You’ve got a stellar VBS curriculum picked out, started brainstorming a fun set design and decorations, and the volunteer recruiting plan is coming together. The only thing you need now is the kids. Creating a marketing strategy to get the word out about your Vacation Bible School is vital to the success of your event. Here are nine VBS marketing ideas to help you get started.
1. Social Media: Facebook
In the digital age, the best platform to market your Vacation Bible School will be on social media. Facebook is a great platform to create an event that can be shared within your community. Eye-catching graphics with the details of your VBS will help to make sure that people linger on your post. Ask the people in your church to share and post about VBS on their social media accounts and ask them to message a personal invite to their friends.
Once your VBS begins, ask all your volunteers and families to “check in” on Facebook each day of VBS. This will continue to build culture and create excitement on social media for all that is happening. You could even do a few fun giveaways to parents and volunteers who check in each night. Best of all, using Facebook is 100% free. However, if you have a budget to spend on advertising, you can boost your event so that you can advertise to people in your surrounding community.
The earlier you set your VBS dates and create the Facebook event (even several months in advance) the more people will have the opportunity to see it. Creating “Save the Date” posts on Facebook will also help people get the dates on their calendar early and avoid schedule conflicts during the busy summer months!
2. Social Media: Instagram
Instagram is another great social media tool for advertising. Just like Facebook, you can boost a post to advertise to those who not only follow you on Instagram, but also to those who live in your area. Instagram Stories is a great place to preview your VBS with a short video to gather excitement. Whether you are showing snippets of your large group rehearsals or set building, people love to get an inside look at what they can expect. Sharing some snippets and pictures from the prior year is also great for engagement.
Another great way to build culture and expectation on Instagram is by tagging your posts and stories with the official Orange hashtags for VBS (#OrangeKids and #OrangeVBS) and also creating your own hashtag for your VBS event. For example, you could do #yourchurchnamevbs2020. This hashtag will allow your church, volunteers, and parents to track with all the fun and excitement!
Consider creating a new Instagram account for your VBS. It will take several months to build followers, but if you have the resources to do this, it can be a great way to connect to new families attending your VBS who are not connected to your ministry or church.
Traditional media still has its place in the communication world (hello all the papers that still come home from our child’s school!). We print postcards every year to hand out to families in our church. These postcards not only advertise our VBS to our people, but they can also be used to advertise to their personal circles. We print enough postcards for families to take as many as they want to give to family, friends, and neighbors. The Sunday before our VBS starts, we put one of the invite cards onto every seat in the auditorium and ask every adult to take that card with them and use it as a reminder to pray for VBS that week.
If your local school district permits, you can also bring stacks of postcards to leave at the school or schools closest to your VBS location.
4. Yard Signage
People drive by our churches every day that may not be ready to step foot inside our buildings on a Sunday morning, but they may be open to attending an event we host. We want the people in our community to know that we have fun and exciting things happening at our church. A yard sign at your church that advertises your VBS is an excellent way to let people know the theme, time, and registration link of your Vacation Bible School. You can also make a type of smaller yard sign for any of your church members who want one for their yard. You are now increasing your promotion beyond your church!
I prefer the size of yard signs. Many city ordinances prohibit large promotional signs in front of the church (think 2×6 banner) or make them too expensive to file for permits and approval. Yard signs become a VERY cost-effective way to promote.
If your city allows banners in front of your church building, these are easy for drivers to see from further away and allow you to include extra information about your VBS. Using a banner (or multiple banners) in addition to yard signs is a very eye-catching way to advertise!
5. Local Advertising
Many local businesses will allow you to advertise. Coffee houses, restaurants, ice cream shops are great places to check. They may be willing to display postcards, but most likely, they will be willing to let you put a flyer in their establishment. Make sure your flyer is bright and colorful, so it will stand out among the other flyers! This last year, a local coffee shop allowed us to leave a stack of VBS invite cards by their registers. This is a great way to get the word out into the community.
Many small businesses will allow legal or tabloid sized flyers to be put in windows. This is a great way to be noticed by everyone walking into the business! Have a handful of these printed up and bring your own tape to make it easy on business owners if they allow you to do this. ** Also remember to stop by and remove these after your event. It’s a really good way to build relationships with local businesses!
6. Advertising with Your Partnerships
Our church has a partnership with a local elementary school. Because of the time we’ve poured into this relationship, trust has been built. Their PTA allows us to advertise some of our community events we host throughout the year. At the end of their school year, we promote our VBS in their last PTA newsletter of the year. Many of their school families have come over the years to our VBS!
During the summer and holidays, our church is a YMCA camp location. We’ve been able to preview some of our VBS to the campers during their day camp. We then follow that up with a postcard advertising our VBS that goes home with them at the end of the day. It’s been exciting to see the campers and their families come back to our VBS!
This is a great way to recruit volunteers as well. Keep your eye out for parents or teachers that would love to get involved. You never know the amazing leaders that can be a part of your team.
7. Create a Unique Website for VBS
This one sounds a bit intimidating at first, but let me explain. Your church and your church’s website may not be known in the community. And let’s be honest, not all of our church’s websites are maintained and kept up to date (both with information and current design trends). Using a website whose domain name isn’t www.ourchurch.org/vbs may reach more people in the community because it may pique their curiosity to check it out.
Let’s use this year’s Orange VBS theme as an example. You could create a website with the domain name www.focusvbs901.com. (“901” is the area code for our church location, but this could apply to any area code.) This helps parents know they have found the right location! Not sure how to build an easy website? Check out Squarespace.com and Wix.com. They are user-friendly and very cost-effective. If you have a communications team at your church, get together with them soon so you can to begin all the planning!
It would be great to add a link to your new VBS website from your existing church website. So that if someone wants to find out whether or not your church has a VBS but doesn’t know about the separate website you’ve created, they can still get there by going to your main church page. Don’t let any interested families fall through the cracks if they’re searching for information!
8. Preview Day with a Family Experience Service
One year in May, our kids’ ministry took over our adult services and did a Family Experience service. At the end of the service, we were able to promote our VBS that was coming in the summer. It gave parents a preview of what to expect at VBS, and it got the kids excited!
If you’re able to do a service takeover or even a short segment during an adult service, it would be great to have something to hand out at the end of that service with your VBS information on it. Make sure that families have the information they need while the excitement and buzz about your VBS is fresh in their minds!
9. VBS Swag
Everyone loves some swag! To amp up the excitement for VBS, you can give kids bracelets or tattoos with your theme. Printing t-shirts to have some of your volunteers wear leading up to VBS also helps to get people excited for what’s to come.
We spoke with a leader one year who had latex balloons printed with their VBS information on them. They inflated them all with helium and handed them out at local parks leading up to their VBS dates!
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*If you’re like me who has NO background in sales or marketing, these ideas can seem intimidating at first. It’s important to make sure you have someone helping you with your VBS that has this strength. Check out my previous post about How to Create a VBS Leadership Team to make sure you’re surrounding yourself with the right people so you can have the Very Best Summer possible!