Last week, I discussed 5 reasons Why VBS is still important. You can read it by clicking here. But while those things answered the “WHY” of making VBS an outreach oriented event, we really need to answer the question of “HOW”.
What is it that qualifies a VBS program as being “Outreach Oriented”? How can we evaluate our strategy to make sure we’re not just entertaining our kids, but seeking out lost kids who don’t know Jesus? How can we keep our focus on reaching those without Christ?
I believe that 3 things are necessary…
If our VBS Outreach is going to Reach Out to it’s full potential, it’s got to be:
1. Focused on OTHERS
Unchurched parents are more likely to send their children to VBS than to any other church-related activity. That means that VBS naturally gives us an opportunity to focus our attention outward and reach out into our community.
It ought to greatly concern us if our “outreach” programs don’t do any reaching out to new people. Because as much as Jesus loves the church, and even gave Himself for it, He hasn’t primarily called us to reach the church. He’s commissioned us to reach the world.
VBS provides the church with one of the greatest ways to obey Christ’s command to go into all the world and preach the gospel, by starting with reaching out to our own Jerusalem.
While putting a primary emphasis on reaching out to the lost is imperative, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use our VBS efforts to encourage the spiritual growth of those who are already saved. That can also be a very worthwhile goal.
However, it’s crucial to remember that you’ll probably have more unsaved kids at VBS than you’ll ever have at one time on a given Sunday. And with a field as white for harvest at that, we just simply can’t afford to make the spiritual growth of “our” kids our only focus, at the expense of reaching those who need the life-changing message of Jesus the most.
An outreach-focused VBS needs to be focused on OTHERS! Secondly, our VBS has got to be…
2. Focused on JESUS
The only hope for the world, whether it’s kids or adults, is Jesus Christ! One of the greatest mistakes that many churches make with their VBS programming is a failure to make the gospel of Jesus a central and intentional daily focus.
If we’re potentially reaching more un-churched kids and families during this one week than any other all year, why wouldn’t we want to be giving them the one thing that has the power to give them both hope for now, and eternity forever?
I’m not against doing any and all of the fun things that accompany VBS, but while cool crafts, exciting games, and awesome prizes are a lot of fun, they won’t take anyone to Heaven. Unfortunately, our enemy knows that, and would love for us to shift our primary focus on those things.
Satan could want nothing more than for us to send kids away from a week of VBS with cool stuff in their hands, but nothing life-changing in their hearts.
Regardless of what theme or curriculum you choose to use this summer, make sure it’s more about Jesus and the gospel than it is about anything else. Kids need to leave having heard the clear gospel, which is the only power of God unto salvation. And in addition to that, make sure that there’s an opportunity for them to respond to it, with counselors prepared to answer their questions and pray with them.
VBS needs to be a gospel-centered and gospel-driven event, because more than kids need entertained for a week, they need Jesus for an eternity.
Lastly, if our VBS is going to reach out to it’s full potential, it’s got to be…
3. Focused on FAMILIES
VBS provides a way to reach families unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. There are many effective ways to do this, but I’ve never found any that work as well as having a grand finale service for the entire family.
The way this might look for your church could be a Family Carnival or a Family Fun Fest on the final night with games, horse rides, inflatables, a dunk tank, face-painting, and free food, etc. We promote the Family Night all week long with the kids and promise them a prize if they bring mom or dad (or any adult) with them. We start with an opening rally time that includes a clear gospel presentation, then we allow the kids and their parents to enjoy a time of games and activities that follow.
It may sound simple, but it’s proven to be the most effective thing we’ve ever done to get more new parents through the doors of our church than anything else we’ve tried.
Having an unformatted time like the carnival has also allowed us to have a casual environment to meet the parents and introduce ourselves, while at the same time giving them information about our church, getting to know them personally, and even praying with them about needs that they may have.
This is a great time to build a personal connection with parents as well as increase the success of your future follow up efforts. (There’s just something special about them knowing you by name when you show up on their door-step, or make an “appearance” in the mail, to thank them and their kids for coming!)
Whatever it is that you choose to do, make it a priority to incorporate some type of outreach to families, because kids are not the only ones who need to be reached, and reaching their parents will actually increase your long-term chances of reaching them.
“Apart from helping them personally come to Jesus, the greatest thing you can ever do for an unchurched child is reach their parents.”
So… it’s time to evaluate your strategy! Are these three things a focus in the execution of your VBS plan? Which one do you need to work on incorporating the most to ensure you are primarily reaching those without Jesus?
Let’s move beyond ourselves this summer and make sure the biggest “outreach” opportunity we have is really about what matters most – REACHING OUT!
Thanks for your investment into the hearts and lives of kids this summer, and thanks for sharing this with others!
- I’m currently on the road conducting VBS for local churches. If you’d like to see the curriculums that we’ve written and use that have been intentionally developed with these three strategies in mind, you can check them out by clicking here.
- Portions of this article were first published in the 2015 VBS Showcase edition of KidzMatter Magazine.