Can You Stump The Summer Slump?
We are living in a time of great blessing. The ability to travel by car or plane enables us to make journeys on a weekend or in a one-week time frame that would have been unimaginable for all of history up until the last century. We live in an economy where almost everyone has resources that would have only belonged to the wealthy in previous generations. I look forward to family vacation opportunities and I appreciate the many options that are available to my family for travel and leisure.
Here come the summer months. People are traveling and the Worship and Bible Study attendance drops. Apparently, you and I are not the only ones who appreciate the options available for travel and leisure. The lower attendance can be frustrating to a pastor or Bible Study leader. Can anything be done to stump the summer slump?
- Make sure your measurement is properly oriented. Attendance tends to fall into a pattern of two surges and two slumps, each year in North American churches. The first surge ordinarily occurs in August (when school starts back) through October. November and December averages will generally be lower because of holiday weekends. Attendance will surge again in January through March unless the weather is extremely bad. April (with Spring Break for students) begins the second slump that may fall even deeper by July. Here is the key. Compare your attendance to the same month last year instead of the previous month. You may be averaging less in June than you did in March. But, if you will check your records you may find that you are averaging more than you did last June.
- Spend more energy rejoicing over those present than bemoaning those who are absent. I wonder if we might sometimes feed the slump by complaining. Members can still grow and the lost can still be reached on any day or any week of the entire year including the summer months.
- Don’t back off of the drivers of growth. Don’t let up on connecting with absentees, ministering to members, group fellowships, outreach, enlisting new members, etc. Keep your foot on the ministry accelerator or else you will feed the slump even further. You need to continue to sow these seeds with the understanding that you may not reap the results until August or September.
- Utilize the VBS strategy. Remember that Vacation Bible School is not intended only to be a week of Bible Study for the children in your church. That is a benefit of the week. The purpose is to introduce prospective families to Bible Study, to share the gospel, to connect them to groups, and to transition them into your discipleship process.
- Some churches successfully utilize themes and/or promotions to rally around. This particular idea does not work with every congregation. You must know the culture of your church. Many churches promote a theme and/or a promotion to spark interest and encourage faithfulness. The theme I utilized recently in the church where I served as interim pastor was “The Summer of No Fear.” The summer sermon series addressed issues related to “fear” and the Bible Study leaders participated in a promotion called the “Bible Study No Fear Factor.” In another church, we went “Contact Crazy” for the summer and tried to document our invitation of several thousand people to be our guest during the summer months.
Paul reminded the Corinthians that if they sowed sparingly they would reap sparingly. While it is an uphill struggle to maintain the same level of attendance in the summer, it is not impossible and not unprecedented. But to maximize your leadership you must be strategic and intentional. What is your plan?