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Blog » Beyond VBS: 5 Follow-Up Ideas to Nurture the Faith of Young Guests

Beyond VBS: 5 Follow-Up Ideas to Nurture the Faith of Young Guests

It’s hard to overestimate the importance of Vacation Bible School in engaging children and their families in your church’s ministry. In fact, the numbers are overwhelming in their support of the power of VBS. 

Here are just a few of those numbers from a 2019 LifeWay Research survey

  • Sixty-nine percent of parents said they would encourage their children to attend VBS if invited by a friend.
  • One hundred sixty thousand church membership prospects came through VBS the year prior to the survey.
  • Sixty-five thousand professions of faith were also made.

You simply can’t ignore the evangelistic impact of VBS. But the question is, what happens next? 

Reaching children with a strong VBS experience is critically important, but it’s even more important to help them take their next steps in a life of faith. 

Here are five ideas that can help you engage and disciple more children after VBS this year. 

Invite Children to Follow-Up Events

Often, getting the child back into your building a second time is key. Consider planning bi-monthly (or even quarterly) events potentially related to your VBS themes and specifically focused on those who attended. 

By the end of VBS, have at least one of these follow-up events already planned so you can give kids (and their parents) an invitation to it.

Because your VBS activities tend to focus on evangelism, center these follow-up activities around discipleship. But it’s important to see them as a gateway into the church. That means you’ll have three main goals: providing a venue where 1) kids can build relationships with other kids, 2) kids want to return later, 3) and where kids learn an early step or two in their walk with Jesus. 

Always have a next step at each of these events, preferably a regular activity such as a Sunday School class you can connect these children to. 

Connect Kids with Mentors

Of all the ideas on this list, mentoring may be the most effective long-term discipleship solution for the children who participate in VBS. Many children today have few role models from which to learn. Providing mentors to help them take those first few early steps of faith is critical. Plus, they’ll be available to encourage further involvement in your church.

However, in many situations, mentoring is also the most difficult to execute. Why? Unfortunately, it’s tough to find volunteers to serve as mentors. That’s why it’s important to make it as simple as possible for those willing to take part. So give them clear training on exactly what to do. You might even want to consider finding a simple curriculum for them to work through with the children.

Seniors in your church may have the time and interest to provide this mentoring time. Many have a lifetime of experiences to pass on to interested children. 

It’s critical that if your church connects children with mentors, you pay particular attention to best practices in child safety. Note that mentoring doesn’t necessarily mean adults and children are left alone together. You can build effective, long-term relationships in situations where multiple children and multiple adults are in a place together. 

Leverage Technology for Better Follow-up

A good church management tool (such as Realm or Ministry Platform) is an indispensable part of connecting VBS participants (and their parents!) to your ministry. The best part is you can automate the experience so your team doesn’t need to spend its time on administrative tasks but can spend it engaging children in ministry conversations.

Here are a few things you can do to maximize follow-up through an effective church management system.

  • Send an automated series of emails (called a nurture sequence) to thank parents for trusting their children with you and provide the next faith steps for their children.
  • Provide VBS teachers with a contact list so they can follow up personally with children.
  • Send out surveys to parents (and maybe children) so you can make the next VBS even better. 
  • Provide teachers and pastoral staff with detailed family information so they can better understand the child’s home life. 
  • Use text messages to alert parents about follow-up events. 

Provide Parental Involvement Tools

The best VBS experiences aren’t just about children. They are about whole families. No one has a better opportunity to disciple the children you’re reaching in VBS than their parents. Putting tools in their hands to help them do so is one of the best investments you can make.

Consider doing this through a regular parental newsletter with ideas for family devotions and conversation starters that can help parents continue their faith journey. Initially, the ideas should be based on the VBS theme so it’ll be an easier transition for the children. Then, move to other topics and themes. 

Provide some recommended resources (books, videos, etc.) that parents can use to help them engage their children, particularly in the VBS topics. Also, include information about your church’s children’s ministry and ways they can connect with your ministry. 

Mobilize the Children to Serve the Community

Help the children put their faith in action through subsequent volunteer opportunities in the community. Your community has many needs that children are perfectly suited to help meet. Service projects help kids develop their faith by teaching them to care for others.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you plan good follow-up projects for children.

  • Find kid-friendly projects. This may seem obvious, but it’s easy for adults to pick projects that don’t work well for children. You’re looking for projects that include age-appropriate tasks. Heavy construction projects won’t work! 
  • Projects should be enjoyable. Projects that rely on routine typically don’t work well. Include upbeat music in your project, if possible. Maybe most importantly, remain positive throughout the experience. If leaders are regularly frustrated, kids will get discouraged and will be less likely to do something similar again.
  • Child safety needs to be first. Anytime you’re off your church’s campus, you’ll add new potential dangers. Make sure whatever project you choose has limited risk to the children as they serve. Ensure volunteers have met all your church’s security measures. An adult should never be alone with a child under any circumstances.
  • Take plenty of pictures. Parents will love seeing their children serving. Have one volunteer on the activity whose responsibility is simply to document the project through photos and video. Create a slide show and/or video that can be shared with your congregation and the children’s parents when you return. But make sure you get parental permission before taking and releasing photos (or videos) of children. It’s best to have parents sign a release during the VBS registration process.
  • Tie together the service activity and what the kids learned. Help the kids see that when they minister to others in the name of Jesus, they are living out their faith. Making that connection will help the children to make service to others an ongoing habit in their lives. 

A Lifetime of Impact

Your church puts a lot of work into Vacation Bible School each year. From recruiting volunteers to decorations, to preparing to teach, to developing the kinds of fun activities that ensure kids have a good time, your congregation puts hours upon hours of work into the week. Don’t let any of that go to waste. Following up on the children who participate in VBS and their parents can help to ensure they connect with your church. That’s how you find long-term fruit from your church’s VBS experience. 

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