In church leadership it’s easy to make assumptions. None is so dangerous as underestimating the reality of the “summer slump” – a time when people, money, and participation all seem to vanish in the summer steam.
I was speaking to a pastor friend of mine who told me about his first summer as a lead pastor. He told me that when that first summer hit, it hit hard. He could’ve never anticipated just how much connection (and attendance) would be lost during June, July, and August. They went into the summer with average weekly attendance around 100. On a certain Sunday in July he remembers looking out at a bunch of empty chairs, sharing a message with just twelve adults, five of whom were the worship team.
He felt, for the first and only time, about quitting, giving up, packing it in and going home. But then, encouragement came as he remembered I Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
My friend’s story is not that dissimilar to so many other’s I’ve heard. Pastors, church leaders, and staff all become aware of just how hard summer outreach and engagement can be.
But I, like so many others, have learned that with the proper planning, and by remembering that our labor is not in vain, a fruitful summer is not just a dream, but a tangible reality. The key component is staying connected with your congregation.
Here are just a few things your church can do to keep connection going strong, all summer long:
- Increase Social Media: Pay special attention to social media in new and creative ways. Honor volunteers, announce and promote events, highlight fun interactions, focus on kid’s ministry, and above all, ask your team and volunteers to share, share, share.
- Use Video: People engage with video more than any other medium. It gives them the sense that they are actually there, even when they can’t be. Record video of groups, services, and events so people can see what they’re missing.
- Live Stream: This might not be an option for every church. But with new apps like Periscope and a plethora of low cost solutions, letting people engage with the worship services will increase connection in a variety of ways.
- Publish Podcasts: Recording sermons, classes, and personal devotions is easy to do. Make the podcasts easily accessible on your website so people can listen whenever and wherever they are, especially in their cars.
- Host Events: Planning fun events that match the vibe of the season – like BBQs, pool parties, fundraisers, and picnics – is a surefire way to spark excitement for the activities in the church. Don’t forget to encourage people to invite their friends!
And for the people who haven’t abandoned you for summer vacations and weekend activities, make sure to keep your normal standards high. Continue to strive for excellence in all things – services, events, leadership development, planning, and team building – so the existing people will know they’re valued, and so you’ll be ready for the increase as God supplies it.
Above all, remember that your labor is not in vain. Enjoy the summer and anticipate great things as your hard work during the heat of the summer pays off.