Getting ready to run a vacation bible school, or VBS, is no small task. There are many steps involved in pulling together a successful program that reaches kids effectively. While there are many tasks involved in pulling together volunteers, designing curriculum, and setting up music and activities, it’s equally important to have a system in place for managing the technology side: registration and payments. It’s a necessary evil for hosting a successful VBS, and when done correctly, can help make the whole process simple, straightforward, and headache-free.
Often times, the management side of events takes up more time than most ministry leaders would like it to. The consequences include (but are not limited to):
- Not enough time spent on actually planning out your activities
- Missing payments due to misfiling or disorganization
- Communication issues between the church and parents because of a lack of centralized communication
All of that might make your head spin, however, these five tips can help make your VBS registration painless and will simplify the process for your church and your families. It might possibly even improve your event’s attendance. Most important, these five tips will help alleviate administrative work and will allow you to focus on content, your community, and the goals you want to achieve:
1) Ditch Your Paper Process
Often times people take an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to making changes in their administrative processes. However, many times outdated and manual processes – like paper registration – are broken. Paper registration is slow, error prone, and a huge time suck. Energy is better spent on future programming, meaningful communication with families and staying organized, not on chasing down missed or late payments and trying to decipher how to spell someone’s last name from their form.
Think about what the paper process you are using is truly costing you (in lost time, in missed payments, etc.), and how that number compares with an investment in a software that can automate registration and payments for your VBS, or even all church events and volunteering programs.
2) Automate Registration with Software
Finding a registration software that fits your budget and does what you need it to do can seem overwhelming, but it really isn’t. Here are a few key things to get you started:
- Define your needs. Determining your pain points and what aspects of the process need to be automated is the first step. It could be as simple as needing a way to register people for VBS, register and collect payments, or manage every aspect of your church programming: VBS, volunteering within your church, and church events throughout the year.
- Compare your options. Narrow down a few options that meet your needs and ask for demos from those options. This is the best way to learn a few things: how the system works, how user-friendly it is for both you and your parishioners, what the true cost of the system will be, and how well the company understands the church environment and your needs.
You can learn more about how to choose a registration software in this helpful eBook, which will expand on the ideas above.
Consider a software that can manage not only the children attending but your volunteers and teachers as well. You can use software to assign volunteers to certain sessions and allow them to access and view only the information relevant to them. Including volunteers in the system allows you to communicate with everyone who is a part of your VBS experience so everyone is on the same page.
3) Streamline Communication
Once you have a registration software in place, streamline your communication through the tools the software provides. Ideally, your software will allow you to easily filter through your users to communicate with exactly who you need.
St. Helen’s Parish Community in New Jersey found that communication improved dramatically once they switched to an online registration software.
We no longer have people saying ‘I didn’t know about this going on,’ or ‘I forgot I registered for this event.’ My attendance is another thing that’s benefited. My attendance at mandatory events has been perfect because we’ve been able to send multiple reminders to the right people and they are in the system so everything is current and we have the correct data. Everything is just totally centralized.” (Source)
Communication tools are also helpful when managing your payments. Easily filter through your data to see if you have any balance due for upcoming VBS sessions and set up automatic emails to remind parents to pay their balances. Instead of chasing down people long after you’ve realized they haven’t paid, remind people automatically without lifting a finger. (Okay maybe one finger, and just to click “Send!”)
4) Take Advantage of Reporting Tools
Any software you choose should allow you to work with your data and run reports that help you manage your programs. Take advantage of these. Print out lists for volunteers or teachers running specific sessions or dates of VBS so they know which children are attending their session, create email lists for future marketing – reach out to parents from last summer about attending VBS this summer, or for next winter and spring break programming you are offering.
The options are really endless, and the key is working with a software that gives you these options. Being more organized and able to use your data to help you in future planning and marketing will save you time, money, and resources.
5) Have Fun
Making the choice to work in ministry is not so that you can spend your day managing paperwork. It’s to make a difference in the lives of people through sharing the love of Jesus Christ with them.
Currently, church technology tools are affordable for churches to use to streamline and automate much of the administrative side of church management. This, in turn, will help your team focus on what truly matters: enriching and growing your community.
Simplify registration so you can have fun and put on the programs you want, without the headache of managing it behind the scenes.
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