This post is the recent in a periodic series on failed outreach ministries. The intro post is here.
I should warn you from the get go that this blog post is going to consist of a series of educated guesses about your local congregation.
My first guess is that your congregation did a VBS this summer.
My second guess is that after it was over, everybody hailed it as a crazy success.
My third guess is that some kid probably “gave his heart to Jesus” or maybe you had many.
My fourth guess is that sometime in the next year a family whose first connection with your church was at VBS showed up for one or two Sunday morning worship services.
My fifth guess is that your VBS cost a lot of money, required a lot of human power and consumed a great deal of time, more so for the one “lead” person who planned the whole thing.
My sixth guess is that VBS is so encoded into your DNA, (aka your hidden curriculum), that nobody even bothered to ask “why” you were doing a VBS. However, if those involved were asked “why?” they would probably give some vague answer like, “to reach people for Jesus” or “to show the church of the future that Jesus loves them.”
I would further imagine, though not guess, that if someone in your church did ask, “why are we doing this?” they were probably laughed at, but not a jovial laugh, the judgmental kind whose hidden threat was, “we banish people who dare call into question VBS.” I am further assuming, though once again not guessing, you are giving that laugh to me right now and are not reading this any more but typing your judgment in the comments below.
My seventh guess is that most, if not all, of the kids who showed up were kids from Christian families. I would further assume (though not officially guess) that a great deal of the “new” faces were the kids from other churches who were camp hopping all summer so their parents could take advantage of all the free babysitting.
My eighth guess is that there was almost no follow up with the unchurched and non Christian kids who did show up. You probably hoped they would get connected but I am guessing they didn’t. Furthermore, nobody probably even bothered to take them out to coffee or ice cream or whatever people are drinking and eating these days.
If I am right about all this, and trust me, I mostly am, than your VBS was an epic Wile E. Coyote type failure. You spent tons of time, money and energy and burned out your poor children’s director to reach all ready reached kids and further alienate the unreached people who dared to show up.
But hey, at least you provided free babysitting.
More than that, you got five extra discipleship times with your church kids, which is dang difficult to do these days. And you probably did a lot of good team building with your laypeople which will increase your congregation’s “friendly atmosphere.”
So VBS isn’t all bad (which I am going to say to all the people who comment on this). But its purposes need to be stated. You are not going to reach un-reached families with a fifty year old ministry model based off of flannel graphs and silly props and costumes.
However, you are probably going to reach them if you follow through on all that contact information in a non-confrontational, friendship evangelism type way, like over ice cream. Here I do offer a warning: It won’t take just one follow up ice cream. Prepare to buy a bigger belt because you are going to have to meet with them once a month for a year or so before they darken your church’s doors.
But if that is going to work you need your follow up strategy figured out before you even buy your curriculum. You need to encode that strategy into every aspect of VBS. You need to plan every part of it, right down to, “Who is going to take who out to ice cream after all this is said and done?”
That brings me to my ninth and last guess. I am guessing some of you have figured out the follow up strategy and seen great results with your VBS. Please do share those success stories in the comments below. The rest of us Coyotes need to hear them.