Endless VBS Promotion, Decorating and Snack Ideas!

Katie DeCilloIf there’s one thing we know you’re doing right now, it’s looking for inspiration!  VBS is seriously just around the corner.  We’re really excited about all the great sharing and conversations going on on our Facebook wall, but we know VBSers are active on Pinterest, too!

We’re doing our best to find what you’re pinning and pin it to our board so that our followers can see what you’re up to.  Be sure to check out the TONS of ideas VBSers have posted online!

Tip: Don’t see what you’re looking for on our board?  Type “Colossal Coaster World,” “Jungle Jaunt” or search terms like “theme park decorations” in the search bar and hit enter to see what others are posting.

Happy Pinning!

May 19, 2013 – National Day of Prayer for VBS

 

Rhonda small Have you ever flipped the switch on a lamp several times and nothing happened? Do you remember the frustration of, “Why isn’t this thing coming on?” during your fruitless flips up and down. What about that sheepish, “oh,” realization when you see the disconnected plug?

This is a pretty good picture of our efforts to spread the gospel without prayer. Prayer is the power source that enlightens and charges our efforts. We are less than a month away from what are typically the two biggest weeks of VBS. Even if your VBS is later in the summer, the time to begin praying is NOW!

The VBS 2013 Administrative Guide has great prayer resources from prayer calendars to prayer walk brochures. And, this Sunday, May 19, 2013, is the National Day of Prayer for VBS.

I started thinking about praying for VBS and it occurred to me that V. B. S. is a great acronym for praying for VBS everywhere.

V – Volunteers! Recently on our Facebook we asked people to share their prayer requests. (Our team prays for you!) One of the most requested prayer concerns was for volunteers to help. Jesus told His disciples to pray for workers (Matthew 9:36-38). It is still an urgent prayer. The harvest is ready!

B – Bible! God’s Word changes lives. God promised that His Spirit would be our Teacher (John 14:25-26). We need His power and guidance as we teach Bible truths to others.

S – Salvations! VBS is still one of the strongest evangelistic efforts made by many churches. Prayer, concentrated Bible teaching, and the forging of relationships set the stage to share the gospel in a powerful way. Pray that hearts are prepared to respond to the gospel of Jesus.

I hope you’ll join me this Sunday, as we pray together for VBS!

 

 

Beginning Well…Ending Strong Part 2

wooley1 2013Last Tuesday I listed three steps Pastors and VBS Directors need to consider to insure VBS begins well and ends strong. To briefly review, Step 1: determine the purpose of VBS, Step 2: establish dates and a budget that reflects the purpose, and Step 3: enlist a team to dream and implement the strategy.

Step 3 is actually two steps in one. The first, as I wrote about last week, is to enlist a dream team that will also become your core leadership team. This team will not only help you dream possibilities, but will help you turn the possibilities into realities.

Once you have enlisted your core leadership team it is time to enlist and train workers. I’ll share more about this topic in a future post.

Now that we have taken a second look at the three steps to beginning well, we’ll move on to three steps for ending strong.

Step 4: Put promotion/publicity strategies in motion. The key here is knowing your target audience. Who are you really trying to reach for VBS? Which segments of your community are you not only best able to reach, but best able to minister to once you have reached them? Once you know your target audience you can direct all of your energies and resources to reaching the people most likely to attend your VBS and your church. To learn more about creating a promotion strategy check out Six Steps to Reaching Your Target Audience.

Step 5: Stay focused throughout the planning stage and week of VBS. This might just be the hardest step of all. Back in Step 1 you determined the purpose (reason for conducting and desired goals) of your VBS. As you gained support from the congregation and enlisted and trained a team, you helped them understand and own the purpose. But now that VBS is in full swing it is easy to get caught up in the crunch of making IT happen and forget the very reason why IT is suppose to happen.

If IT (purpose) is building bridges to the unchurched, then everything – from registration to the final Amen – must remain focused on building bridges. Each Bible story, craft, and rec game should be used to build bridges to the unchurched kids, students, and adults who may be experiencing church for the first time. If the purpose of VBS is building bridges then sharing the Gospel message and nurturing relationships becomes the focus of every lesson, activity, and every minute. Ending strong means never letting anything get in the way of staying focused on the purpose.

