As a piano student - way back in the dark ages - I disliked recitals even more than the dreaded daily practice sessions. Compositions I knew well enough to play in my sleep would mysteriously and instantaneously vanish as I stepped on the performance stage.
In prep for these moments my teacher would always say, "Jerry, begin well, finish strong, and everything in between will take care of itself."
In explanation, she told me the confidence gained by beginning well would carry me through the entire performance, and the confidence gained by finishing strong would get me back on stage for the next performance. I know I never had a perfect performance, but I learned a valuable life lesson that I believe applies to VBS.
Most likely you have already started planning for VBS 2013, but whether you are knee-deep into the process or just getting started, here are six steps to insure you begin well and end strong.
Step 1: Determine the purpose of VBS: When first asked, this question often sounds ridiculous. Of course you know the purpose! But in reality there are many reasons or purposes for VBS. It is possible that every member of your team will give a different reason for why VBS is being conducted. To begin well it is important that every member of the team have a common purpose for why your church is spending the time, money, and people resources to conduct VBS.
I hope your purpose is connecting people to the Gospel, and connecting people to the church.
Step 2: Establish dates and a budget that reflects the purpose: The long, lazy days of summer have almost vanished and it is getting harder each year to schedule VBS at a time that does not conflict with other major events - both on the church calendar and the community calendar. If your purpose is to connect with unchurched families it is vital to make sure your VBS is not the same week as a major city-sponsored sports camp or at a time when a large number of your target audience is involved in summer school. You get the idea - check the community calendar as well as the church calendar.
Knowing your purpose will also help you budget appropriately. If your goal is connecting with the unchurched then you will want to make sure you have adequate budget dollars for both publicity and for making continued connections following the week of VBS. I'll share more about this in a future post.
Step 3: Enlist a leadership team to dream and implement the strategy: If you are truly going to connect with unchurched families you are going to need to do more and do it better then you did last year. Invite four or five people to join you for coffee and spend a few hours dreaming. Start by saying, "If money were no object what would we do to identify and connect with unchurched families?" Of course money, or the lack thereof, is a debilitating obstacle, but until we have given ourselves the freedom to dream without limitations we will never identify the very best ways to reach out to the community - which are often the lest expensive!
Once the group of four or five have helped you dream, enlist them to help you implement the dreams. People are always more willing to commit to something they have helped create, plus the dream team has already acknowledged their interest by agreeing to participate in the dream session.
The first three steps are enough to get you started on the road to beginning well. I'll return next Tuesday with the next three steps for ending strong.