Family Night has long been part of the VBS tradition. For decades the night has been an opportunity to demonstrate memorized Scripture, songs, and display arts and crafts created during the week. Adapted from the public school PTA parent night, where parents were given the opportunity to meet teachers and review of the progress of their children, VBS Family Night served much the same purpose.
Of course, the night was fully sanctioned as an official church event by serving refreshments!
Twenty years ago LifeWay added a full-fledged musical to the list of VBS resources, and for many churches the performance of song and drama quickly became the centerpiece of the Family Night experience.
Last year, for several reasons, we changed the name Family Night to VBS Celebration to more accurately define the current trend of the event - to bring kids and parents together to celebrate and bring closure to the week of VBS. But, we need to go further than just changing the name. We need to also change the attitude and atmosphere of the event.
Basically, Family Night or VBS Celebration is a performance for the parents. A typical event looks something like this:
- Parents file into pews
- Parents stare at the back of the heads in front of them while kids perform on stage
- Parents politely applaud
- Kids squirm
- Kids rejoin their parents for a journey to the Fellowship Hall
- Guests gather on one side of the room and church members on the other
- Everyone eats a snack while avoiding eye contact with the group across the room
- Church members have guests have very little, if any, interaction
- Exists begin as quickly and gracefully as possible, church member first
- Within minutes the parking lot is cleared
What a tremendous waste of opportunity to jump start relationships that result in unchurched families being connected with the Gospel and with the church.
This year at Preview we're modeling a high-energy VBS Family Experience that includes some of the traditional elements of Family Night, while at the same time encourages interaction between parents and kids and unchurched families with church members.
The evening includes VBS songs, games that encourage participation by both kids and parents, prizes, viewing of the Journey Off the Map movie (or the JOTM musical performance), and fellowship activities that stimulate conversation. We have also included a similar celebration outline on pages 39-40 of the JOTM Worship Rally Guide.
Our goal is to help churches turn their celebration into a family experience designed to connect people, not just celebrate the end of the week.
Here are four tips to keep in mind as you begin planning your VBS Celebration to be the cornerstone of connecting unchurched families to the Gospel and to the church.
- Create activities that promote conversation between unchurched parents and church members.
- Train workers to be conversational - beyond commenting about the weather - not just friendly. Provide them with talking points about the VBS week that can be used to start and continue conversations.
- Train workers to collect and record essential information that can be used later to connect other church members with similar interest or careers as unchurched parents.
- Challenge each worker to adopt one family that they will not only befriend during the event, but will stay in contact with following VBS.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION: What aspects of your VBS Celebration are intentionally designed to connect unchurched families with church members?