Facebook user Zach recently asked our Answers VBS Discussion Group community how many of the kids and families who attend VBS come back to church after the VBS ends. His question garnered many excellent responses, including some suggestions of how to increase the number of returning kids and families.
Some people shared that not many return for church, or that it varies, but offered encouragement to continue planting the seed and speaking the truth each summer (some content edited slightly for clarity).
You never know. It varies from year to year. But our job is to plant the seed. God will take care of the rest. Do it for your church kids and their friends.
We are a small community with three churches in our town. Last year one of the other churches joined us and we did a community VBS. We chose to plant the seed and pray that the seed is watered. We may never know what the seed may become, but God knows and that is why we do it. Can't wait to join forces again this summer with Time Lab.
Been doing it for three years, I’ve yet to have any family come back and join the church. For most it is free babysitting, but they are hearing the gospel, so I’ll count it as a win!
If even ONE child gets saved after hearing the gospel, or even ONE family gets changed, it is worth it all! We have a new family in our church that came to us unsaved last summer to find something for their only child to do. They had seen our promo on Facebook. The mom and daughter both got saved last fall, and we are praying for the dad now! All have been coming to church since VBS! We are a tiny country church without many workers, but we give it our all for JESUS!
If you are using AiG materials and kids from other churches are coming that is GREAT! They may be hearing truth at VBS for the first time.
We are a small, rural church, so a lot of the kids VBS hop because it’s one of the few activities offered for kids in summer. We haven’t had many people come back after VBS, but we have actually had adults come because they’ve seen the efforts we put into our VBS. We see it as a service to the community, and if kids come after VBS, it’s an added bonus.
We’ve kept a few families over the years from VBS. Not as many as I’d like. The kids always seem to remember us when they see us out in public and run to hug us. Some churched families use our VBS, and that’s ok. I’m all for encouraging our youth to have as many Christian friends as possible, good foundation there that God can use. Some unchurched families use VBS for time without the kids. Just remember the goal is to plant seeds, for kids to come to Christ. It’s not about numbers, it’s about spreading the gospel.
Others shared advice for follow-up, saying that this often brings people back for church. They had some great suggestions for how to follow up with kids and their families after VBS ends. This shows that you really care and would love to get to know the kids and their families more (some content edited slightly for clarity).
How’s your follow up? The key to “see you next week” versus “see you next summer” is held in the follow up. The priority is making sure your registration forms are completed. Addresses, phone numbers, emails—you can’t follow up if you don’t have the info.
Create a team. Send a card. Send an email. Promo your school schedule. Some churches use the “drop-and-run” where, after VBS, they take a baggie with a little gift and info about the next event and their weekly programs to every child. Have something to bring them (and their parents) back within six weeks. Keep them updated with social media. The world is on Facebook. Make sure your visitors know where you are online. A “Come Back Sunday” has always worked well for me too. The kids lead with their VBS songs and then we do a cookout and share about our regular programs.
If you have a crew that doesn’t feel they can serve VBS week, can they write cards, stuff goodie bags, make phone calls, or send emails? Make sure you don’t drop the ball in the after-VBS exhaustion, which is why having a few folks who will help with the follow-up is helpful.
When we held it during the day, it was free babysitting. Our follow-up was to invite the children to come back on Sunday to sing three VBS songs during the service. The first couple of years we had a couple kids return on Sunday, but then no one except our own. Not one single child who didn’t already belong came back.
Then we switched to a family program in the evenings. Parents travel with their children to each station. We’ve had many grandparents bring their grandchildren, and I’ve been blessed to witness several adult children who had fallen away come back to church because their children felt like they belonged (thanks to the grandparents bringing them). We even had a couple who were living together and had children together but didn’t attend church get married after years of their children coming to VBS with grandma. I think the grandparents are the way we reel them back in.
Pray. Like others have said, we can try everything, but it is God who guides the people there. We pray, do mail outs, go door-to-door, posters at stores and schools, and emails to all of last year’s kids. But always pray.
We have an evening VBS and used to have a Family Night on the last evening. This past year, we did something different and had a Family Day on Sunday, serving a meal for everyone that attended/helped with VBS. The children were invited to attend our children’s worship (there was a guest illusionist), and the parents were invited to attend a regular service. This way we narrowed our focus down to reaching people who do not have a church home, as most who already do would attend their own church on Sunday, and they got a chance to experience what a normal Sunday looks like at our church. Afterwards, we served a meal. We followed up by visiting and taking information and cookies to each family that visited. I felt like we had way more families actually come back with this approach this year than in the past years when we did Family Night.
We have 300+ kids at our VBS, about 20% are regular attenders. It's used as free daycare, but at least they are hearing the gospel! We follow-up with the visiting families and take them a small gift.
We have a program on the following Sunday for the kids, where we talk about VBS, show a slide show to the church and pick a few songs for the kids to sing, and we invite the parents as well. It's a good way to get new families to church and some of them do continue to come! We have also talked about having a pancake breakfast that same Sunday during Sunday school for new families!
Stay encouraged as you lead a VBS each year—you’re making a difference! As Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6). Our job is to faithfully plant and water and leave the results up to God.
Are you a VBS leader or volunteer? Join our Answers VBS Discussion Group to ask questions and contribute to the ongoing conversation. We’d love to connect with you there!
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