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VBS Attendance Promotions

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Last Updated July 03, 2000

In order for a Vacation Bible School to accomplish its evangelistic purpose, children who do not normally attend Sunday School must receive information about the school and be encouraged to attend.  We use every method at our disposal to achieve this in advance...newspapers, flyers, postcards, signs, etc.  But in my experience the most productive promotion happens when the boys and girls themselves invite their friends to attend and bring them along.  This will reach children who will never be reached in other ways, and will have the highest motivating factor of any approach.

One method to encourage children to invite their friends has worked well for us over many years.  I decided to add this to the web page when a teenage assistant told me this year that one of the things she remembered most about VBS as a child was the "Gum Tree."  The intent of the Gum Tree is simply to remind and encourage the children to bring friends to VBS, and to provide a little incentive for those who do so.

The Gum Tree

My Gum Tree has lasted over ten years now, and is immediately recognized by the children who have been in our school.  You can try it, or some variation, and see how it is received by your pupils.

Construction.  The Gum Tree is simply painted in acrylic paints on a gesso base on an artist's stretched canvas panel, covered in a fixative spray. Quality preparation will result in a prop that will last for years and have good recognition value.  Individual sticks of chewing gum (Wrigley's Juicy Fruit, of course...the kids love the sweet taste, and what else would you find on a gum tree?) are adhered to the tree with rubber cement.  The individual foil wrapping protects the gum from contamination.
Operation. Any child who brings a new guest to VBS that day gets to pull a strip of gum from the Gum Tree.  Most, but not all, of the gum strips have a black stripe on the back, which cannot be seen until the strip is pulled off.  This merely adds a little suspense to the game; I will almost always let a child take another strip, or else add a black stripe from a marker conveniently in my pocket, if there is any dismay at all in not getting a stripe.  [I at first didn't like the chance involved in this approach, but found it was really an essential part of the attraction.]
A gum wrapper with a black stripe entitles the holder to make a selection from the "Treasure Chest" at the close of the VBS day.  The Treasure Chest is filled with "holy junk" of various kinds...this year it was mainly cheap beanie baby clones and kickballs (it was hard to find space-related novelties).  Check Oriental Trader for lots of selections.

That's it!  Simple, yet quite effective...and it quickly becomes a VBS tradition which the children look forward to from year to year.  I complete the ritual of the Gum Tree on the last day of VBS by distributing the remaining pieces of gum, after announcing that the Treasure Chest is closed and the black stripes are no longer valid.   This helps set the stage for the following year.

If you have a favorite attendance promotion, send me email and I will consider adding it to this page.

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Thomas J. Cook, Webmaster
Updated: Monday, July 03, 2000