illustration by Geoffery Brittingham and logo
illustration by Clay Cantrell
By Denise A. Boiko
If you think VBS is just a fun way to boost Bible teaching for your church's
children, think again! Churches across the continent are demonstrating that
Vacation Bible School (VBS) is their most effective evangelistic tool. "More
unreached people are found through VBS than through any other activity," says
Becky Martin of LifeWay Christian Resources.
It makes sense. As a fun, non-threatening entry point, VBS is an ideal way
to bring your unchurched neighbors through the doors of the church.
While there's no secret formula for a successful program, here are eight
vital VBS elements to help you with reaching your community.
Your VBS adventure begins with focused
prayer and planning. If you see your community as Jesus sees it-a group of lost
people He desires to bring into His family-you'll have the energy and
commitment to reach out in love.
Adapting your VBS schedule to fit your community may take effort, but it
makes the gospel more accessible to your neighbors. Today, only 29 percent of
Vacation Bible Schools meet in the mornings, compared to 55 percent only 10
years ago. Evening programs allow working parents to take their children to
VBS-and perhaps to stay for an adult class. In areas where families commute
great distances to their jobs, some churches creatively schedule VBS for five
Saturdays or Sundays.
As you choose a workable schedule and intriguing materials, plan to do
whatever it takes to attract your neighbors to VBS.
Communicating passion and purpose to VBS teachers is vital. In today's busy
society, it can be difficult for people to commit to a week-long ministry.
However, viewing this as God's VBS can inspire your team to seize this
tremendous opportunity to reach the lost. If you've had trouble recruiting
teachers in the past, consider reorganizing the workload and offering support
so that no one person is overburdened.
Your most effective recruiting will be among returning teachers who have
seen the fruit of last year's VBS and have felt sincerely appreciated by their
Remember to involve youth. By recruiting these enthusiastic workers, you'll
help them experience the blessings of ministry.
From NAMB available at www.Kidzplace.org
• Show and Tell - a scriptural PowerPoint presentation
available at Kidzplace.org
• Show and Tell bookmark and sticker book
• Temporary tattoos (free)
• On Mission To Share Jesus (OMTSJ) bracelet with five
• God's Special Plan for Children tract
• An Important Question for an Important Person booklet
From LifeWay available at www.LifeWay.com or a local LifeWay Christian Store
• Becoming a Christian tract
• Souvenir poster with Parent Tips
From Child Evangelism Fellowship available at www.cefonline.com
• Gospel Flipper-Flapper - innovative folded
• The Wordless Book - gospel memory aid
Here's where your church can "paint the town"-or at least get
The simplest elements of promotion are often overlooked. Be sure to place a
prominent sign in front of your church, displaying VBS dates, times and
Beyond this, promotion can become quite innovative. One church in North
Carolina transformed an old trailer and a vintage truck into a roaming
enrollment vehicle, traveling to shopping centers to publicize VBS. Another
church decorated Wal-Mart shopping bags with VBS logos and then returned them
to the store for use in bagging customers' purchases.
Consider sponsoring a booth or a parade float at community Memorial Day or
Fourth of July activities.
Some churches hold a series of Backyard Bible clubs before VBS and then
invite these new friends to VBS. Providing vans to pick up children from day
care centers is another way to reach into your community.
Barbecues, carnivals or other VBS "kickoffs" can stimulate excitement and
draw people from the surrounding area. Beech Springs Baptist Church in Kodak,
Tennessee, creatively promoted their VBS-the 2005 Rambling Road Trip. On the
Saturday before VBS, dozens of campers and RVs decorated with VBS signs paraded
through the community. Finishing up at the church, they circled the campers
around a bonfire and camped all night. As a result of innovative promotion,
this small country church had about 300 attendees at VBS.
Kathy Trundle of the Tennessee Baptist Convention suggests: "The more you
can do to make your church look like a fun, exciting place, the more people you
can bring in the church. But, when it comes right down to it, nothing beats
one-on-one personal invitation."
Everyone with whom your guests come in contact represents your
church. Most important, you all represent Christ. Take this God-given
responsibility seriously by lovingly preparing families to receive the gospel
Encourage your team to deliberately reach out to parents as well. At one
church, when parents drop off children for evening VBS, the pastor personally
greets them and invites them to join him for a discussion class. Use your
creativity here. Provide coffee, treats, warm fellowship and stimulating
biblical teaching on an interesting current issue. Consider using LifeWay's
adult VBS materials so the whole family is studying the same topics. Try to
involve your entire congregation in showing hospitality to your visitors.
When it comes to curriculum, your church will not be left out in the
cold-especially if you use LifeWay's exciting 2006 program "Arctic Edge: Where
Adventure Meets Courage." Engaging activities help students develop their
courage as they trek across tundra, explore in kayaks and skim the back country
in a float plane. Children learn that God is always with them, giving them
courage to follow Jesus even through life's challenges. Missions resources will
introduce them to missionaries in Alaska and other parts of the world who've
answered God's call to missions.
