Many of these families live in the shadows of church buildings while others live many miles away. Some are invited but choose not to attend for a variety of reasons including lack of transportation. Others simply never receive an invitation.
To meet this tremendous challenge it is time to take VBS outside the walls of the church building and into the yard. Better stated, it is time to take VBS to the neighborhoods, parks and multi-housing communities near and far.
There is still a productive and necessary place for traditional church-based VBS. After all, it is a ministry that results in approximately 80,000 professions of faith each year in Southern Baptist churches alone. But traditional VBS by itself will never reach all of the children and families needing to be reached.
In Matthew 9:35-38 we find Jesus going beyond His home base to all the towns and villages. He went to the people, to their needs, and to a harvest that was (and is) abundant. With Backyard Kids Club (BKC) we can do the same. We can take VBS to the people, to their needs, and to a harvest that is abundant.
Just like a traditional VBS, there are two primary reasons to conduct a BKC: to connect people to the Gospel, and to connect people to the church. Through BKC the church goes out to share the Gospel and connect with people who might never be attracted to or response to traditional ministry on a church campus. BKC is Matthew 28:19 ministry.
Ready to take VBS to the yards in your community? Here are six simple steps to help you get started:
Step 1: Survey and evaluate the possibilities. Work with church leadership to determine the congregation's willingness to enthusiastically support Backyard Kids Clubs. Once support and participation is guaranteed, work with a leadership team to create a list of all the neighborhoods where members of the congregation live. Expand the list by adding names of multi-housing communities, parks and schools. Research each location to determine if there is a concentration of children and appropriate space.
Step 2: Determine Locations. Make a site visit to each potential location to discuss the possibilities and challenges with the site host. If the potential site is a home the host will be the homeowner. If the site is a multi-housing community the host will be the manager. For parks the host will be the park manager of the parks and recreation department. While visiting the site make notes of available space and resources such as shade trees and picnic tables. You should also make note of any potential hazards and distractions such as drainage ditches, busy streets, or easily agitated pets.
Step 3: Enlist and Train Team. Just as it is important to get the right person leading crafts for VBS, it is important to get the right people on a BKC team. Obviously the first priority is to enlist Believers who love children. The second is to enlist Believers who are flexible. BKCs require much more flexibility than a church-based VBS.
Step 4: Promote Clubs. Unlike promoting VBS where you are trying to get the word out to the entire community, a BKC requires targeted promotion to the families living nearest the site. For a BKC being conducted at a home the primary promoter is the homeowner since he is best known by the families being invited. For a BKC being conducted in a multi-housing community or park the manager will determine when and how promotion is allowed.
Step 5: Plan for Continued Connections. A BKC is not an end itself. Actually, BKC is just the beginning. Once the Gospel has been proclaimed and the relationships are established there is an obligation to build upon these relationships. Chance are families reached through BKC may never participate in traditional church-based ministries, but that doesn't mean ministry can not and should not be continued.
Step 6: Create a Survival Plan. Even the best planned BKC will be challenged. Whether it is weather, illness of a team member, or an angry dog that escapes from a neighbor's yard, there will be unexpected challenges. The best way to overcome these challenges is to expect them and have a backup plan ready to put into action at a moments notice.
For more guidance and tips for conducting a BKC check out LifeWay's VBS 2015 Backyard Kids Club Directors Guide (005650454).
This article was previously printed in 2014 on LifeWay.com.
Backyard Kids Club curriculum is still available for Colossal Coaster World, Agency D3, as well as Journey Off the Map. Contact your nearest LifeWay Christian Store or call 1.800.458.2772.