4 Tips To Help Prepare For VBS In 2016

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Well brothers and sisters it’s that time of year again! Summer is just around the corner and that means Vacation Bible School (VBS) is upon us. We’re adding some new planning tips and strategies to consider this year, as we have done with the past VBS planning posts, which will help make your VBS go smoothly!

Here are a few tips to help you prepare:

Prayerfully Consider Your Teams, Theme, & Timelines (6-12 months out)

As any church event should begin, start with prayer. Prayerfully consider your VBS program director and leaders, then select the best candidate that God has inspired for your church. Work with the new director to pull together a team of dedicated leaders and pray for them.

Once your team is ready you can choose a VBS curriculum and order a starter kit. Most publishers run sales on their kits starting early in the first quarter, and Christian bookstores like Lifeway often have the kits on hand so you can look through to help make a choice.

When your VBS kit arrives, you can get down to the real planning, such as recruitment, training, and requesting donations of money and supplies.

Recruiting & Registration (3-6 months out)

Finding dynamic, kid-friendly personalities can be a challenge. It’s also one of the reasons that the kids get used to seeing a lot of the same faces each year. Keep in mind that it’s always important to try and bring new volunteers into the fold, not only to avoid burnout, but often to reveal undiscovered spiritual gifts.

At this point, you should have a curriculum mapped out including supplies needed for each day & event, as well as how many volunteers you’ll need for each station. Communicating with the leadership of the church regarding any budgetary needs is also very important during this time.

Fundraising through events like trivia nights, silent auctions, and church meals is a great way to raise money for the program to cover costs that might exceed your church’s budgetary limitations. At our church we hold a trivia night and silent auction at the same time, where the questions relate to the theme of the VBS program. We register teams from the church members who then compete that night for an actual trophy that is displayed throughout the year in a common area of the church. This year we’re using Group Publishing’s Cave Quest theme, so all of the questions will relate to caves in some way based on Trivial Pursuit style categories.

Promoting the VBS program and keeping the community and the congregation in the loop is incredibly important. Churches vary on whether or not to charge for Vacation Bible School programs, so be sure to make your position clear from the beginning as it can help with fundraising.

Don’t forget to start allowing families to register their children around 3 months out. Today’s busy families start mapping out their summer plans in the spring, so be sure to allow registration – and make it easy! Consider using a system like Elexio Deluxe Suite or Essentials Giving that enable online event registration for programs like VBS. These systems can even process payments, if needed.

 

Training, Promotions, & Production (0-3 months out)

Don’t wait until the last minute on any of these. With the latest changes to law, at least where I’m at in Pennsylvania, requirements on volunteers for background checks and training are time-intensive and involved for whomever is coordinating VBS.

Elexio’s integrated background check system can help reduce some of that workload, but you definitely don’t want to take this to the last minute. Finding volunteers can be a challenge for many churches.

Training is important, too. Not only can you begin to identify a volunteer’s strengths and weaknesses, training will help both of you identify the best station or place for that volunteer to help. Many programs offer training materials, but churches can and should also include their own guidelines that are required by both state and federal laws, as well as any additional requirements from within your own denominations.

Pre-registration should be well underway at this point, and you should be able to start building group rosters and assigning volunteers.

Depending on how involved your decorations will be, 3 months before launch can be a good time to start assessing your needs for decorations and any sets. Last year, we ran Group’s “Everest” program and we started planning and buying materials around 3 months out. Within 2 months of our program we began building our set pieces, like small mountains, holding routine set building days for a few hours each Saturday.

Finals & Follow-Up (Last few weeks & Program)

During the last few weeks you should be pretty much ready, just putting the finishing touches on training, set building and decorations, or any last minute volunteer recruitment.

The last week before is always a rush. Many decorations and set pieces cannot move into place until the day you launch the program, and many times our volunteers are turning in clearances and paperwork at the last second. That doesn’t even take into consideration the mass of registrations that will all happen the “day of”.

For these reasons, we recommend scheduling a time of group prayer before you enter into the fray and welcome all of those young souls into your fold.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Ensuring that you have the right tools will make VBS planning easier. Elexio offers the tools needed to track incredibly useful information, like:

  • Who have been our key donors?
  • Who has the spiritual gifts appropriate for this kind of ministry?
  • Who has volunteered in the past?
  • Who has registered in the past?
  • How much have we spent before, and on what?

Even better, when you can pre-register families through a web form and even take payment, you’ve effectively reduced the workload of your registration volunteers.

Take a closer look at Elexio church software solutions today and you’ll find out how you can focus on your ministry, not the management.

3 Qualities Of A Kids Ministry That Brings Families Back

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According to a recent Barna study, 42% of participants said that becoming a parent led them to reconnect with a church, become more active in the ministry, or get involved with a church for the first time. As families grow, many parents feel a responsibility to get serious about their faith and get their kids plugged into a church.

