“If you promote VBS you’ll have a good crowd.”
– Ken Marler, LifeWay network partnership specialist.
Promotion. “4-1-1.” Getting the word out. Attracting attention. Generating interest, enthusiasm and participation. You may have the world’s greatest VBS on tap this summer, but if kids, parents and the community don’t know about it, so what? Your church family may be well aware of VBS. Bulletin inserts, parent invitations, on-site or web registration, posters or Sunday service promotions are great for those who are part of your church family. But if you’re looking at VBS as an outreach, how will you reach out? In one word: promotion.
January and February are good months to start talking up Vacation Bible School. I know one church that brings out people in last year’s VBS T-shirts and they sing one of the songs. Then, they switch into this year’s T-shirts and do one of the new songs. That’s exciting! At least once a month, do something to promote the upcoming VBS during the Sunday morning worship service.” – Ken Marler
There are many ways to promote and publicize this summer’s Vacation Bible School. Specifics will vary depending on your community, creativity, goals and available resources, but one thing’s for sure: good promotion doesn’t “just happen.” You need a plan. Here are some suggestions:
- Look around. Where do people go? What restaurants, grocery stores, businesses, recreational or social sites do people flock to? With permission, place professional-quality flyers, posters or hand bills in libraries, parks, swimming pools, at the YMCA, daycares, after-school programs, apartment complexes, park and recreation programs, movie theatres, ball parks or practice fields – anywhere people congregate.
- Local media works for you. Send a press release to the local paper as well as PSA to the local radio station(s). Put an announcement in the church page of the local paper. Put in several. Be sure to include a “for more information” contact. Can the VBS director and/or Children’s Pastor book some time on the local radio call-in show? What about local TV? If you’re unsure what to say or how to go about contacting local media, many VBS Director’s Manuals provide free resources, director’s helps and samples. All you have to do is fill in the blanks and send them in.
- Display large banners outside the church and in other strategic locations. These should be legible, creative, arrest attention and include when, where, and who, how and why.
- Send direct mailings/postcards or hand-deliver flyers/door hangers to homes in targeted areas.
- Post information on free community calendars.
- Mail personal invitations to everyone who participated in last year’s VBS.
- Display promotional materials and posters in every children’s classroom.
- Some municipalities make roadside signage available free or at low-cost to non-profits. Check with city hall. This may be a way to get the word out on VBS quickly and effectively. (Make sure signage is professional quality – signs will leave an overall impression of your program on commuters for good or ill in a matter of seconds.)
- Use social media to promote, including Twitter and Facebook.
- Be sure to include VBS in your church newsletter or newspaper, blog and web site – with appropriate links and contact info. for more details.
- Do a Sunday morning interview with a couple parents or children or both. Have them tell the congregation how God used VBS in their lives in the past – and what they’re excited about this summer!
- Is there another church in the area doing the same or a similar VBS? How ’bout teaming up?
- Remember, the best publicity is word-of-mouth from “satisified customers.” Who’s willing to share their story?
- A personal touch! People connect with other people. This means “face time” with kids, parents, relatives, teachers, coaches, community leaders, etc. in whatever format is available and works best! What do you have available for kids to share VBS with their friends?
- Rather than a haphazard approach to promotion or dropping publicity in the lap of the VBS director, we recommend recruiting a VBS Publicity person to head up promotion as their sole designated responsibility. Does anyone in your congregation have any experience or expertise in marketing, public relations, advertising, web design, broadcasting, graphic arts or journalism? He or she may be your rising publicity star! They may recruit help and/or form their own mini-committee as needed. Brainstorm, swap ideas, share strategies, resources and contacts. Get the creative juices flowing and take off!