Several years ago Lifeway’s VBS team surveyed 3,000 VBS leaders from across the Nation. We wanted to know what aspect of VBS is the most challenging and what leaders need the most help accomplishing. We expected to receive a variety of answers – church support, worker enlistment, finances, and space to name a few.
As I said, we expected a variety of answers, but we were blown away when 97% of the respondents agreed, “We need help with follow-up.” The message was loud and clear, “We know how to attract unchurched families to VBS but we do not know what to do with them once we have found them.”
As Lifeway’s VBS team discussed this response we realized churches didn’t need another product or resource. What they needed was a change in philosophy. They needed help convincing workers and congregations that making and continuing connections with unchurched families is the main reason for conducting a VBS. The goal is to connect people to the gospel and then connect them to the church.
VBS has proven to be a great tool for connecting people to the gospel. After all, evangelism is the very heart of VBS. The challenge is connecting people to the church. To be honest connecting people to the church is always going to be the hardest part of reaching unchurched families. It may be hard, but not impossible.
The first step was to discontinue using the term follow up. We have replaced it with one of two phrases: “Continuing the Connection,” or “Continued Connections.”
You may be wondering what difference does it make. Actually there is a profound difference. Follow up implies VBS is the main event and what we do afterwards is just tidying up. Follow up falls in the same category as tearing down decorations and storing supplies. It is what we quickly do so we can move to the next activity.
Continued connections implies what happens after VBS is the main event. The reason we conduct VBS is to create an opportunity to meet and connect with unchurched families. Continued connections says what happens after VBS is more important than what happens during the week of VBS.
Connecting with unchurched families must be intentional. It is not going to happen just because we invite families to participate in VBS. We must pray for it. Plan for it. Train for it. And work for it.
We easily adopt the mindset that we have taken the first step in creating connections by providing VBS. This attitude says we have planned a great event for the kids now the families should show their appreciation by becoming active in our church.
When we conduct VBS we build a platform for connections to happen. We create the opportunity, but it is the unchurched families that take the first step by allowing their kids to attend. Once the families take the first step it is our responsibility to take the second. Friendships and relationships rarely happen instantly. It takes time – intentionality – to get to know each other’s likes, dislikes, interest, and concerns.
Over the next few months I invite you to join me on a journey to discover how we can connect with unchurched families and then continue the connections. Each Thursday we will explore different ways to plan, train, and implement actions designed to continue connections initiated during VBS.
As always I invite you to join the conversation. We can all learn from each other. I want to hear what has worked and what hasn’t worked so well.
Next week’s Connection Points: Registration Team.