NASHVILLE — Churches from all over the world will be heading to New York City this summer.
“Big Apple Adventure” is the theme for this year’s Vacation Bible School material produced by LifeWay Christian Resources, and children can explore one of the most exciting cities on the planet while learning to step out in faith, connect with Jesus and share the message of Christ with the world.
And, as is the case year after year, follow-up will be extremely important for churches, say VBS leaders.
“What takes place after VBS is just as important as anything that happens during the week,” said Mike Smith of the leadership and evangelism area of LifeWay Christian Resources. “You have opportunities after VBS that didn’t even exist before.”
Smith led a session on “VBS and Beyond: Evangelistic Follow-Up” during a VBS preview earlier this year at LifeWay Christian Resources here.
Kathy Trundle, Vacation Bible School specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Convention, agrees wholeheartedly with the need for follow-up.
Vacation Bible School is the largest outreach event held by churches, she observed, adding that it does not make sense to spend that much time and effort on an event without proper follow-up.
“Vacation Bible School is not over on Friday. It should continue,” she said.
“If you’re going to do it, do it right. Continue following up on prospects throughout the year,” she encouraged.
Trundle said it is important to realize that while VBS produces immediate results, it also produces long-term results because of seeds that are planted.
She noted that she has seen people come into churches as many as three or four years after the first contact was made with a family through VBS.
She encouraged churches to use prospect lists developed from VBS and contact families throughout the year. Invite them to special events, such as a Fall Festival, she suggested.
“It shows them the church cares and is willing to be a part of their lives.”
Smith said the first step to successful evangelistic follow-up is to have a VBS follow-up director.
“This person is just as important as the VBS director,” Smith said.
“The follow-up director makes certain every child is remembered after the week. 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.”
Smith suggested a number of follow-up strategies and ideas for churches and explained how they can help:
• Have a fun and evangelistic family night. “This may be the only time some of the unchurched parents will ever step foot in the church.”
• Follow up with the Children’s Music Series. “The children always love the music at VBS and the CMS is a great way to keep them excited about music.”
• Use the aids in the VBS administrative guide. “This gives resources, PowerPoints, training ideas and follow-up plans.”
• Gather accurate and sufficient information on every VBS participant. “Get as much as possible, and be honest why you need it. Tell them you plan to follow up.”
• Determine your follow-up ahead of time. “Establish your strategy before VBS ever begins.”
• Immediately after VBS, activate your follow-up teams. “People will never be more open than they are right then.”
• Send information about the church directly to the homes. “You really can’t trust the kids to make it home with the information.”
• Connect everyone in the family with the appropriate Sunday School class. “If they get connected with a small group like Sunday School, statistics tell us there is an 83 percent chance they will still be connected after five years, but only a 16 percent chance if they aren’t.”
• Celebrate the results of VBS during a Sunday morning worship service. “Have the whole service be about VBS. Do the music, have testimonies and have a VBS-themed sermon.”
Smith also recommended the resources “Leading a Child to Christ” and “More to Life” to help churches evangelistically reach out to new families.
Trundle observed that while VBS is evangelistic, it is also ministry and meets the needs of people.
Following up on VBS prospects and later helping them to connect to a Sunday School is an opportunity to further the ministry of Vacation Bible School year-round, Trundle added.
— B&R Editor Lonnie Wilkey contributed to this article.