Summer is in full-swing, and your church most likely has already held, or at least planned, an epic Vacation Bible School (VBS) or kids camp. New families will come through your doors. Their kids will have a blast with your children’s ministry team. Their parents will meet awesome volunteers, and hopefully they will be open to coming back again.
The surprising thing about the unchurched parents who bring their kids to your VBS is that they don’t necessarily have a relationship with God themselves, but they are fine with their children hearing about Jesus. Pay attention to these people! If their hearts are open enough to have their children hear about Jesus, then God has already softened their hearts toward spiritual things. With a little inviting, those people could absolutely become a part of your church where they will hear the Good News and have their eternities transformed by the love of Jesus!
So where do you start? How can you connect these VBS families into the life of your church?
Here are five powerful connection points and comeback events for your VBS families:
1) Parents Brunch
Hold a “Parents Brunch” on Wednesday or Thursday morning during VBS. Provide a free brunch for parents in a spare room or patio space on campus. Invite your staff and key volunteers to come mingle and sit with moms. During the brunch, have your pastor, children’s pastor, women’s or MOPS director, and other key leaders introduce themselves and share about what’s coming up on the church calendar. Invite parents to register right then, if possible! Collect their phone numbers as they sign in, and text them within a few days to follow up and invite them to your next event.
2) Saturday Night/Sunday Morning Performance
A key part of helping your VBS families become comfortable transitioning from camp to church is having a VBS event scheduled in conjunction with the following weekend service. Throughout the week, hand out invitations for the parents to come to the weekend service, where they will be able to see their kids perform the songs they learned this past week on stage. Then, throw an ice cream party after church to give them a chance to hang out with other families. Include information about upcoming family events in your bulletin and post banners or sandwich boards promoting your upcoming weekend sermon series.
3) Movie Night
Within a week of your VBS, schedule a family movie night to give them a reason to come back. This can be done in your parking lot as a drive-in movie night or inside as a pajama movie night. Email or text your VBS families once or twice between VBS and the movie night to invite them. And, as always, make sure to provide invite cards for volunteers to invite these guests to church.
4) Family Picnic (Covid-Friendly Idea)
If including a kids performance in your weekend services is not an option for your church, or it will not work this year due to COVID restrictions, host a family picnic instead! This outdoor event can be scheduled Friday afternoon or Saturday afternoon immediately following your VBS/kids camp. Provide burgers, hot dogs, lawn games, crafts, and other fun activities. Supply staff and volunteers with t-shirts and invitations, and, as always encourage them to make connections and invite guests back to church
5) Seasonal Events
The good news about VBS is that you already have guest families’ contact information from their registrations. So, you can always reach out to them throughout the year to invite them to seasonal events such as family nights/family services, Back to Church Sunday, harvest parties, Christmas events, and Easter. If they have had an amazing time at your church already, they are already open to coming back to your church for other significant events. As you put together your church calendar, plan to send email blasts specifically to these families!
When will we see guests start attending?
Pastor Hal Seed of pastormentor.com believes, “A few guests begin attending the very next week [after VBS]. A larger number return two to four weeks later. Most unchurched people can’t fathom attending church every weekend, so this pattern is normal. Still others come the first time I do a series on family, marriage or parenting, which can be months later.”
This means, if you don’t see your VBS families come back immediately, it doesn’t mean you’ve lost them. It just means you may need to plan a family-focused sermon series, a family outreach event, or a parenting seminar. Keep them included in your email list, so you can continue to connect with them throughout the year. If you have any staff or volunteers who made a personal connection with them, have them reach out and invite them, personally.
Here is a prayer you can begin praying for your unchurched VBS families today:
Thank you for bringing these families to our church. Please multiply the work you began in their children during VBS. Please bring them back to our church again and again and again, and as you do, please soften their hearts, open their eyes, and unlock their ears, so they can see that you, Jesus, are the only way. Give us wisdom to know what events we should host, how we should invite them, and how we should connect them into our church. Amen.