Strategic follow-up plays a huge role in making the most of your VBS. In fact, intentional follow-up should be an important part of your regular VBS planning, right from the beginning. That means as you’re rounding up supplies, handing off VBS manuals, and putting up decorations, you’re also preparing to make a strong post-event impression.
Match Your “Why”
Your follow-up plan needs to be intentional. It all begins with your VBS “why.” Your first step in VBS planning is establishing a solid, measurable “why.” Why are you doing VBS? What do you hope to accomplish? What will success look like? Your curriculum selection, budget allocations, and time investment should all point toward that “why.” And so should your follow-up.
For example, suppose your VBS “why” is to bring new families into your church. That means before VBS, you hung publicity posters in local community centers or schools—places families visit. Then during VBS, you made sure church staff had ample time to introduce themselves and interact with parents in meaningful ways. Therefore, a strong follow-up initiative should also focus on families. You might invite families to a wrap-up picnic or your next all-church event. Or send information about an upcoming parenting class.
As you can see, effective follow-up takes preparation. If you’re planning to send photos home, have someone assigned to take photos of every child. (Plus, this person can have the responsibility to get the photos printed.) And of course, you’ll want to have notecards or mailable photo frames ready and waiting. Or if you’d like to write personal notes to each volunteer, be sure you’re actually watching them during VBS so you can thank them for specific things.
It’s a Team Effort
Now, finding someone to focus on follow-up may seem daunting, if not impossible. After all, you’re likely tapping into a large number of your core volunteers already. But follow-up can be easily delegated and broken into smaller jobs. For example, if you’re using a Group VBS, consider having Crew Leaders (small group leaders) mail a note to each child in his or her crew. You just supply cards and stamps. Or as the Spotlight VBS photographer is snapping pictures for the Spotlight show, he or she can take Crew photos to send out after VBS.
One way to strategically approach follow-up is to look for opportunities in four areas: kids, parents, volunteers, and church. This divide-and-conquer approach can help you prioritize what follow-up initiatives are the best fit with your VBS “why.”
To ignite your imagination and fuel your own objective, we’ve rounded up a flurry of follow-up ideas from VBS veterans around the country.
1. Follow up with kids.
This is the follow-up that most of us think of—circling back with kids to remind them of the great time they had at VBS. Or perhaps you want to send a reminder of your Bible focus or Scripture they learned.
Gloria Lee, a children’s ministry leader in Los Angeles, reaches back to kids with good old-fashioned snail mail. “I’ve sent photos of kids (random ones we’ve taken throughout the week) with a greeting, inviting them to our next event—typically our Fall Family Event.”
Lee enlists the help of her volunteers to make each note personal. “I had Crew Leaders write a note to each child on Wednesday or Thursday. Then we’d drop in the VBS theme hand decal and mail the notes one week after VBS.”
Following up with kids might mean connecting them to year-round events at your church. Consider reaching out with graphics, activities, and topics for your fall Sunday school or midweek programs. Kids rarely get mail, so even though snail mail may seem old, it’s a great way to grab kids’ attention. Before you know it, kids will be asking their parents to come back to church! Group’s Simply Loved Sunday school curriculum has made it even easier to draw kids into church, using the familiar Bible Memory Buddies (which kids meet at VBS) in weekly Sunday school lessons.
It’s no surprise that VBS is a time when many kids make a faith decision. So it makes sense to follow up with simple, kid-friendly discipleship tools. In preparing for her upcoming VBS, Debra Taylor, a children’s leader in Dublin, Ohio, is working on a fresh follow up idea for this year. “I’m looking at creating a VBS devotional kit, and having the Crew Leaders send a follow-up note with a devotional to each of their crew members.” Consider short, kid-focused books (like “Notes From Jesus”) and kid-friendly Christian music. Remember, that VBS music may be the only Christian music a family hears!
2. Follow up with parents.
It’s likely that VBS gave parents or caregivers the chance to walk through the doors of your church for the first time. Follow-up initiatives can bring them back again or simply support parents in family faith development at home.
Emily Snider, a children’s pastor in Roseville, Michigan, approaches family follow up in several ways.
“For VBS, we typically do Holy Land Adventure, so I always send home the Family Devotional at the end of the week. We also invite parents to our Fall Family event. I pass out a flyer on the last day of VBS and then send a follow-up postcard closer to the event.”
Snider also opens the door for family resources—items that many parents may not be aware of. She has a sign-up list for VBS music CDs. If parents are interested, they can sign up. Delivering CDs and streaming cards to families creates another opportunity for interaction with church staff!