Step 6: Put continued connection (follow-up) strategies in motion. To end strong we need go back to the purpose (Step 1) and change the way we think about VBS. Instead of VBS being “the event” in itself, it must become the catalyst to the event which I hope you will agree is continued connections. For many churches, more unchurched families are identified during VBS then any other outreach all year. When a child from an unchurched home attends VBS, a church hasn’t just discovered one unchurched person. The church has typically discovered – when parents and siblings are included – four unchurched people.

On average, ten percent of everyone enrolled in VBS claims to be unchurched. For a typical VBS of 100 people (both students and workers) this means 10 are unchurched. But in reality a church has just discovered 40 people who claim no church home or affiliation – yet were willing to allow their child attend your VBS!

A simple postcard saying, “Thanks for attending our VBS” is not enough. The postcard may allow you to check off the follow-up box on your to-do list, but it is not adequate if the purpose of VBS is building bridges with the unchurched. Building bridges requires continued connections far beyond the week of VBS, and continued connections requires a strategy. In the next few weeks I’ll share more about creating a strategy for continued connections. Until then, start working on the first three steps. It’s not too late to begin well and end strong!

 

Beginning Well…Ending Strong

Purple Shirt PhotoAs a piano student – way back in the dark ages – I disliked recitals even more than the dreaded daily practice sessions. Compositions I knew well enough to play in my sleep would mysteriously and instantaneously vanish as I stepped on the performance stage.

In prep for these moments my teacher would always say, “Jerry, begin well, finish strong, and everything in between will take care of itself.”

In explanation, she told me the confidence gained by beginning well would carry me through the entire performance, and the confidence gained by finishing strong would get me back on stage for the next performance. I know I never had a perfect performance, but I learned a valuable life lesson that I believe applies to VBS.

Most likely you have already started planning for VBS 2013, but whether you are knee-deep into the process or just getting started, here are six steps to insure you begin well and end strong.

Step 1: Determine the purpose of VBS: When first asked, this question often sounds ridiculous. Of course you know the purpose! But in reality there are many reasons or purposes for VBS. It is possible that every member of your team will give a different reason for why VBS is being conducted. To begin well it is important that every member of the team have a common purpose for why your church is spending the time, money, and people resources to conduct VBS.

I hope your purpose is connecting people to the Gospel, and connecting people to the church.

Step 2: Establish dates and a budget that reflects the purpose: The long, lazy days of summer have almost vanished and it is getting harder each year to schedule VBS at a time that does not conflict with other major events – both on the church calendar and the community calendar. If your purpose is to connect with unchurched families it is vital to make sure your VBS is not the same week as a major city-sponsored sports camp or at a time when a large number of your target audience is involved in summer school. You get the idea – check the community calendar as well as the church calendar.

Knowing your purpose will also help you budget appropriately. If your goal is connecting with the unchurched then you will want to make sure you have adequate budget dollars for both publicity and for making continued connections following the week of VBS. I’ll share more about this in a future post.

Step 3: Enlist a leadership team to dream and implement the strategy: If you are truly going to connect with unchurched families you are going to need to do more and do it better then you did last year. Invite four or five people to join you for coffee and spend a few hours dreaming. Start by saying, “If money were no object what would we do to identify and connect with unchurched families?” Of course money, or the lack thereof, is a debilitating obstacle, but until we have given ourselves the freedom to dream without limitations we will never identify the very best ways to reach out to the community – which are often the lest expensive!

Once the group of four or five have helped you dream, enlist them to help you implement the dreams. People are always more willing to commit to something they have helped create, plus the dream team has already acknowledged their interest by agreeing to participate in the dream session.

The first three steps are enough to get you started on the road to beginning well.  I’ll return next Tuesday with the next three steps for ending strong.

Six Steps to Reaching Your Target Audience

PurpleShirtPhotoI love the movie Field of Dreams – especially the line, “If you build it, he will come.”

While these prophetic words may work for a baseball field in the middle of a remote Iowa corn patch, it doesn’t hold true for VBS. Just because you create a potentially fun and life-changing week for your community doesn’t mean people will just automatically attend.

As you are building (planning) your VBS, make sure you are building your promotion (marketing) plan at the same time. How devastating to work so hard recruiting and training workers, collecting supplies, and preparing the building, only to realize at the last minute no one has told the community.

