by Donna Lucas
Christmas is over, CPC is here—and for me, VBS starts in just 25 weeks! My heart’s beating a little faster with anticipation (and I’ll admit it, a little fear)! I remember how those last few weeks before VBS can get crowded with millions of details. (Makes my palms sweat just thinking about it!) So I have to be intentional now about preparing for one BIG reason our church holds VBS—to connect with families in our community whose kids come to VBS for the first time!
This is a great time for me to stop and think through my plans and strategies for making those family connections. When I prepare well in advance to connect with unchurched families, it means that the details are in place (as much as possible!), it won’t become a stressful last-minute detail, or—worse yet—an idea that slips through the cracks for another year, crowded out by the decorating and logistics and crazy fun.
God hands us this amazing opportunity every year—it’s wise not to waste it! So I formulate my goal: To surprise these parents with the amount of love our church has for them and their families! That goal flows from a bigger goal: To see God’s love change their hearts and draw them in to become people who follow Jesus!
So, how do we surprise them with love and communicate God’s love to them in ways that have meaning for them? Here are some steps.
Show up in places they least expect.
We don’t just say goodbye at the door and hope for the best. We make sure we have their contact information. We begin to pray for them and invite our church to do the same. We “friend” them on Facebook. We invite them for coffee. We visit them, call them, text them, invite them to events—and we keep it up until they believe we really care . . . because we do. (Yes, this may take a year-round volunteer. What a great opportunity for a senior who is passionate about Jesus and computer savvy, too!)
Become relevant to their lives.
We offer family events that they can attend with their kids. We offer them useful information about family life. We have Parents’ Date Nights, classes on parenting topics (on Sunday morning that are held at the same time as kids’ Sunday School). And we make sure that they know about these things!
A few other simple, practical ways to reach out:
• Make plenty of extra theme-related coloring pages. Keep them on hand during VBS, not just as time fillers but also as items kids can color and take home—especially pages with the Bible verses on them! Any way we can get Scripture into the home is a plus.
• Introduce the Bible Content during opening assembly. Parents often hang around until the opening assembly is over. So while they’re still in the back, take the opportunity to introduce the daily Bible theme in a creative way—a funny skit, a stunt or a video! Make it fun and fast, but do it before the parents scoot out the door.
• Bring prayer to VBS! We all need prayer. Set up a prayer room at VBS in a place that’s convenient for parents who are moving in and out. Place signs that invite parents, staff or anyone to come in and get prayer support! Ask a couple of your church’s prayer volunteers to make this their VBS ministry. (It’s another great place to plug in a husband and wife team who are retirees and mature believers!) Create a soothing atmosphere; for those who don’t want to pray, provide cards they can fill out to pass on to your prayer team. This is another valuable way to connect with the hearts of a new family.
• Send out daily Parent Newsletters. (They may be included in your VBS kit, or make your own in advance.) Include information on what kids are learning—the Bible passage or story, the Bible Memory Verse, a brief paragraph about how the Bible content connects to family life. And don’t forget your VBS announcements! (Gospel Light VBS includes Parent Newsletters in our kits. They’re on a CD-ROM so you can modify them for your own VBS and then print!)
• Delegate, so that you’re free to meet every family. If you don’t have to do everything yourself, you will have time to greet each and every family there—and be sure to have your pastor do the same!
Connecting with new families in ways that touch their hearts can turn the success of VBS into a longer-lasting—and by God’s grace, life-changing—experience!
Serving Christ through you,
Gospel Light /Children’s Ministry Resources
Donna Lucas, a pastor’s daughter from New York, left the world of big-budget fashion shoots and world travel to serve VBS and Sunday School teachers as Gospel Light’s Publishing Director. She’s also head cheerleader (and laundress) for the Lucas Three, her amazing girl athletes. Married to her favorite athlete of all, Jack, for over twenty years. She also volunteers in Children’s Ministry every week at her church.