VBS Turns Customers into Corps Members

By: Laura Poff

Major Joanna Robinson, corps officer of the Conway, Arkansas corps, developed a creative way to broaden the impact and reach of her Vacation Bible School programming.

When the Robinsons first arrived in Conway, the corps had four regularly attending children. They decided to use VBS as a vehicle for bringing more children and families into the corps and so, went into neighborhoods and apartment communities passing out flyers and talking to parents about the program and other things that were happening at the corps nearby. Ultimately, no one came.

Major Robinson decided to do something she had never done before.

“I decided to take VBS to the people,” she said. She met with her corps council to discuss holding VBS at the corps family store the next spring. They supported the idea, a bit skeptically.

The following spring, she taped signs to the Family Store’s front door and instructed employees to place flyers in every shopper’s bag announcing that, for three days only, a Bible-based children’s program would be held in the store during normal business hours.

“We set up a little area right inside of the store,” Robinson said. “The kids would come in and do a mini VBS while their parents shopped. Some of the parents would stand there and listen to what we were saying too. We were killing two birds with one stone – parents were shopping and kids were learning about Jesus.”

And her attendance, which the previous year had included only the four corps children, more than quadrupled with 30 children stopping in for shorter lessons, games and crafts.

Beyond increasing reach, holding church activities in the store educated the public about The Salvation Army’s wide offering of programs and services – from the social services that serve the community to the worship services that are open to all.

“I think it’s a fabulous way to let people know that we are a church,” Major Robinson said. “It opens the door for people to know more about The Salvation Army.”

Major Robinson has continued to hold VBS at the family store every year since and has shared the strategy with other corps officers who struggle to find families to invite to their corps.

“I love that I am able to do this program in the Family Store,” she said. “It’s allowed me to share the word with children and adults who otherwise would never have heard about Jesus. Whether it’s for five minutes or 30 minutes, I’m just glad that I’m able to do it.”