Here are six steps to insure your message reaches your target audience.

1. Start Promoting Now!

Actually you probably should have started telling people about VBS 2013 during VBS 2012. But never fear, you still have time to create a successful promotion strategy if you begin now.

First you need to check church and community calendars to make sure you are not scheduling your VBS on top of any major events that will compete for workers and kids. Now you want to make sure the congregation is reminded often of the date and time of not only VBS but any training opportunities that will be provided. You do not want to give the members of the congregation the excuse of not having adequate information early.

2. Put Someone in Charge of Promotion

As the pastor or VBS director you already have more responsibility than you can shake a stick at. (I’m not really sure what that means, but my grandmother said it often.) Refusing to delegate responsibility for promotion will insure that you get so busy with all the other details of VBS you run out of time and energy to make sure the community – and especially unchurched families – know what is going on. For you, promotion is just one more detail. But if you delegate the responsibility it becomes his primary detail and focus.

Encourage your promotion leader to build a creative team who can help dream the possibilities as well as do the leg work. Promotion is a great job for the person (people) who might not be available to work during the week of VBS but are available during the weeks leading up to VBS.

3. Know Your Target Audience

Blanket promotion (banners, newspaper advertisements, store posters) may appear to be telling the entire community about VBS, but you might be spending a lot of time, money, and energy yet never get the word to the families you are trying to reach. Target audience means the specific group of people you are trying to reach – the families most likely to attend your specific church or VBS.

Once you determine your target audience you can then target how you promote to them. For instance, if your target audience includes preschoolers you need to find out where parents of preschoolers congregate, where they shop and eat, and how they best communicate with each other. It’s not hard. Just ask parents of preschoolers what you would need to do for them to hear your message. You can then target your target audience.

4. Use a Variety of Promotion Methods

Try to calculate for a moment the number of messages that are directed at you each day. Make sure you include mail, newspapers and magazines, posters in store windows, phone calls, and electronic messages such as e-mail and social networks. Don’t forget to include billboards, bumper stickers, and conversations with co-workers. In reality you receive hundreds if not thousands of messages each day. If you receive that many, then so do the people you want to attend your VBS. One postcard or banner quickly gets lost and forgotten.

To truly get your message heard and remembered you will need to broadcast it often and in many ways.  One of the reasons you need to start promoting now is to allow enough time to utilize a variety of methods. Create a promotion calendar that insures you are broadcasting your message to your target audience in repetitious waves.

5. Be Creative

First you need to know that being creative does not have to mean expensive. Some of the most creative marketing of all has cost little if anything. Your very best promotion is going to be one person telling another person, so make sure you give them something fun and engaging (creative) to talk about. There will be a lot of churches in your community hosting VBS – many during the exact same week – so it is important that your message is heard and remembered. You want to do something that creates a buzz, or as my boss says, a sizzle!

Effective promotion must grab attention within three seconds. The more creatively you convey your message, the better chance you have of getting and holding the attention of your target audience.

Bring a group together to brainstorm fun and unexpected ways to broadcast your message. Remember, the first rule of brainstorming is there are no bad ideas. Every idea has potential. Start with the question, “If money was not an issue, what could we do to tell people about VBS?”

Of course money is an issue, but if you never allow yourself or your team to dream bigger then your budget you will settle for promoting the same way you promoted last year, and most likely miss out on an extremely creative (yet inexpensive) way to target your target audience.

6. Make Quality a Priority

The quality of your promotion is going to signal the quality of your VBS. Again, quality does not have to mean expensive, but it does have to meet the standard expected by your target audience. Once you have determined your target audience you will be able to determine the quality they expect and respond to.

So what do you need to do to get started? Enlist a promotion leader. Today!

 

Over the River…

img_5318Over the river (Little Pigeon River) and through the woods (Mt. Pisgah National Forrest) to VBS 2013 Events we go! It is going to be a COLOSSAL week!

This is the week we (LifeWay’s VBS Events Team) look forward to all year – the first in a series of awesome fun events – where VBS groupies from all 50 States, Canada, and Mexico (and sometimes even a groupie or two from Great Britain or Korea) join together for two days of exciting VBS sights and sounds!