With children playing such an important role in the life of families, churches should also make kids a top priority. Does your kids ministry offer these three qualities and make your church family-friendly?

1. Invaluable 

Is your church preparing children to grow in Christ? The potential next generation of your ministry is currently sitting in nurseries and classrooms throughout your church. Take advantage of this opportunity to start them on the path toward discipleship at a young age. Don’t you still remember the Bible stories and Sunday school teachers from your childhood?

And remember to get creative and stay as current as possible. The tactics and teaching methods that worked 25 years ago might not work today. Flannel graphs and sticker books have their place, but most kids are now exposed to technology at a young age and will expect similar engagement from your church.

2. Fun

Children’s programs should not only provide spiritual and educational value—they should also be fun! With momentary attention spans, kids need stimulation after just a few minutes of listening to keep them interested and awake. Don’t be afraid to throw in a silly game or song to keep those youngsters happy and strike a healthy balance. Families will be interested in returning to your church if they know they’re kids are having a good time. In fact, the kids might actually ask!

3. Safe

Parents want their kids to learn and have fun, but their safety is even more important. Does your church run background checks? Do you use a secure check-in system? Do you effectively track medical conditions and guardian pick-up? Invest in a safe kids ministry to leave parents—especially visitors—confident in your church’s ability to keep their children safe and more likely to come back.

How does your church create a kids ministry that keeps families coming back?

Is Your Church Getting The Most Out Of Trunk Or Treat?

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It’s that time of year when churches invite their members to fill parking lots with cars covered by DIY costumes and pack their trunks with candy corn and peanut butter cups.

Trunk or Treat is about providing a fun, safe activity for kids and families in your community. If done properly, it can be a great outreach initiative.

So you’ve got the kids, cars, and candy ready to go—but how do you make sure this amounts to more than just a night of fun and nauseating amounts of sugar?

Although it’s probably a little late to begin planning or advertising for this year, there are still some things you can do to ensure a successful Trunk or Treat.

Social Media

Hopefully you’ve been promoting your Trunk or Treat event for several weeks now. But even if you’re behind on the marketing, you can still use social media to attract more people—up until the day of your event!

  • If your church has an active social media presence, consider creating an event hashtag. You can use it leading up to Trunk or Treat, during the fun, and after the event as you share details and pictures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
  • You can also create buzz by inviting people to a public event on Facebook. It’s not so much about predicting attendance as it is about creating awareness. But it will help you gauge what kind of turnout to expect.
  • Need some more last minute volunteers? Recruit help from your church community by sharing those service opportunities throughout your social channels. Get them involved after the event, too by having them share posts, pictures, and updates with their friends.
  • Before posting pictures online, make sure you have consent from parents—and watch out for license plates. Your social media activity could backfire if you don’t respect people’s privacy.

Event Day Considerations

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the event, but make sure you’re prepared with more than just some sweet treats.

  • On Trunk or Treat night, take advantage of the fact that hundreds of people from your local community are pouring into your parking lot. Advertise another upcoming event for kids and families so they’ll come back for more fun.
  • Make sure you have plenty of volunteers available to not only hand out candy and help with the grunt work of the event, but also to engage with the families and answer any questions from parents.
  • One of the biggest draws of Trunk or Treat is that it’s typically safer than children roaming neighborhoods in the dark. So make sure you take all the necessary precautions to ensure a secure environment for families.

Follow-ups

Don’t miss an opportunity to learn more about the people from your local community so you can follow up with them later.

  • Ask parents and guardians to fill out visitor connection cards or enter their information on a check-in kiosk. Keep it short, though. You’re providing a free event to the community, so don’t make people feel like there are strings attached to your friendly gesture.
  • Consider allowing those cards to serve as an entry form to win a drawing–for something that is worth sharing their contact information.
  • Be straightforward. People will be more likely to give you their information if you tell them what you’re going to do with it. Will you send them a letter or add them to your weekly newsletter?
  • Use that valuable information within the next few days after your event—while the fun is still fresh in their minds. Get them entered into your database and into a workflow so they receive an automated email or letter. Have a member of your follow-up team call them. Invite them to the next family-friendly event at your church. Use Trunk or Treat as just the first step in making families familiar with your church.

Most of these ideas are perfect for other seasonal activities your church plans like a fall festival or spring fling. Throw seamless events, but make sure you focus on more on the outreach opportunities—isn’t that why you’re doing it, after all?

CHECK OUT THESE OTHER RESOURCES ON EFFECTIVE FOLLOW-UP:

Fantastic Family Follow Up

Follow-up after a Church Holiday Outreach Event: Speed Dating or Relationship Building? (article removed)

8 Effective Ways to Follow up with Guests at Your Church