You put a lot of work and time into planning a VBS. Since this is a once a year event, you want to make sure you reach as many kids as possible to shine a light into their lives and share the Gospel with them. But how do you get their attention during the lazy days of summer, especially with so many other activities like sports and video games and hanging out all taking up their time?
Here are 5 practical steps you can take this year to increase VBS attendance.
1. Go Out Into your Community Extending a Personal Invitation
We are called to go and make disciples. This can require us to literally go, outside of the church, and invite people in. Oftentimes, in the summer, there are a wide variety of events taking place in your community. Use events like community-wide yard sales, little league games, parades, craft shows, outdoor movies and concerts as a way to go out into your community, give back, and invite kids to VBS.
Seek the permission of those in charge of events in your community to set up a place to hand out information, or even to pass out something free like ice cold beverages or ice cream treats (things everyone likes) that includes information about your upcoming VBS. Ask kids from your church to join in on this since they already likely know the kids you want to invite from school or sports teams. This personal invite gives you the opportunity to communicate face-to-face your love for the kids and their families.
If you’re allowed to set up a table, increase VBS attendance by holding a a pre-registration and offer a goody-bag related to the theme of your VBS. Even if all you get is a parent’s name and an email address, you’ll be able to follow up on this face-to-face interaction by adding these new friends to your communication lists. This will allow you to reach out to these families a couple times to remind them to attend through emails and mail. Be careful not to overdo it though. Nobody likes to be spammed, and too many mailers can hurt your budget.
You’ll also be able to quickly bring this pre-registration list into your church software check-in system. Then, on the day of VBS, you’ll already have the parents’ and kids’ info, you’ll be able to acknowledge that you’ve met them before, and quickly and safely check the children in.
2. Communicate with and Work with other churches
Ideally, there would be enough churches in your area holding events that children could attend a different VBS where they learn about Jesus each week until school starts again. Whether or not this is the case, it’s a good idea to make sure that you and another area church are not planning your events at the same days and times. This helps to keep kids and families from having to pick, and gives them the opportunity to attend more than one.
You could also ask churches that are going to hold a VBS before yours to give out information about your upcoming event the last night of their event. Kids usually end VBS excited and hungry for more, so this is the perfect time to remind them they can do it all over again with new music, and fun, and the one and only important Gospel message that we all need constantly reminded of.
3. Host an event aimed at inviting kids to VBS
Reaching kids (or anyone) with the Gospel often starts by first building a relationship. You have the most important message these kids will ever hear, but some of them might not know why they should trust you, or that you really care about them. Increase VBS attendance by first building a relationship with kids in your community through shorter events. You can plan outdoor movie nights, an ice cream social, and other events that meet the needs of kids with “nothing” to do in the summer. Use these smaller events to still present the Gospel and show love, and then invite kids to VBS where they’ll have more in-depth lessons.
4. Consider a New Location
The church isn’t a building, it’s a body. Sometimes, as mentioned earlier in this post, reaching people with the Gospel requires us to move outside of the church walls. If you have noticed in years’ past you’re only reaching kids who already go to church, this may be a good opportunity to prayerfully consider a new, or even a second, location (who says you can only have one VBS each summer?). Hold a VBS, or maybe even just a one-day VBS event at a local elementary school or playground (with permission of course). Having your event in these public places can make parents who aren’t part of a church more willing to allow their kids to participate, can also lead to kids seeing a large gathering of other children and asking their parents if they can attend, and ultimately takes the Gospel message beyond your church walls and out into your community.
If you need help knowing which area would be best starting a new VBS location and reaching more kids, use a tool like SK Neighborhood to find which areas have the most kids within a couple mile radius.
5. Meet a Need
Know the needs of your community and seek to meet those needs at your VBS, or as an extension of it. Be the hands of Jesus to someone, while you’re telling them who He is. Is there an area in your community where parents struggle to provide their kids the necessary supplies for succeeding at school? Hold a backpack and school supply drive at your church to be handed out at VBS.
Do you know that there are a large number of kids who will go hungry this summer because they aren’t getting their daily school lunch? Consider expanding your VBS snack budget to be a meal budget and feed the kids for a week (this may even turn into a larger initiative where you are able to provide the kids meals more often throughout the summer).
Are you in an area where kids are struggling to do well in school? Consider offering a fun reading program for free to kids as an addition before VBS, and to continue even after VBS is over. Find a need and pray for a way to meet it for God’s glory and the sharing of the Gospel.
The number you have attending your VBS is not as important as whether or not the Gospel message is being taught. Don’t look at increasing VBS attendance as a numbers goal, but instead set an overall goal of building relationships and meeting the needs of your community for the purpose of sharing the Gospel and helping them get their spiritual needs met.