the students’ families. For more interaction time, hold a fun fair, picnic, or cookout immediately following the closing program.
- Encourage adults from your church to offer other adults friendship, not just a friendly greeting at the door. An adult VBS class provides opportunities for getting to know one another, but remember that friendship involves spending more time together than just one week. Before VBS ends, make plans to get together in the near future.
- For adult learners who may be unfamiliar with the Bible, have Bibles on hand with the main Bible passage for each day marked for easy access. If your VBS budget doesn’t include funds for giving out Bibles, encourage your tech-savvy visitors to download free Bible apps on their smartphones.
- Encourage workers to get together with VBS families who do not attend your church. People are more apt to return if they know at least six people. Host a get-together that includes people from your church plus a VBS family. Have a backyard barbecue, go out for ice cream, or go to the zoo or to a ball game—whatever your family enjoys doing.
- Form visitation teams. Put a VBS teacher, a Sunday School teacher, and a student on each team, based on the age of the VBS student you will visit.
- Have plenty of additional friendly greeters available for the next few Sundays after VBS. It takes a lot of courage for a parent to show up on a Sunday morning with several kids, not knowing anyone or where everyone in the family should go. Help the families of your VBS students feel welcome at your church.
- Invite all your VBS families back for an all-church picnic or similar church-wide event shortly after the close of VBS. Remind your church people that this is an opportunity for interacting with guests as well as fellowshipping among themselves.
Evangelizing the lost, edifying believers, and introducing people to your church are attainable results of your VBS. But, there’s another exciting benefit.
Your church people will be praying, stretching/leaving their comfort zones, using their spiritual gifts, trusting God, increasing their Bible knowledge, and learning to love and serve others—in short, growing spiritually—as they participate in this two-part strategy for VBS.