Is your Church Prepared for the Summer Slump?
It’s almost summertime, are you ready? My wife is a school teacher, so she is counting down the days! But as a church leader, I’m not so anxious to get to June. The summer months can be a challenging season to navigate in the church world. Summertime inevitably means that attendance at worship gatherings and other programs will dip, as members go on vacation or find themselves out of town for various other reasons. Lower attendance will likely translate to less giving. Tithes and offerings will likely take a hit in June, July, and August.
If you’re not prepared for these realities, the summertime slump can really get you down. You might begin to think that the lower numbers are your fault, or that they’re an indication your church is in decline. The truth is, the slump happens in almost every church. (Even the big, thriving churches in town will tell you that they experience a drop off in the summer months). So, don’t get discouraged over this phenomenon.
At the same time, you don’t need to ignore it either. Pastor Ronnie Floyd of Cross Church offers three key questions to ask to help you prepare for the summer months. I’ll summarize them and add my own thoughts below, but be sure to check out his post here.
Question 1: How can we keep people connected?
With kids playing on tournament sports teams, families going on vacation, and weddings happening nearly every weekend, even many of your committed members will only make it to worship sporadically during the summer. As a church leader, you can’t control people’s schedules, but you can provide ways for them to stay connected, and challenge them to commit to do so.
Encourage your people to participate as much as they’re able: to come to worship, small group, and other programs when the are in town. Remind them that their commitment is an expression of love, both to God, and to their fellow church members.
Then, have a clear strategy for keeping everyone in the loop when they find themselves out of town. Leverage your website and social media platforms to clearly communicate and disseminate information. Be sure you have a way to post audio or video links to sermons. Keep the calendar up to date. Send weekly emails, or better yet, weekly videos, to your congregation. These don’t have to be high-budget, top of the line videos. They can be shot with a smart phone and a tri-pod, but they’re a great way to keep everyone in the church looped in. Use direct mail to drive home really important pieces of information (according to statistics snail mail and direct mail are very strategic ways to communicate).
Bottom line: you must have a clear plan for keeping people connected during the summer.
Question 2: How can we survive financially?
If you know that your numbers are likely to be lower during the summer months, then you can budget accordingly. I suggest that as you make your budget for the year, plan for when money will be spent, especially “big ticket” expenditures. If you know when money will be going out, you won’t sweat those seasons when there might be a dip in giving.
Staying on top of your budget will also allow you to put a summer budget in front of the church. Tell them exactly how much it’s going to cost to do ministry during this season, and set a summer giving goal. Ask them to give faithfully so that all of the planned ministries can happen.
With the transient nature of summer, an online giving portal is a must. Make it easier for church members to remain faithful in their giving, even when they are out of town.
Bottom line: you must have a clear idea of summer costs, and a way to achieve that giving goal.
Question 3: How can we reach people?
Summertime is the perfect opportunity to consolidate church programs and come together for the sake of church-wide outreach events and activities. As one pastor put it, “Lower summer church attendance does not have to mean lower engagement.”
There are three big summer holidays that space out pretty evenly on the summer calendar. Memorial Day is May 29th, Independence Day is July 4th, and Labor Day is September 4th. These are fantastic opportunities to leverage built-in cultural rhythms for a missional purpose.
Get out in front of these holidays, plan a church-wide event and invite the community to join in. Or, challenge your small groups to throw smaller parties and invite their neighbors. You can even find out what’s already planned nearby and simply get your church in on it. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, simply jump in on something that’s already happening. This is a great way to meet people and invite them to church. Maybe you can even mobilize your church to serve at one of these community events.
Another thing to keep in mind is that even though many of your regulars will be in and out, so will guests. You will likely see an increase in visitors during the summer. Consider these guests in the way you plan worship gatherings and other programs, and have a plan for effectively engaging them when they pop throughout the season.
Bottom line: you must have a clear vision for making summer a season to reach out.
Summer is almost here, so make sure you’re ready. If you’re aware of the challenges and prepared for them, you can actually enjoy summer as a unique season in the life of the church. Don’t get lost in who’s present or out of town each week. Don’t obsess over the financials. Instead, cast a compelling vision to the church, set clear goals, execute a plan, love your people, serve the community, and celebrate all that happens in and through your church during June, July, and August…Oh, and get ready for the craziness of the fall season, because it’s coming fast!