The past two years I have frequently spoken and written about replacing the idea of VBS follow-up with the need for continuing the connections established during the week of VBS. This has been an attempt to help us all think about what we do following VBS in terms of relationship instead of a process.
There is no doubt we are good at identifying unchurched families and involving their kids in VBS. If there were a VBS report card we would most likely receive a B or possibly even an A for our success. But when it comes to actually connecting relationally with these families our report card would display a much lower score. In fact, a huge red F. And politically correct or not, the F would stand for failure.
Several years ago LifeWay’s VBS team asked over 3,000 VBS leaders what they needed the most help with. A shocking 97% said their biggest need was help with following up with the unchurched families discovered during VBS. They said they just didn’t know how or have the tools needed to follow up successfully.
Many conversations later we discovered the biggest challenge to overcoming this need is the way we approach these unchurched families before, during, and after VBS. Not necessarily what we do – there will always be the need for a follow-up structure and plan - but why we do what we do.
Typically we see follow-up as a process, when in reality it must become a relationship – a relationship that is intentionally developed and nurtured not with one visit or phone call but over time and with consistency.
Moving from process to relationship requires planning your VBS to make continued connections the ultimate goal. Instead of leading your congregation to see VBS as the big event of the summer, help them embrace VBS as the prelude to the real event – creating continued connections with the unchurched families discovered during VBS.
Changing the focus of your VBS challenges and changes every aspect of the ministry. For example, no longer is the snack lady serving cookies and punch to merely give kids refreshment. Now she is serving cookies as a way of meeting and establishing relationships with the unchurched kids eating the cookies and drinking the punch. The same is true of the Bible study leader, the rec leader, the greeter, and every member of the VBS team and congregation. We do what we do for the opportunity of establishing a relationship that connects people with the Gospel and with the church.
Step one is to put someone in charge. Creating an official leadership position sends a signal that continued connections (relationships) are important and the priority of VBS. It also insures there is at least one person to keep everyone else focused on the goal.
Step two is for the pastor, VBS director, and continued connections director to work together to create a plan that begins with a process, but quickly moves to relationships between unchurched families and members of the congregation. The plan will obviously include procedures for follow-up contacts, but must move beyond the initial postcard or phone call to include opportunities for relationships (friendships) to be established and grow.
Step three is to make evangelism and continued connections the responsibility of every member of the VBS team and congregation. Work with the continued connections director to provide training that not only equips the congregation to share the Gospel, but also helps them learn how to fully connect and integrate unchurched families into the life of the church. Basically, you are training them to get beyond "hello" and "we are glad you came" to real conversation that eventually leads to friendship.
I wish making continued connections could be quickly defined in three simple steps. But in reality it takes a lot of work, beginning with changing the way we think about VBS follow-up in the first place. If follow-up is merely a process I’m afraid we are doomed to failure. But, imagine for just a moment, what might happen if follow-up becomes a relationship?
Read more about turning follow-up into continued connections:
- How Are You Connecting with Parents?
- 5 Ways to Stay Connected with Preschool Families from VBS
- Using VBS to Initiate Continued Connections
JOIN THE CONVERSATION: How has your VBS been successful in establishing relationships with unchurched families in your community?