By Tim Sherwood
Your team has dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s, and the kids had an incredible time at your event. They danced like nobody was watching, they sang like nobody was listening, they made crafts out of pretzels and marshmallows that would rival a Picasso, created lasting friendships with new people and they can’t stop talking about what they learned (and how many marshmallows Billy fit into his mouth – which was 37 if you must know, it was incredible).
Your work is done.
Fun was had by all.
And Jesus was glorified.
The really awesome thing was that you had new kids this year—lots of them. And now you have some lingering questions:
What do we do now?
How do we make sure they stay connected to the leaders and friends they made?
How do we get them connected to the larger body?
Here’s what we know: At our core, people want to be known.
We can only go so long in life without having a desire to let others in and get to know us. We, as humans, need that. We were created to have it. So having a plan to intentionally establish a connection with these new families is just as much a Kingdom work as it was telling their children about Jesus. At the end of the day, we want it to stick. We want them to fall in love with the Jesus that has stolen our hearts.
Before I proceed, I have an important disclaimer:
I am by no means an expert in this department and will admittedly tell you that my follow through is less than perfect and my results are the same. But I remember this—Doing nothing has the potential of being tragic.
So, without further ado, here are a few habits that I believe will help you create opportunities for connection.
- MAKE A PHONE CALL
I know cold calls are THE worst, and the chances of catching someone at a bad time or going to voicemail are high, but I believe it is a good first step. If you happen to reach someone, chances are that the conversation will be more personable than an email. During this call, you can talk about WHY you do what you do, get feedback about the experience and thank them for taking a chance on your ministry. This is where I get a chance to ask pointed questions and listen to what they have to say, acknowledging them so they know they are being heard. Then to close the call I will say, “I would like to send you an email with some upcoming opportunities for your family to get involved at the church. Would that be ok?”
- SEND AN EMAIL
Wait, you just said a call is more personable than email. Yep, I did. I will typically do this in two ways: Either as the follow up email to the initial call or if the cold call goes to voice mail, I will email them with a few questions I would like them to answer about the experience they had and include some simple logical next steps for them as a family. Something like this: “Hey, just to keep you informed, our service times are etc. and we have a membership class coming up next month that we are taking sign-ups for now that will answer any questions you may have about us as a church.”
- WRITE A POSTCARD
Have one of your ministry leaders that made the initial contact send a card thanking the family for sending Billy to VBS and mention something personal that happened during that time. Ending with a “Hope to see you guys at church sometime.” Now they have had a contact from someone other than a pastor so the perceived agenda or obligation walls come down and they received a card from someone who truly enjoyed their company.
- KEEP AN EYE OUT
Make sure you are checking to see if their name shows back up on your lists over the coming weeks. If it doesn’t, reach out one more time to make sure your email didn’t go to the junk folder. Hate it when that happens.
- USE SOCIAL MEDIA
Full disclosure: I am a bit of a social media stalker. I will look you up in a minute to get an idea of who you are as the person behind the scenes. It’s amazing what you can learn about someone from their social media highlight reel. It also gives you talking points when you bump into each other again.
At the end of the day, we are all on mission to push back the darkness in the lives of the families we interact with. We are the bearers of the Good News and we are mouth pieces for the Hope of the world. I love what Andy Stanley said at The Orange Conference this year. “Following Jesus will make your life better and make you better at life.”
No one else is doing what we do.
We can’t afford to let people slip through the cracks.
Follow up with people, get to know them, and watch what the Holy Spirit is going to do.
Check out the BRAND NEW VBS offering from Orange for 2016 – WALK THIS WAY! Your kids will take a journey with Paul and ask the same questions he asked – making some incredible discoveries along the way!
Tim is a husband to Mandy and father to four children (Samantha, Payton, Caden, and Cooper) ranging from 6 to 24. He’s been in ministry at Prairie Lakes Church in Cedar Falls, Iowa, for six years as the Family Experience Coordinator. Tim enjoys playing Plants vs Zombies on the Xbox with his boys and woodworking in his spare time.
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