Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Word of Mouth... VBS style

I started attending services at Fairmount Christian Church in 1991. Vacation Bible School had been taking place there for almost 100 years. Like most churches it was held in the morning with stay at home Moms teaching classes, helping with crafts and making snacks and the rest of the parents would drop their kids off on their way to work. We had about 350 people coming to church on Sunday but only about 50 or so kids would make it to VBS... and we thought that was great!

But let me tell you about Fairmount's VBS 2006 style. We have about 975 attend on Sundays but now we have over 500 people at VBS! Incredible! How did we do it, you ask? Well, a lot of prayer and a lot more thought on how to be more relevant. Back in the 1950's when VBS came into being most Moms were stay at home Moms. Fast forward to 2006 and that is definitely no longer the case. So having VBS in the morning didn't make a whole lot of sense. Also, one major influence has always been missing from VBS... Dads! The answer: we decided to move VBS to the evenings when Mom and Dad are both available. It worked.

We also wanted the parents that didn't teach or help with crafts or make snacks to still be able to participate in VBS. So we started an adult class in 1994. At first it was just a Sunday school class wannabe but then Larry, quite the creative guy, decided to shake things up. He started using old TV series as the foundation of his lessons. We've used the original Star Trek, the Andy Griffith show, blockbuster movies and some that never made it to the Big Screen.

Over the years the class has grown and grown to the point that many of the adults at VBS do not have children in the program. It's classic word of mouth. Most church-goers don't talk with their friends and co-workers about church. Why? Well this may be considered harsh but I believe it's because church often really doesn't have much relevance to the lives of those in attendance. But what has occurred with the adult VBS class and VBS as a whole at Fairmount is that it fits our schedules and speaks to our lives.

For example, watching Andy Griffith showed us how to approach conflict in a Godly way. Who of us doesn't have conflict in our lives at some point? Because it's relevant... and fun, it makes it much easier to say, "Hey Joe you've got to come with me to this great program at my church. It'll blow your mind!"

Word of mouth doesn't work without the right words coming out of the right mouths to the right people. What are you doing at your organization that gets your staff, your customers, your members, your vendors and the rest of the world talking... hopefully in a positive way? If it takes more than a couple of seconds to come up with something, set aside some time to think about how to make what you do more relevant to your target audience(s). If you came up with something right away I'd love to hear about it and I'm sure it will inspire others.

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