Over 1200 VBS leaders will be our guests at Ridgecrest Conference Center later this week for worship with Dr. Shane Garrison and Austin Adamic, teaching by some of the best VBS practitioners in the country, inspiration and creativity of LifeWay’s VBS Graphics and Publishing Team, and a performance of the Colossal Coaster World Musical by a great children’s choir. AND if all this is not enough, how about 60 degree weather (we typically have ice) in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

If you are not registered for the Ridgecrest event, there is still time to join us January 18-19 in Fort Worth, January 31-February 1 in Nashville, or February 8-9 in Kissimmee. Like I said before, these events are going to be COLOSSAL so don’t miss out.

To learn how you can be part of a one of these awesome Preview events go to lifeway.com/vbs/events.

We’ll be looking for YOU!

Discounted Shirts – Great Reason to Attend Preview!

There are many awesome reasons to attend one of the VBS Previews scheduled for January and February, but for many guests they find discounted VBS t-shirts and leaders a huge incentive! Everyone who attends will receive one free t-shirt of choice (choose from Colossal Coaster World, Thrill Seekers, or Club VBS Jungle Jaunt), but Previews make it possible to outfit your entire VBS team for a fraction of the costs you would spend otherwise.

One guest told me she saves enough each year on t-shirts to pay her Preview registration fee and travel expenses. Talk about making ever penny count!

Once again t-shirts – whether you need just one or multiple hundreds – will be available for $7.00 each and Colossal Coaster World leader shirts will be priced at $20.00. This is an event-only offer so don’t miss out!

Another great reason to attend this year is to see the many people who show up in amusement park costume. We are encouraging everyone to attend the first day dressed as an amusement park character or employee. Everyone wearing a costume will be entered in an opportunity to be chosen to participate in the VBS 2015 theme think tank. One person will be chosen from each location.

The Ridgecrest and Nashville 2 events are now closed, but there is still plenty of room at Nashville 1, Fort Worth, and Kissimmee. To learn more go lifeway.com/vbs.

Until then, I wish you the merriest Christmas ever and a blessed 2014!

Four Weeks and Counting…

Hopefully it is looking a lot like – and sounding a lot like – Christmas where you are today. It certainly is here in the VBS office! But it is also looking and sounding a lot like four weeks until the first national VBS Preview at Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina.

We are in perpetual motion putting the finishing touches on a not-to-be-missed event! We have now hit capacity at Ridgecrest and the Nashville Friday/Saturday events, but there is still room at Fort Worth, Nashville Thursday/Friday, and Kissimmee.

A complete list of breakout sessions is now available at lifeway.com/vbs/events. Check it out today!

In addition to the basics for Colossal Coaster World and Club VBS: Jungle Jaunt, you will have the opportunity to explore decorating options with Mark Jones and the VBS Design Team, be introduced to LifeWay’s newest VBS resource Backyard Kids Club, be challenged by the preaching of Dr. Shane Garrison, and participate in worship with the Austin Adamec Band.

I’m looking forward to seeing you soon for the Colossal Coaster World Experience!

2013 VBS Planning Advice

Have you started planning for VBS 2013?  If you haven’t, no worries– you aren’t behind just yet!  Some of the VBS pros have already ordered their Super Sampler or Backyard Kids Club kits and have begun collecting ideas to make this year’s VBS a success.  If you are coordinating VBS for the very first time this year, planning can seem intimidating!  Know that we are here to help you every step of the way.

For you pro VBS planners, what’s some advice you’d share with those who may be coordinating VBS for the first time?  

How early do you order your Sampler/Super Sampler materials?

When do you begin building a team of volunteers?  How do you train them?

When do you start working on decorations?  

Looking for 2013 Club VBS resources

Jungle Jaunt on Pinterest!

If you’re planning for Jungle Jaunt Vacation Bible School in 2013, make sure you follow our brand new Jungle Jaunt board on Pinterest!  There are lots of fun and easy craft, decoration, and snack ideas available to get your gears turning.  Check out this awesome Lime Jungle Slime!  Would make for a great VBS snack– what kid doesn’t love slime??

Source: spaceshipsandlaserbeams.com via LifeWayKids on Pinterest

Planning for Colossal Coaster World? We’ve got a Pinterest board for that, too!