NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The potential of Vacation Bible School (VBS) reaches beyond even the professions of faith registered during the week, a specialist at LifeWay Christian Resources told participants at a recent VBS Preview event in Nashville, Tenn.
Jerry Wooley, a Vacation Bible School specialist, said VBS, of course, is fun and that children learn and make professions of faith during the week, but that’s only part of the potential.
“We have the numbers from 2007’s VBS that tell us more than 88,000 people attending VBS made professions of faith,” Wooley said. “What we don’t have numbers for, but know to be true, is that in many cases moms, dads, brothers, sisters, grandparents and friends of children came to know Jesus because of the child’s participation in Bible School and the home visits that followed.”
Plan ahead to follow up
Effective follow-up happens only with a plan, said LifeWay network partnership specialist Ken Marler, who led a session during the preview events.
“Involve the whole church in getting ready for VBS,” he said. “Most churches will use just about every inch of space for VBS, and, yes, some of the classrooms will get messed up and something will get broken. But, if you let the old folks know that a group of first-graders will be using their room for Bible School, and you give them the teachers’ names and the names of each of the students and you ask these folks to pray for every one of those teachers and children by name, you’ll be surprised how much buy-in they’ll have.”
It is not too early to start talking up VBS, Marler said.
“I know one church that brings out people in last year’s VBS T-shirts and they sing one of the songs. Then, they switch into this year’s T-shirts and do one of the new songs,” Marler said.
“That’s exciting! At least once a month, do something to promote the upcoming VBS during the Sunday morning worship service.
“If you promote VBS you’ll have a good crowd.”
Be responsible afterward
Planning and promotion will all be in vain, however, if you don’t finish the race with good follow-up, Marler said.
Looking at the numbers requires Vacation Bible School leaders to take the responsibility to keep up with the children following the week’s event.
Marler offered the following suggestions:
- Set goals. Plan to follow up quickly. At each visit, have information about the church and Sunday School ready to offer.
- Include adult class leaders and children’s department leaders. Before VBS even begins, enlist leaders to visit each child’s home after VBS. Bring along adults from an appropriate class to visit with the parents.
- Registration must be correct. Start pre-registration early. Fill out an information card for every child who comes to Vacation Bible School, even those who are regular in church.
- Consider naming a follow-up director. The follow-up director should be someone who is not heavily involved in the VBS week activities so he or she will be fresh when the week is over. He or she needs to enlist team members. Their job is to coordinate VBS family visits.
- Report follow-up efforts to the congregation. From the pulpit, enthusiastically remind the congregation that Vacation Bible School was a big success. Tell them how many children participated and how many families benefited from the follow-up.
- Establish a prayer ministry that can be active all year long.
- Have a “VBS never ends” emphasis. Throughout the year, remind people of the upcoming theme. When the director is selected, introduce him or her to the congregation and let that person remind church members of the VBS date.
- Testimonies and interviews. Throughout the year, let people who have been touched by Vacation Bible School give brief testimonies of how they were changed, especially those who received Christ.
- VBS Day in Sunday School. Put fliers in the information boxes that remind classes of the theme. Have theme-appropriate decorations in the hallways.
Begin Vacation Bible School enrollment in the Sunday School classes where parents can register their children.
Vacation Bible School continues to be Southern Baptists’ most impressive form of evangelism.
According to figures from 2007, one in 16 children ages 5-12 in America enrolled in a Southern Baptist Vacation Bible School.
VBS typically accounts for about 25 percent of the professions of faith leading to baptisms in Southern Baptist churches.
“The bottom line is this: VBS is inconvenient, it’s hard work and it costs money,” Marler said.
“I don’t think there is any person in this room who would say otherwise. It is hard, but I believe it is absolutely the most rewarding week in the church year.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — House is corporate communications specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. For 2009, LifeWay offers two lines of Vacation Bible School curriculum. The main line is Boomerang Express: It All Comes Back to Jesus, set in the Outback of Australia. The second line is Club VBS: Truth Trek, set at an archaeological dig site. For more information on both lines, go to www.lifeway.com/vbs and check out LifeWay VBS on Facebook.)