Last Tuesday I wrote about the five essentials of VBS follow-up: 1. Start with a plan; 2. Put someone in charge; 3. Know your audience; 4. Use a variety of methods; and 5. Be creative.
The ultimate goal of each of these essential elements is to help you and your church make connections with the people you want to attend your VBS.
Here are five essential (again with the word "essential") ways to connect:
1. Make COMMUNITY connections. Since I know the purpose of my church, where it is located, and what happens inside the walls, I just assume everyone else in the community knows as well. Wrong! The majority of people who drive by the church each day are not even aware the church or the church building exist. Before we can have great success inviting people to VBS we must first introduce ourselves to them and help them know who and what we are.
This doesn't happen just because we leave brochures at each house or place a large banner in front of the church building. Well in advance of VBS we must, as a church, become involved in the community. We must participate in parades, community festivals, community organizations and schools, and be actively involved in meeting needs of individuals and the community.
2. Make NEIGHBORHOOD connections. Many church members today have little connection with their neighbors. They may wave as they are headed to the car, but have not invested the time to build relationships. Yet these are the people we are going to hand a stack of VBS brochures and ask them to invite their neighbors.
If we are going to depend on church members to be the primary promoters for VBS we may need to invest time helping church members meet their neighbors. This can be accomplished through block parties, frontyard Bible clubs, and service projects.
3. Make KID connections. If we want to invite kids to VBS we have to first find them. We have to go where the kids go: little league ball fields, schools, parks and swimming pools, the library (do kids go to libraries anymore?). You get the idea. Discover where the kids congregate and take your information to them - especially at the time parents are picking them up.
4. Make SERENDIPITOUS connections. That is a big word that simply means connect with people in unexpected ways. If ever church in town is delivering brochures door-to-door you are going to have to do something that stands out, that is unexpected, that is memorable! My favorite idea to date is a church that put their invitation on a frisbee, waited until the middle of the night, and placed a frisbee on each driveway. The next morning as people went out to pick up the paper or leave for work they found a frisbee not only on their own drive but every driveway in the neighborhood. Not only was it unexpected, but who throws away a frisbee?
5. Make PERSONAL connections. The very best way to publicize VBS is still the old fashioned way - one person telling/inviting another person. Instead of just making a pulpit plea to invite friends and neighbors, offer a brief training session on what to say. Arm members of the congregation with all the facts so they will be able to not only invite but to answer questions kids and parents might have. Share testimonies from people who are currently attending church because a friend or neighbor extended an invitation.
Another aspect of personal connections is training church members how to connect with people once they walk in the door of the church. Connection points 1 - 4 may get someone to attend, but unless personal connections are made the person/family is not likely to return. For many church members making this type of personal connection does not come easily - especially for members who have been involved in the church for a long period of time or who have a large family or many friends already attending the church.
By now (if you are still reading this post) you should be thinking, "Wow, making connections takes a lot of work," and your are absolutely correct. But if VBS is one of the largest outreach events on the church calendar it requires work. It requires making the connection.
Coming next Tuesday: Big Apple Adventure theme-related promotion ideas.