The last crumbs of goldfish have been vacuumed, the decorations have been put away, and the music is but a faint echo in the sanctuary (amen to that, right?). VBS is over. Now what? Start planning for next summer? Take a break? Dive into fall? Hopefully, all of these will be on your list of things to do after VBS is over. But let’s go back to VBS for a minute. Have you followed up with all those amazing kids that spent a week in your church hearing about how much God loves them? Have you followed up with your team and your congregation (yes, they need follow-up, too)? VBS follow-up is as crucial to your VBS’ success as is having enough craft supplies for everyone each day!
Follow up with attendees
There are many ways to follow up with children who attended VBS. A simple Google search will give you lots of creative ideas. Below are three of my favorite, unique ways to follow up with kids after VBS.
Use your VBS missions project to follow up
What was your mission’s focus during VBS? Operation Christmas Child? Collecting school supplies? Bringing in change for a missionary family? Use whatever mission you focused on during VBS as a follow-up tool.
For example, if kids brought in items for Operation Christmas Child, send them a note just before National Collection Week (Nov. 15-22), thanking them for their participation during VBS and encouraging them to pack a shoebox. Let them know they can pick up a shoebox at your church. Include simple packing tips, ideas, and drop-off locations in your letter. If your church is a drop-off location, ask them to visit during National Collection Week! Or, send them a note in January and let them know that shoeboxes are being delivered right now and, thanks to their involvement at VBS, a child somewhere will receive the shoebox filled with love and will hear the gospel.
Maybe your VBS mission’s focus was on collecting school supplies. Send kids a note, now that school is getting started, thanking them. If you can get a picture of the school supplies being assembled or handed out, include a copy with the note.
Perhaps they collected money for a specific missionary. If so, find an update on the missionary’s blog and send a note to kids thanking them for their support and sharing the update. If it’s a missionary your church frequently supports, consider having the missionary write a brief thank you to the kids and send that out to them.
Back-to-school ice cream meet-up
Host a back-to-school meet-up at your local ice cream shop. Send an announcement via email or a handwritten note and let them know that at a certain day and time, you’ll be at the local ice cream shop and would love to buy them ice cream to celebrate going back to school. Ask them to meet you there! Have invitations to any upcoming events on hand to give out when they get there. Use this time to continue building relationships with parents and catching up with the kids.
Everyone loves a birthday card
Sort your VBS attendance list by birthdate and print it out, including addresses. Then, grab a box of inexpensive birthday cards at Walmart and some fun birthday confetti from the Dollar Tree. Print labels of any upcoming events (or small half sheets of paper) and stick them inside the card along with the confetti to invite them. If possible, have the child’s small group leader from VBS sign the card. This is a great way to keep VBS follow-up going all year long. It’s also a great way to get those in your congregation who, for whatever reason, cannot serve at VBS to be involved. So, hand over the cards, mailing list, confetti, stamps, and labels, and let them get started! Be sure to change up the labels or inserts to reflect current events at your church!
Follow up with volunteers
VBS follow-up is not only important for those that attended your VBS but also for those who served at VBS and helped make it possible. Here are three ways to follow up with your volunteers and your congregation.
“That’s a wrap” meeting
Gather your VBS team for one last meeting. Do this on the Sunday after VBS, if possible, while things are fresh on their mind from the week. Give your volunteers a chance to voice what went well and what they think needs improvement next year. Giving them a space to be heard acknowledges their commitment and shows them you value their input. Get your notepad and pens ready because the info you get at these sessions is invaluable for next year’s planning! Ask volunteers for any funny stories or personally impactful moments at VBS and use them when thanking the congregation.
Share your success and offer thanks
Thank your congregation. Ultimately, it’s because of their financial support that VBS is possible. Ask the pastor to give you the floor for a moment during the Sunday service. Share a funny story from VBS and follow that with an impactful moment from VBS, concluding by thanking them for their support. If possible, have a volunteer share the stories or ask the volunteer to briefly share their experience serving in VBS.
Personal volunteer notes
Once VBS is over, take a few minutes (okay, it might be more than a few minutes depending on how many volunteers you had!) to write a handwritten note to each of your volunteers. Yes, it’s a lot, and hand cramps are inevitable, but it goes a long way in making your volunteers feel appreciated. It’s amazing what a simple note can do! Of course, chocolate doesn’t hurt either!
Set the Date for Next Year
Finally, while VBS is still fresh on the brain, choose your date and theme for next year. A date set on the church calendar gives you a running start for VBS 2022. A choice of theme now lets you be on the lookout throughout the year for things that you could use for next summer; props, giveaways, games, and more. Share the date and theme with your congregation so they can be thinking ahead as well – it takes the whole church!
It’s never too late for VBS follow-up! And don’t think that you shouldn’t follow up with kids just because many of the kids who attended your VBS may “belong” to another church. We’re not in the business of “stealing” kids from other churches, but we are in the business of letting kids know that they are loved no matter what and that the God we introduced them to at VBS loves them – all year long in every season and every circumstance. It takes the whole church to make VBS happen, but it may take a community of churches to nurture a child spiritually.
Kris Buckman serves as a Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware Church Services Consultant and as a Communications Associate.