With the two biggest weeks of the VBS 2013 season just days away (more Bible schools are conducted during the first two weeks of June than any other week), we need to realize we are being given a rich gift - the gift of connecting with hundreds of thousands of unchurched families.
For many families the week of VBS is the first and possibly only connection they will have with your church or any Christian church. It is a new beginning for both the families and the church. Growing these relationships is not the responsibility of the unchurched families. It is our responsibility! It is the responsibility of the church!
Recently I wrote about the importance of replacing our way of thinking about follow-up - as a simple postcard or one-time phone call - with the goal of making continued connections. This goes way beyond a simple "thanks for coming to VBS" into a series of actions resulting in ongoing life-impacting relationships.
While building a relationship is an ongoing process of connections built on top of connections, there must be a beginning. For most of us the beginning step is the age-old idea of follow-up - making that initial contact with guests and anyone making a salvation decision during VBS. The problem for most of us is that the initial contact is also the last or only contact.
As you start preparing for these contacts, consider the following four levels or types of contacts that need to be made. Each requires a unique message and response time.
Level 1: Individual making a salvation decision or asking questions
Response time for this contact needs to be given top priority and made within 24 hours aof the decision if at all possible. If it is a child making a decision or asking questions, the contact needs to be made with parents as well. The person making this contact needs to be able to review the decision or questions, help the individual confirm his or her decision, and then share information about next steps such as baptism and church membership.
Level 2: Individual with no church affiliation
Response time for this contact needs to be made within 48 hours of the last session of VBS or the last session the individual attends VBS. This contact needs to be made in person if possible, but in a relaxed and non-threatening way (i.e. a quick front porch visit instead of entering the home). The person making this contacts needs to be able to share about other ministry opportunities the church has available for each member of the family. The purpose of this contact is to deepen the relationship by connecting family members to on-going ministries such as other special events and weekly Bible study.
Level 3: Individual from another church
Response time for this contact needs to be made within the next week unless the individual also requires a Level 1 contact. The goal of this contact is not to entice the family away from their church, but to let them know their participation was welcomed and appreciated, and that they are always welcome to participate in other ministry events in the future. If the individual has made a decision or is asking questions her church should be contacted and made aware of the situation.
Level 4: Individual regularly attending your church
Response time for this contact should also be made within the next week. This contact can be a postcard, phone call, or home visit. The goal of this contact is to make sure those kids who attend every Sunday are not overlooked. They may not have been the primary focus of VBS, but they need to know they were noticed, loved, and appreciated.
As I wrote earlier, these contacts are first steps within the process of continued connections. This is a critical beginning, but just a beginning.