For parents, the personal touch may go further than mass-mailed invitations. Parents love seeing that someone took the time to know and care for their child during a busy VBS week. “I find that the personal follow-up is valuable—especially if it comes from the kid’s Crew Leader,” says Debra Taylor. “It’s as simple as a thank-you for participating, a check-in, and an invitation to participate in our church’s children’s programming.”
Taylor is all about resourcing parents in the easiest way possible. “I send out an email with some final comments and links to Lifetree Kids music. I want to encourage families to worship together at home.”
And of course, in-person celebrations are always welcome! Gloria Lee hosts a post-VBS party, complete with catered food and lots of time for conversation and fellowship.
“We’ve done VBS Night on Friday evening. We typically cater from Chick-fil-A (very easy), and provide a simple dessert. Families start in the sanctuary and sing some songs with kids (most kids stand in the front but not on stage). We go over each day’s Bible Point, story, and Bible Memory Buddy. There’s a video/slide show of some great highlights as well as stories for about 20-25 minutes. Then we have everyone go outside for food and just to hang out. The church provides different games for kids on the grass including an obstacle bounce house course, jumbo Jenga, and cornhole.”
3. Follow up with volunteers.
Often the focus is on outreach, so follow-up efforts likely land there as well. However, it’s important to follow up with volunteers. After all, they’re the heartbeat of your VBS! Reaching out to those who made VBS happen is a sure-fire way to get them to help next year.
Most volunteers want to know that what they did mattered. So Emily Snider makes it personal.
“For volunteers, I try to get a picture of each volunteer in action and then send it with a handwritten thank you card. It’s important to share exactly how they impacted a child’s life that week, so I try to share something specific that I noticed them do or story of a child that was impacted in some way.”
Lee relies on notes but has found a way to make the task simpler for her—and more meaningful for recipients. “I had station leaders write cards for assistants; coaches write for crew leaders etc… and I would write one to coaches to station leaders. So in the end, EVERYONE got a thank-you card.”
A thank-you card…and a party! “We have a ‘Thank You Celebration,’ inviting families of volunteers. We usually make it a pool party, assuming there is someone who has a place big enough for everyone. It’s nothing fancy, but just time for people to relax, eat, enjoy themselves.”
Lee also uses VBS as a time to scope out new potential volunteers for the next school year. “I ask those potential volunteers for a time to meet for coffee or lunch, and I get to share what I’ve observed and how I can see them serving in our ministry, share the vision, and invite them to join the kids ministry team.” Now that’s follow-up with a big ministry impact.
This is also a great time to have staff fill out evaluations. Be sure to ask what they liked or didn’t like, what went well and what they’d change, and provide a place for any general comments. Volunteers appreciate being heard. In fact, a sense of “team” will likely yield a higher rate of returning staff.
4. Follow up with your church family.
Your church family probably heard that VBS was happening. But if they missed out on the fun of being there, follow-up allows you to share a bit of the excitement with them. All-church follow-up is an excellent way to seed the ground for next year’s program (or even other children’s ministry events). After all, people who’ve never volunteered for VBS, or whose kids aren’t school age, may not know all the incredible fun that happens there!
Weekend Service Spotlight
Snider brings a little VBS joy to Sunday mornings. “The Sunday after VBS, we have a slideshow/video that showcases pictures and we always use the VBS theme song. Sometimes the worship band will play a few of the songs from VBS for worship that Sunday.”
Taylor does a similar re-cap, but takes it a step further to get the whole church involved. “We leave the last Imagination Station (with gizmo) and last KidVid video for the Sunday wrap up, so that the attendees can participate in small groups. We also conclude Operation Kid-to-Kid giving. We set up a Sciency-Fun Gizmo table with the leftovers so that families can have fun together before and after the service.”
Families even get a chance to play games! Taylor often sets up one of the VBS games for families to play before or after church.
Follow-up becomes a summer event in Taylor’s church! “We use a second VBS program to run an 8-10 week Sunday series. Our families find this an easy way to invite friends and family to church on Sunday. Keep the fun going!”
And that’s really what follow-up is all about—keeping it going. Follow-up means you take the lead in nurturing relationships started at VBS. It means you keep the doors to your church open to families who came for the first time. And it means you remind volunteers of the huge role they play in kids’ faith formation.
Now start mapping out how you will keep the VBS fire fueled into the fall…and beyond.
Want more fabulous follow-up ideas? Check out 9 No-Fail VBS Follow Up Ideas.
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