VBS Tools to Jump-Start Next Year’s Ministries

And Connect with Parishioners on the Web!

From developing (or learning) curriculum to organizing volunteers to spreading the word to parish members, putting on a fantastic, fun, and Christ-centered summer program can be quite the task for church staff! So how do you leverage all the work you’ll put into VBS to pay off during the rest of the year?

Why not use VBS to learn and test out some of your ParishSOFT tools? Software like ConnectNow Family Suite with it’s Family Directory, Religious Education, and Online Giving can help you streamline processes during the VBS season and develop workflows to help keep track of the new connections (both volunteers and participants) who join your team or parish community for the summer program.

Online Registration

If you haven’t already, get comfortable with your online registration setup and signup. ConnectNow’s Religious Education module handles this beautifully, so you can offer families the convenience of online registration without having to design separate registration forms. Taking registrations online will make it easy on registrants while saving your staff time and streamlining the overall registration process. If you’re new to ConnectNow’s online registration, now’s the time to take a look and see how this tool can be optimized at your church. Learn more on parishsoft.com/religiouseducation, see a video demonstration (starting at about 1:30) in What’s New in ConnectNow Version 4.2.6, or sign up for virtual classroom training course CN-RE21.

How Easy is it to Register Online for VBS?

It’s a piece of cake! Members log in through your My Own Church site, and from there, they can register their children for any VBS classes you’ve enabled for online registration. The My Own Church site makes it intuitive and easy.

In fact, online registration is available not just for VBS, but any class your church offers, as long as you enable the class for online registration. So if you’re ready to accept registrations for the next session of faith formation classes, encourage parents to register for VBS and formation classes all at the same time. Still working out your faith formation class schedule? No worries! Parishioners won’t see any classes that you haven’t enabled for online registration, so there’s no danger of people signing up for classes that you haven’t yet opened.

Impress Participants: Online Registration Knows Your Name!

When your members or invited guests log in to the secure My Own Church portal, they’re entering a site that already has the basic family and member information they’ve provided to your church. Folks will appreciate not having to fill out their full name, address, phone number, email, and details for each child.

If the participating VBS family does not have a My Own Church login, they can easily create one by registering as a new user. New accounts require administrator approval. This means your parish administrator will want to monitor the submissions and approve new user registrations promptly so families can use their new logins to sign up for VBS, preferably before your program fills up. People can log in only if you allow them to do so. Their registration records enter your ConnectNow database only if you accept them.

Running an Ecumenical VBS?

If your VBS is open to your greater faith community, online registration is a handy option for non-members. Just instruct guest families to register as a new user in My Own Church, approve their accounts, and allow them to log in and register online, just as your members do. And who knows . . . families who come for VBS may be back for more of what your parish has to offer.

Better Records for Your Whole Parish

Parents certainly want to make sure you have their correct cell phone and email addresses when they’re leaving their children in your care. As part of the registration process, parishioners see their current contact information. If anything has changed, they can update it on the spot, and the change will flow directly into their permanent record in your ConnectNow database once your administrator approves it. In this way, My Own Church supports better data quality for your entire parish.

Wow Them with Your Marketing Superpowers

ConnectNow makes online registration easy. But it’s up to you to make it easy for parishioners (and guests) to find your VBS information and VBS registration links in your My Own Church site. Here are just a few tips for doing it right:

  • It’s an obvious detail, but be sure to Enable your VBS class(es) for online registration prior to sending people online to register. VBS classes won’t show up online until you do.
  • Put a dedicated VBS page on your church website. Give it a friendly URL, like www.yourchurchwebsite.org/vbs. Add a VBS button graphic to your home page that links to your /vbs page, so navigation is easy. Once you have this web page designed, you can use it year after year.
  • Add a VBS Registration button to your /vbs web page, and link that button to your My Own Church portal. Because you’ll be using a secure, integrated registration system rather than a general web form, add a note explaining that your church is using My Own Church for VBS registrations. VBS participants will need to either log in or create a new account.
  • Announce your VBS registration through all your open marketing channels, including print, announcements, and email (don’t forget your social media sites if you have them). Provide clear instructions and/or links to your main /vbs page and My Own Church portal, and be sure to mention that VBS participants will need to either log in or create a new account.
  • Do fees apply? Your ConnectNow Family Suite includes Online Giving, and if you enable the system’s Quick Give option, guests (and members) can pay for VBS fees without having to set up a login. Direct people to your Online Giving site in your communications — again, a button on your main /vbs web page will make it easy for them.

Wow Your Staff

Would anybody in your office miss having to type in every registration? We’re guessing they will quickly find their time can be better spent on other things. ConnectNow gives you a simple, efficient way to capture VBS registration on the web, without having to handle any paper forms. Chances are you’ll still get some phone calls from people wanting to register for VBS — your staff can jump into ConnectNow and key in those registrations while they’re on the phone with the parent. ConnectNow streamlines collection and management of all the pertinent details you need to run a terrific VBS. From parent information to the special learning or health needs of individual children, every detail flows seamlessly from the fingertips of your participating families and into your ConnectNow system.

Once your registrations are in place, you have the information you need to plan the proper spaces and activities for every age group. And your VBS can be powered by the full set of tools available for your other faith formation classes. Attendance tracking, leaders, class rosters, and built-in tools to communicate with parents are all there to help you create a great VBS experience.

Manage Volunteers

We hope VBS means an influx of new volunteers helping out at your church. While it’s easy to say “the more, the merrier,” sometimes a surge of eager helpers can be an organizational nightmare. Recruiting volunteers early, defining their roles, overseeing any training or screening, and even having their name tags printed ahead of time can help things go more smoothly once the children arrive. And providing a great experience for VBS volunteers may open the doors to other ministry work and parish engagement after VBS ends.

ConnectNow gives you a couple of ways to wrangle your helpers. In the Religious Education program, you could set up a class called VBS Volunteers for adults, and enable that class for online registration. When parents go online to register their children for VBS, they’ll have the volunteer opportunity right there, in the same place.

This provides you with a roster of volunteers, along with their phone numbers and email addresses, all of which makes it easy to get in touch to coordinate planning meetings or narrow down more detailed assignments.

The Ministry Scheduler program is designed to help you track and manage volunteers, along with any requirements you might have for service. If you want to organize your VBS volunteers by more custom-defined roles (e.g., leaders, assistants), or if your VBS volunteers need to complete any safe environment requirements before they can serve, Ministry Scheduler would help you track all of those details. Like the class option in the Religious Education module, Ministry Scheduler would provide you with a useful data about your various VBS volunteers and the communication tools to facilitate your planning.

Whichever method you choose, be sure to let parents and other members know what help is needed and where they should go to sign up in your VBS marketing. The My Own Church portal gives them access to the Religious Education classes from the My Education page; Ministry Scheduler volunteer roles would be available to them from the My Ministry page.

Keep It Going Year-Round!

Families are accustomed to doing things on the web: schools, recreation programs, even child care centers all engage them with online resources. Your parish can offer them the same web conveniences with ease and confidence!

Explore how easy it is to connect with parishioners and guests using your ConnectNow system’s many tools — Online Registration, Religious Education, Ministry Scheduler, and Online Giving. They’re sure to help make your VBS an administrative success, and once you’ve mastered them, they can also come in handy during the next year of ministry. Imagine online signups for adult Bible study, RCIA, pre-K through 12 programs, regular offertory, and all of your church’s many ministry volunteer opportunities available to your members on the web! It’s all here for you today — with ConnectNow.