Summertime presents challenges for every church. People are very busy and mobile in the summer time and, sadly, some families will disengage from their local church from Memorial Day Sunday until the beginning of school or even waiting until after Labor Day. All of these matters combine to become one enormous challenge for the leaders of a church.
As a pastor of a local church, this becomes a personal, spiritual challenge for me. People need refreshment. People need a vacation, as do I. Yet, the ministry of the church marches forward.
I believe there are three big questions in the mind of most pastors this summer. While I cannot guarantee you any solutions, I can, humbly, offer a few suggestions.
Question 1: How Can We Keep People Connected?
While you cannot control your church’s summer attendance, you may be able to influence it. Work with your team to discover ways to keep people connected. Consider the below suggestions:
*First, acknowledge that many of your people will take a couple of weeks away this summer. Impress upon them that when they are in town this summer they need to engage on the Lord’s Day with the church.
*Remind your people that they can stay engaged through the church’s website. Your church website may offer an opportunity to live-stream worship, or have podcasts readily available for download. Share a listing of summer activities and ask them to pray with you over these activities and pray for you.
*Create special, unique missional opportunities for small groups to rally together.
*Design your summer sermon series so that it creates interest and offers consistency for the people.
*Plan at least one or two major events that the entire church can embrace and participate in as a family. For example, for us, it is our Summer Freedom Celebration which is a major message and time of worship on the Sunday morning prior to July 4. Additionally, on that same day we welcome thousands at our “Fireworks at the Crosses”, a fun, exciting evening event for everyone. We even use this moment to try to get every one possible who is “waiting baptism” to be baptized in our outdoor baptistry. On this evening, I will baptize each one of them. The conclusion of the evening is an incredible fireworks display (pictured above).
*Stay in contact with your people. Do not let an “out of sight, out of mind” mindset result in complete disengagement. This can complicate re-engagement when school returns.
*Refuse to give away the summer to mediocrity. The Lordship of Christ and the call to the Great Commission does not give any believer a “pass” for the summer time.
Question 2: How Can We Survive Financially?
While we can encourage people in their time away, the ministry of the church continues forward. Yes, every ministry does take dollars and cents to fund it even when the people are not here. During the summer, we have very specified ministries in the community, camps for students and children, and the list continues. As well, the normal ministries continue and we prepare for the fall. So how can churches survive financially?
*Inform your church that the ministries of the church continue even while they are away; therefore, they need to remain consistent in their giving during the summer time. Before they go away or upon their return, they should make up for the Sundays they miss. Better yet, if your church can offer it, encourage them to give online so their giving can remain consistent.
*Share with your people the amount of money required to fund your ministry budget in the 15-week stretch between Memorial Day Sunday and Labor Day Sunday.
*Keep this amount visible and public before your people during the summer.
*I had an idea almost two decades ago and implemented what I call our “Summer Program of Giving”, which advertises the amount of money it takes to fund our ministry budget during this 15-week stretch. We place it on periodicals. We give it visibility. We use some kind of visual to demonstrate our weekly status. It works. I would estimate that we have reached the goal for our summer program of giving 90% of the time. If we did not do that, “out of sight, out of mind” would result in “out of money.”
*Tell the story weekly during the offering time. Take one minute and tell the story of how many people came to Christ during one of your summer events or use a video to share a story of a person experiencing life change. Your goal: connect the dots for people that their giving results in lives being changed or influenced for Jesus Christ.
Question 3: How Can We Reach People?
Just because attendance inside the church may be more inconsistent during the summer, do not modify your passion or strategy to reach people. During the summer, determine to reach people.
*Host a evangelistic ministry in the community like a Backyard Bible Club or a Block Party.
*Get your people on a weekend or weeklong mission trip somewhere in the world. Regardless of the size of your church, a few people or a large group of people any of these can assist churches in our nation or world to reach others.
*Always include the Gospel in every message and worship service, offering to the people an avenue by which they can embrace Christ and Him alone for their salvation.
*Highlight baptism. This is a living testimony and invitation to every person attending a worship service or event where it is done.
I Am Confident
I know that you may be able to offer some even better suggestions than mine to pastors, church leaders, and churches about the summer. We can all learn from one another. Let’s pray for one another this summer. May summer 2013 give God great glory!
Yours For The Great Commission,
Ronnie W. Floyd
Most Christians are aware that God’s Word, the Bible, can help in pressure-filled times of life. When the Apostle Peter said to Jesus, “You alone have the words of life,” he was only saying in advance what many have come to know by experience. Believer after believer can quote a verse that accompanied them through a time of sickness. Others can recall a passage shared during a funeral service bringing comfort to a broken heart.
What you may find surprising, though, is that a large number of the general population also turns to the Bible to help them deal with pressure. A 2013 survey by LifeWay Research and Bible Studies for Life found 25% of Americans had searched the Bible within the previous month to help them deal with pressure. When the timeframe is expanded to a full year the number rises to 42% of Americans.
Searching for and finding truth
This is significant because people are searching for the truth and are turning to the source of it! When two-fifths of Americans have, on their own, looked to the Bible to help them in the last 12 months, the door is already open. We need to walk through it with a focus on God’s Word as the unchanging source of help.
As General Editor of Bible Studies for Life, it was important to me that this curriculum be structured and written in a manner where people recognized that there is nothing in this world more important than knowing that God’s Word applies to every aspect of our lives. Bible Studies for Life has been designed to facilitate gaining wisdom from the Bible.
When under pressure people want to know “Does the Bible speak to my situation? Is there something in it that can help get me through this?” The answer is a resounding “Yes!” God’s Word is living and powerful. It speaks today. It speaks every time it is referenced in a worship service, on a street corner, in a phone call, or in a group of believers studying it together.
The living Word
The writer of Hebrews called God’s Word “living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). There is no area of life it cannot touch, and no time we cannot plunge into its rich pages to find help.
Consider the circumstances during which many Psalms were written: hiding from an angry king, hiding from an angry army, after deliverance from battle, while being oppressed by enemies, and various other troubled times. Yes, the Psalms are songs that lead us to worship, but they also point to the writer’s source of help: God’s Word. In Psalm 119 alone, God’s Word is described as many things like: instruction, His ways, precepts, statutes, commands, righteous judgments, decrees, and wonders. How can it be any less for us?
People will find rest, comfort, guidance and assurance in the Bible.
Yours for the Great Commission,
Ronnie W. FloydSenior Pastor, Cross Church Northwest Arkansas General Editor, Bible Studies for Life