FIRST-PERSON: Attracting a crowd at VBS

INDIANAPOLIS (BP)--Every year, thousands of children across our country meet Jesus for the first time at Vacation Bible School (VBS). Imagine what might happen if every member at your church invited an un-churched child to VBS. Need fresh publicity ideas?

-- Form a creative, committed publicity team to motivate and enable every individual and church group to impact VBS attendance.

-- Single adults coordinate an outdoor registration event for the community. The church softball team delivers door hangers to homes within a mile of the church. Senior adults pre-register members' children by phone.

-- Middle schoolers prepare a short puppet show, performing in the local mall and the church foyer. The choir and praise team post advertisement signs strategically around the city. Garage salers share invitations as they shop to find cowboy hats for a western VBS theme. Homebound members commit to pray for children who will attend.

-- Teens plan a Celly Party, recruiting dozens of adults to join them for a sixty minute phone blitz. Callers use their own cell phone, a script and simple registration form to invite and register kids who visited church last year -- Sunday School guests, sports, fall festival, daycare, Awana, mission groups, inactive members. When a child is registered the caller rings a bell and adds the name to a whiteboard. After a fast-paced hour, they pray for the children, enjoy snacks and celebrate.

-- Individuals help. A techie member designs an outdoor banner invitation. A theatrical member wears a VBS mascot costume, such as a cowboy horse inflatable suit, to visit Sunday School classes or church and community events. Sunday School teachers wear bandanas to show VBS enthusiasm. An inviting story in the local paper shows an intriguing photo of VBS preparations. The women's ministry group rents a huge cowboy advertising balloon.

-- Other members design the stage area. Woodworkers build a simple horse chute for children to enter, and some artistic members organize a branding iron design contest to create excitement. The deadline for children's brand ideas is a month ahead, and the winning design (announced during VBS) is made into a big rubber stamp to "brand" kids as they enter through the chutes each day.

-- Simplify participation. Provide yard sign invitations for church members' lawns. Give everyone postcard invitations to share with friends and neighbors. Create e-invitations they can e-mail friends. A week before VBS, deacons give every worshipper a helium balloon invitation to deliver to a neighbor.

-- The youth group and their leaders plan a special "Howdy Partner" shindig for fifth graders shortly after VBS to honor them and welcome them into the youth department. Continue the cowboy theme with a barn venue, cowboy stew, western games and western style Christian music at a bonfire. Youth are assigned as prayer partners for the fifth graders, and spend time to pray and encourage them.

-- On Sunday after VBS, young adult and children's classes have prepared for new guests who will attend, with quality Bible study and lots of extra chairs, greeters, curriculum and Bibles.

Vacation Bible School can open doors to reach lost families for Christ, but only if those children come. Cast a large vision for every church member to help invite children to VBS.


Diana Davis is the author of Fresh Ideas (B&H Publishing) and the wife of the Indiana Baptist State Convention executive director. Learn more at www.keeponshining.com.

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