You may want to check out LifeWay's "Club VBS: Space Quest!" where
students focus on "Jesus: The Way, the Truth, the Life!" In either case,
don't miss the Idea Bank with a wealth of creative tips at www.lifeway.com/yourvbs
(under Share Ideas).
Whether you use LifeWay's curriculum or create your own, an appealing theme
brings life to VBS, helping you plan activities that reinforce the Bible
Conducting a VBS without paying attention to evangelism is like planting and
caring for a farm without harvesting the crops. No matter how many cookies are
consumed, balloons blown up or songs sung, the heart of VBS is the
life-changing salvation message.
Evangelism to kids should be targeted to their interest and attention span.
Using colorful, tactile materials boosts their understanding by helping them
"interact" with the message. Videos, PowerPoint presentations, or other
innovative evangelism aids can speak effectively to kids (see sidebar).
When presenting the gospel to kids, small groups are better, and one-on-one
is ideal. However, you also may use a group setting to present the message to
all children in a particu-lar grade. Ask children who responded to see the
teachers after the session, or dismiss the others and have those who responded
stay, so the teachers can talk individually with them.
Skip Arnhart, Children's Evangelism, NAMB, cautions: "Gospel aids such as the
Wordless Book are simply memory aids. Make sure the message you are trying to
communicate is clear." Encouraging teachers to focus on the ideas, not the
colors, he adds: "Scripture is what the Holy Spirit uses to make the
conviction-not the memory aids themselves. Always use scripture verses and
scriptural principles to present the message."
Skip also urges: "When talking to a child who has made a profession of
faith, review the gospel message to make sure he or she understands the
important concepts. Talk about what it means to commit one's life to Christ.
Then determine if the child has indeed made a decision or is even ready to make
Evangelism is vital to VBS precisely because VBS is vital to a church's
overall evangelism program. In Florida, churches have found that VBS is their
number one tool for bringing in unchurched people-25 to 28 percent of the
professions of faith every year come as a direct result of VBS.
Statistics from the Southern Baptist Convention underscore the role VBS
plays in church growth. Last year at VBS, 101,000 children made decisions for
Christ, and churches discovered 302,000 new prospects for follow-up.
Additionally, Sunday schools enrolled 45,000 new members because of VBS. VBS is
expanding Christ's Kingdom!
Your job isn't finished when children have responded to the evangelistic
"Churches need to be encouraged to follow up on unchurched people attending
VBS," says Becky Martin of LifeWay. "A church that goes through all the work of
planning VBS but fails to follow up is wasting valuable resources. Take this
opportunity to stay in touch with these families and continue a relationship
For children who have received Christ, teachers should visit the parents to
explain the child's decision-making sure parents know that their child was not
coerced. Then encourage baptism as the next step.
"You have to be open and honest with parents and include them in
the decision," says Skip Arnhart. "Otherwise, unchurched families will lose
trust in your church." In practicing honest respect with families, Skip has
never encountered a parent who was upset over the child's decision. Kathy
Redfeairn of Valley Baptist in Bakersfield, California, makes the same
observation, adding: "And many times the parents accept Christ as Savior,
At Valley Baptist, new believers are given a Bible and a special baptism
booklet to complete before they are baptized. If they're ready, they may
participate in an outdoor waterfall baptism service after VBS ends. In 2005,
Valley Baptist had more than 1,800 children attend VBS, with 260 decisions for
Christ. The entire church membership gets on board for VBS, bringing neighbors
and relatives and shutting down all other ministries that week to focus on VBS.
Valley Baptist's grand finale, a Family Carnival Night where parents also heard
the gospel message, drew about 1,500 parents, plus children and VBS
leaders-with 96 new believers baptized!
For unchurched VBS visitors who don't make a profession of faith, Sunday
school teachers may want to contact the children who would be in their class.
Teachers can send (or better yet, deliver in person) a letter, photo or
memento, telling the child how glad they were that he or she came. Include a
packet describing your church's ministries and keep in touch with them about
Wrap up a successful week by praising God for the new believers! Take time,
too, to thank your teachers. A staff appreciation lunch is the perfect
opportunity to share the results of VBS, pray together and commit to following
up with unchurched families. Finally, a time of evaluating this year's VBS can
make next year's even better.
The door is wide open again for VBS," says Tom Belew of the California
Southern Baptist Convention. "Today parents see the church as a place for
quality programming regardless of their desire for religious teaching. There
was a time when it was more difficult to get unchurched kids into VBS, but that
has changed as parents are looking for short-term, meaningful activities for
What Christian would want to pass up such an opportunity? Whether your
church is large or small, urban or rural, REACHING your community can be the
best thing that ever happened to your church-and to your non-Christian
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