by Kathy Carlisle
In order to make your parish VBS a success, you need participants to enjoy all the wonderful activities being planned! So how can you most effectively spread the word?
Program materials provide a plethora of creative ideas to market your event to families and participants. Frankly, implementing some of these ideas can feel overwhelming—it’s another whole event to organize!
I would like to provide a formula for some basics that will attract participants and help organizers reasonably manage their tasks. Let’s focus on three essential tasks to promote your VBS: entice, enlighten, and encourage.
Begin by providing subtle clues about the program. Use your parish communications channels to promote the date and build anticipation.
Pick a Scripture verse and/or theme logo and include that in the weekly bulletin, newsletters, and website, adding just a little more information each time. Consider a “Got Jesus?” or “Got faith?” campaign (similar to “Got milk?”) that elicits inquiries as to its meaning.
Once curiosity is piqued, begin to enlighten potential participants about the content of your VBS. If you have done this before, use the successes of your past programs as visual aids. Provide a photo display, video, or slideshow that can be viewed by parishioners.
You may also include crafts that have been made previously or make samples of craft items for this year that will stimulate interest. Another eye-catching approach is to ask a volunteer to dress up as a character from your VBS and make an announcement or field questions in a display area.
The final—and probably the most essential—task is to encourage participation. As you employ tools such as flyers, posters, and other broad communications, do not overlook the power of personal invitations.
Promote the program by word of mouth. Past participants can ask new friends to accompany them this year. Obtain quotes from kids about why they want to be involved again based on previous experiences.
If this is your first VBS, work with your school and/or religious education program to visit classrooms and personally invite children to join the fun. This is a great opportunity to offer new formats and environments to reinforce what students already are learning in the classroom
One final consideration as you market your VBS: Determine your target audience. If you are targeting mostly an internal group of registered parishioners, then these suggestions should provide a strong basis for your marketing plan.
If, however, your goals include evangelization to a wider audience, you will want to incorporate more external promotions. These would include sending bulletin announcements to other churches, crafting a press release for local newspapers, and hanging banners outside your church announcing contact information.
Your parish website is a public domain, so if you place a registration form there, be prepared to accept participants from outside the parish. Because VBS historically has been used as an evangelization tool, it is likely that new faces will emerge interested in your program. This is a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate the welcoming nature of your parish community. Embrace these occasions and encourage your team of leaders and participants to do the same.
Through clever and inclusive marketing, your VBS can become your Very Best Showcase of what the Catholic Church believes and practices.
Kathy Carlisle has worked in ministry for over 15 years at national, diocesan, and parish levels. She holds an MEd from Loyola University Maryland. She directs the VBS program at her parish, St. Rose of Lima in York, PA, where she also assists with the religious education program.
Copyright 2011, Bayard, Inc. All rights reserved. This article is protected by United States copyright and other intellectual property laws and may not be reproduced, rewritten, distributed, redisseminated, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast, directly or indirectly, in any medium without the prior written permission of Bayard, Inc.
This article was written by the Catechist Staff and appeared in Catechist magazine, January 2011.
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