I was a VBS kid. From the time I was in preschool all the way through high school, I never missed a week of vacation Bible school (VBS). It was like Christmas for me! I even accepted Jesus as my Savior at VBS. Whatever you call it—VBS, kid’s week, backyard Bible club, etc.—dedicating a week of your summer schedule to focus solely on serving and sharing Christ with kids is important and deserves all the energy and resources we can muster.
VBS can take on different shapes: day camps, evening programs, neighborhood-based backyard Bible clubs, big, small, everything in between. Each may require special wording or promotion but I hope we can tackle some big ideas here and that you can use this as a starting point on how to promote your VBS.
This is kind of a no-brainer. But how do you use them specifically for VBS?
- A personal invite will go a long way. Make sure to encourage your VBS leadership (directors, teachers, organizers, parents) and church members to invite people. Having invite cards ready to go makes it easy to invite.
- If your local schools aren’t already out for summer break, ask if you can include an invite for each backpack or “take-home” folder. Depending on where you live, this may be a challenge. But it’s worth asking, especially if your church already has a relationship with the local school.
- Make invite pieces interactive by including a coloring page or game on the back. Get people talking!
- Kids love to invite friends, but sometimes they need encouragement. Offer prizes for everyone who brings a friend.
Leverage and build relationships with other community organizations and businesses.
- If you live in a more urban area, chances are there is a local magazine for parents that publishes kids’ events on their website or in print. Make sure they know about your event.
- Did you collect information from last year’s families that attended? Be sure they get an invite again through email, mail, phone, tweet, etc. Use whatever your community responds to best, and consider trying multiple channels.
- Ask local restaurants, stores, libraries and other organizations with foot traffic to promote your event by hanging a poster and even making invites available.
- Have a presence at community summer events like Fourth of July picnics, parades, festivals, etc. Your presence could be something extravagant like a float in a parade or a sponsorship at a festival, or it could be something low key like passing out fliers.
- Yard signs can be a good way to make your event highly visible in the community. It’s also a good way to get your congregation involved in VBS, especially for those who don’t have kids or don’t like working with kids.
- Partner with other churches in the area. Some smaller churches may not have the resources to put on their own VBS, but they’d love a place to send their kids.
Can we promote anything these days without a social media angle? People will be connecting and conversing online, so you might as well make your VBS part of the conversation. Some ways to get the ball rolling:
- Have some media available early so people can start sharing. Ideally you should have a teaser video and some images from last year that can easily be shared.
- Start sharing new stuff as early as you can. Give a sneak peek of the theme, stage setup, costumes and more.
- VBS is usually a very visual event, so take and share lots of pics (make sure your permission slip includes a photo release). Vibrant, colorful photos are just begging to be shared on Facebook. This will also give you material to promote your VBS for next year.
- Get a volunteer to share their thoughts/reactions/impressions every day after VBS. It could be a video, blog post or just a short thought. Show people what’s happening at VBS. This can be another way to get the congregation involved (and praying!), even if they’re not helping out in other ways.
Think Outside the Box
- In addition to (or instead of) invite cards, what about temporary tattoos? Pass them out at those community events or put them on the kids during your weekend services. Be sure to include a simple URL for parents to go to for more information.
- Not comfortable with temporary tattoos? Design a custom stamp.
- T-shirts for the kids can create atmosphere during the event (and be practical too, especially if they’re color-coded by age group) and promote your church afterward.
- Have a preview night a month or so before your VBS week by hosting a family worship night. Plan it around the theme of the VBS and show parents what they can expect.
- Maybe you should reconsider the name. “VBS” is tried and true in church circles, but are you really preaching to the choir? Some churches are changing the name because who wants to go to “school” in the summer?
Work With Your VBS Director
A lot of times it seems like the VBS director and the communications director aren’t communicating when it comes to promotion and planning. In my experience, the communications team is solely in charge of marketing and doesn’t give a lot of input into the actual event. And too often, I think the communications team is OK with this (“It’s for kids, it doesn’t have to be that great, right?”).
But how much better could VBS be if its organizers and the communications team would plan and strategize together? The organizers are going to be make sure it’s kid-friendly and that kids are going to learn biblical truths and the communication team (or production/creative team) can help make sure it’s executed perfectly using their worship service planning skills. Plus knowing more about what happens during VBS will help to improve any communication pieces. Both parties need to ask the other if it’s an event worth marketing and promoting.
Connect VBS & Your Church
Getting kids to VBS is big step. It’s a great way to introduce families to your church. But don’t let that connection end when VBS is over. Invite those kids and their families to come back:
- Send them home with a flier inviting them to your regular children’s programming. Offer a prize as an incentive to come back.
- Some churches schedule a VBS wrap-up on the following Sunday during the regular service. They’’ll share stories from VBS, sing songs and involve kids in performances or slide shows. Encourage kids to bring their families back on Sunday.
- The drop off and pick up time during VBS is a great opportunity to connect with kids’ families. A friendly face can put nervous parents at ease and a few kind words can make coming back on Sunday much more likely.
Cover Your VBS in Prayer!
With any event or campaign we produce, prayer should be essential. We’ve talked about taking some risks and asking big things of our community, why would we not ask God for big things to happen as well? After all, it’s for his glory.
How are you promoting your VBS?Photo by Fort George G. Mead Public Affairs Office.