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A Basic Component of Sunday School success


Troy Williams/Central Baptist Church

Sherry Hester, a member of Central Baptist Church in Albany, teaches a group at VBS. Hester, who also teaches first and second grade Sunday School at the church, is an example of the link between a successful Vacation Bible School and Sunday School, say church leaders.

Scott Barkley/Index

Patrick Bostic, left, and Jarrod Lane operate the lighting and sound equipment during the worship rally time at Rowland Springs Baptist Church in Cartersville. Bostic, 14, is an upcoming freshman at Cartersville High School while Lane, 15, is homeschooled.

Scott Barkley/Index

Cindy Pitman, secretary for Rowland Springs Baptist Church in Cartersville, assembles information packets that will later be given to Sunday School prospects. Follow-up of prospects enlisted during VBS is a crucial part of Rowland Springs’ overall ministry, says Minister of Education Randy Judd.

Mike Zimmerli

Vacation Bible School participants at Kingsland Baptist Church in Camden County participate in a singing activity. Helping to lead are, middle background, Linda Dillingham, whose husband, Vernon, serves as the church’s pastor. In background at right is Heather McMillan, a leader with Helping Hands. The group is involved with the church in assisting parents with handicapped children. McMillan grew up at Kingsland First Baptist, where her parents are still members.

Troy Williams/Central Baptist Church

Sandy Carter, left, Justin Baker and Azlee Goode help a group in a handpainting activity at Central Baptist Church in Albany. Pastor Andy Goode credits VBS and a newfound focus in evangelism in helping to revitalize the church.

Mike Zimmerli

Participants of the VBS held by Kingsland First Baptist Church take part in a game of “Wolf Tag.” The game was one of the many available with this year's “Arctic Edge” theme.

Joseph Ringwalt/Rowland Springs Church

Children load up on one of the vans transporting them from Just Kids daycare in Cartersville to Rowland Springs Baptist Church. The first-year partnership between the daycare and Rowland Springs resulted in 36 children attending the church’s VBS.

Randy Judd knows a lot of planning goes into Vacation Bible School. Months before the first sip of Kool-aid, teachers are into place, materials have been ordered and the schedule has been made out, just for starters.

Judd, minister of education at Rowland Springs Baptist Church in Cartersville, also is one to pay attention to perhaps the most crucial aspect of VBS – making contact with visitors in the following weeks.

“Leading up to it, we use Sunday School to promote VBS. After VBS, we begin making contact with prospects in getting them into Sunday School and our children’s ministry,” said Judd, who served as Rowland Spring’s VBS director this year.

“The prospects we discover through VBS will become our primary focus in outreach over the next several weeks. Sunday School teachers will receive contact information as well on prospects who would be in their classes.”

Not following up on contacts made during VBS is a lost opportunity, say ministers and Georgia Baptist Convention leaders. The evangelistic link between VBS and Sunday School or small groups is one churches ignore at the peril of those without a relationship with Christ.

According to GBC Research Services total attendance for VBS statewide in 2005 topped out at 245,556. That number includes 2,625 baptisms and 23,949 prospects for Sunday School discovered. However, from those prospects just more than 6,000, or 25%, were eventually enrolled in Sunday School.

Sue Landrum Rother is to VBS what Clark Howard is to saving money – an unashamed, unapologetic supporter and well-known cheerleader for the cause.

“Vacation Bible School is an evangelistic outreach tool for Sunday School and the church,” said Rother, state VBS director for the Georgia Baptist Convention and consultant with GBC Sunday School/Open Group Ministries. “It has a Great Commission thrust to it. Getting VBS participants to enroll and begin attending Sunday School is crucial. Visitation of prospects should, in fact, begin before VBS is over at the end of the week.

“VBS began by a doctor’s wife in New York as a vacation Bible study for children of patients,” she continued. “It has now grown to not just reach out to children but youth and adults as well.”

“There is more than one connection between the two,” added Steve Parr, specialist for GBC Sunday School/Open Group Ministries. “Obviously VBS identifies prospects for Sunday School. Secondly, it’s a great evangelistic opportunity and once someone trusts Christ, Sunday School becomes a key assimilation point.

“Thirdly, VBS is an introduction to the Sunday School ministry, letting participants know that this kind of thing doesn’t just happen once a year.”

“There is a definite connection between Sunday School growth and VBS for us,” agreed Greg Landburg, minister of education and music at First Baptist Church in Alma. “Before following up with prospects, I send a letter to them to make sure it’s okay for me to visit. If they’re okay with it, I go with the teacher of the Sunday School class they would be in.”

Understanding that many children with church memberships may attend various Vacation Bible Schools throughout the summer, Landburg said First Alma streamlines the process.

“If the child puts on their information that they are already affiliated with a church, I’ll contact that church and let them know he or she attended our VBS. We don’t pursue kids who already have a church membership.”

“It’s important to connect the teacher of the Sunday School class to the VBS class,” said Parr. “Introduce the teacher to the class. Promote Sunday School during the week at VBS.

“It’s important to not isolate VBS as an event. It should be part of the process of Sunday School and evangelism. The church doesn’t get the fruit if they don’t connect it to Sunday School.”

Another overlooked ingredient to a successful VBS is the involvement of the pastor, said Rother.

“When setting the date for your VBS, don’t have it conflict with the Southern Baptist Convention or something else to take your staff away,” she said. “The key to a successful VBS is the pastor and his visible involvement.

“It’s important for pastors to not give the impression that they are too busy for VBS.”

Judd echoed the sentiments, at the same time praising his pastor at Rowland Springs, Joseph Ringwalt.

“Having the pastor visible during VBS makes all the difference,” he emphasized. “He’s speaking during worship, taking pictures and being where the kids are. He’s building relationships with them as opposed to being ‘that guy in the office.’ He’s not just a figure but real to them.”

“I always clear my calendar for this week,” said Ringwalt. “We plan around other events to make sure we can be here. A very important role of mine is to meet the parents and grandparents of these kids.

“Just going around to each class and sticking my head in lets them know I’m interested. On Wednesday of VBS I share the Gospel with them from third grade and up.

“I tell them that if they want to stay behind and talk to me about becoming a Christian they can. This year six stayed and prayed to receive Christ.

“On our family night I talk to parents about the ministries available at our church to their children. After VBS is over, we make three contacts with each prospect, not counting the contacts made during VBS.”

With the final day of his church’s VBS June 30, Judd turned to Rowland Spring’s upcoming construction mission trip to Missouri. The event doesn’t hold his complete attention, however.

The date has already been set and materials are being studied. VBS is only 51 weeks away.