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The Real Impact of Vacation Bible School

You probably started thinking about next summer’s Vacation Bible School the day after you finished your program this year—and that’s a good thing! VBS can be an all-encompassing ministry effort that brings out the very best (and occasionally a bit of friction) in your church.


To encourage your head start this year, we’ve compiled loads of VBS information and tools as well as the results of our VBS Impact Survey. You’ll hear from more than 100 churches that recently hosted VBS. Plus, you’ll find resources to help you assess your next VBS program. Also, don’t miss our special VBS Guide!

The Impact of Vacation Bible School

Here’s an inside look at why VBS is important to your outreach strategy — and how you can make the most of yours.

Survey Says…

For this VBS Impact Survey, 120 churches that hosted VBS in the previous year participated. Churches surveyed are of all sizes and VBS attendances. This year’s focus is on uncovering the key takeaways for kids and the overall benefit VBS offers to churches and communities. Read on for the exclusive results.

A SNAPSHOT: How many consecutive years has your church or ministry hosted VBS? 15+ years, 52%; 2 to 5 years, 21%; 6 to 10 years, 14%; 11 to 15 years, 8%; 1 year, 5%. Our VBS includes... Outreach to our community, 79%; Ministry to our church members, 60%; Missions outreach to another community, 12%; Other, 10%; A traveling VBS ministry, 2%. My main role in our VBS includes... Children’s ministry director or leader, 69%; VBS director, 52%; Volunteer leader, 10%; Leader of another church ministry, 4%; Volunteer worker, 4%; Other, 3%. Our average VBS attendance this year was... 201 to 500 kids, 22%; 21 to 50 kids, 20%; 101 to 200 kids, 19%; 51 to 75 kids, 14%; 0 to 20 kids, 6%; More than 500 kids, 3%. Our average budget for this year was... Under $1,000 , 20%; Under $3,000, 18%; Under $2,000, 15%; Under $5,000, 15%; Under $500, 13%; More than $10,000, 8%; Under $7,500, 8%; Under $10,000, 3% \.

 

WHAT’S AT STAKE : The measurement we’re most likely to use to deem VBS a success is... Parent/child satisfaction, 20%; Other, 19%; More children attending than the previous year, 17%; More faith commitments from children and adults than the previous year, 16%; Number of new children/families returning to our church following VBS, 14%; More unchurched children attending than the previous year, 13%; More volunteers than the previous year, 1%; Staying within the budget, 0%; Fewer children from other churches attending, 0%. Based on the measurement your church uses, how successful was your VBS this year? A complete success, 55%; Somewhat successful, 34%; Not very successful 7%; Other, 4%.

Survey Takeaway

For the churches in our survey, the biggest indicator of a successful VBS was parent/child satisfaction. This was closely followed by “other” indicators, more faith commitments from children and adults than the previous year, and more attending children than the previous year. Participants in this survey didn’t consider staying within the budget or fewer children from other churches attending as an indicator of success at their Vacation Bible School.

“With 20 percent saying that success is determined by parent and child satisfaction, this survey shows how important it is to minister not only to the child, but to the family,” says Tony Stogsdill, marketing manager for VBS and children’s curriculum at Cokesbury (cokesburyvbs.com). “More churches are finding success by offering intergenerational activities as well as activities for children to take home and share with parents. “What is the main reason your VBS was a success?

Overwhelmingly, participants listed the key reasons their VBS was considered a success as:

  • Number of children making faith commitments
  • Commitment from volunteers
  • More non-church members attending
  • Positive feedback from children, parents, and church
  • Outside-the-box thinking to better reach children and families
  • Greater attendance due to creative publicity efforts

“Overcoming these obstacles is hard,” notes Stogsdill. “When the leadership of the church doesn’t see VBS as important, it makes it really hard to promote and get volunteers. Yet while everyone wants lots of kids there, success must not be measured only by attendance.”

Is your VBS was not considered successful, explain why.

Of the 7 percent of churches who said their VBS was not successful, here were the main reasons why:

  • Low attendance
  • Few faith commitments
  • Lack of church leadership support
  • Lack of volunteers

Survey Takeaway

For these churches, VBS is a success. A majority 89 percent said the VBS program was considered somewhat of a success or a complete success according to the church’s measurement.

THE POWER OF VBS: How well does VBS impact the following at your church? Greater visibility within our community Good impact, 44%; Minor impact, 19%; Medium impact, 18%; Outstanding impact, 17%; no impact, 2%. Lasting connections with otherwise unchurched families Medium impact, 33%; Good impact, 32%; Minor impact, 30%, Outstanding impact, 3%; no impact, 2%. Introducing children to Jesus for the first time Good impact, 36%; Outstanding impact, 23%; Medium impact, 22%; Minor impact, 17%; no impact, 2%. Ministry to families Good impact, 35%; Medium impact, 25%; Outstanding impact, 21%; Minor impact, 17%; no impact, 2%. Opportunities to bring in new volunteers Outstanding impact, 37%; Good impact, 36%; Medium impact, 18%; Minor impact, 9%; no impact, 0%. Will your church host VBS next year? Definitely, 81%; Maybe, 8%; Other, 5%; Unknown, 3%; No, 3%.

“VBS mixes so many great elements all together—teaching Bible truths to kids, sharing the gospel, bringing the whole church together to serve with a purpose, effectively reaching non-churched or under-churched families, and all the while having a blast!” says Barb Witt, a writer for Answers VBS (answersingenesis.org/vbs).“Anytime you see the ‘lightbulb’ go on in a child or family, it’s a success,” says Jody Brolsma, executive editor for Group’s VBS (group.com). “That may look different for every person. It may mean that I got a fresh understanding of the depth of Jesus’ love. It may mean that I realized Jesus is beside me in everyday life. Or maybe it’s a family who discov- ered that the family of God is all around them. Those ‘aha’ moments are transforming—they stay with us and can make Jesus part of our everyday lives. That’s what I look for when my kids or neighbors go to a VBS. Did heart transformation happen? Was there an ‘aha’ faith moment?”

Download the VBS Impact Survey to share with your team.

For more great information like this in every issue, subscribe today to Children’s Ministry Magazine! 


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The Real Impact of Vacation Bible School

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