It undoubtedly happens every year. Your church gains great momentum coming out of Easter. Lives are being changed. Passion for Christ and His work are at an all-time high, and your auditorium is busting at the seams on Sunday mornings.
Just when things seemingly couldn't get much better, Memorial Day weekend rolls around. All of a sudden the bottom drops out of your attendance numbers. Weekly offerings are down. Churchgoers do not seem as connected to the mission of Christ or even to each other as they did just weeks ago. The summer slump has begun.
In many churches this down period will last all the way through Labor Day weekend, and even after the summer ends church leaders find it very difficult to rebuild the momentum that their church was thriving in just months before. It really makes perfect sense that attendance declines over the summer.
After all, families take vacations and have reunions. People want to take advantage of summer warmth. The kids are out of school and families want to maximize their time together. With these seemingly insurmountable circumstances what can churches possibly do to keep their congregations focused on Christ and community?
I think that the key word above was "focus." If people want to be in church, even in the summer, they will make it happen.
If it is a priority for families, then they will be there. How do we get people to focus on Christ and the church during the summer? It starts with focus from ministry leaders.
If the church prayerfully plans to be an effective ambassador of Christ in the summer, I believe that God will honor that. Let's use the summer to reinvigorate the church rather than letting it slide into mediocrity.
Without a doubt things will happen over the course of the summer that can pull people away from the church. Youth sports clinics and traveling tournaments, for example, almost always include Sunday morning events. To combat circumstances like these, churches may have to get a little creative.
One option is to offer Sunday night and midweek services that offer the full programming that Sunday morning services do. Also, why not put on state-of-the-art clinics and youth sports tournaments that rival the community based ones? If your church has the facilities, this can be a powerful way to reach lost people and keep your flock focused on being in community and ministering to the lost.
Does your church have lots of kids and families? Host a powerful VBS program. Don't just host the programkick it off with a neighborhood block party the Sunday before the program, and end it with an outdoor concert. In addition, you can make your Sunday morning services kid-friendly and base the sermons on the VBS material. Invite the kids into adult worship on these Sundays as an extension of VBS.
Such an event will not only be a factor in keeping your own congregation in town for the week, but it will also be a way to stir up interest throughout the entire community in your kid-friendly church.
Maybe your church does not have an influx of children. There are other ways to keep church-goers focused and interested over the summer.
If you have the property to put on outdoor services, for example, then do it! Accompany the service with either breakfast or lunch parties to shake things up a bit. Also, young adults, seasoned citizens and everyone in between loves coffee. Why not open up your facility to host a coffee house throughout the weekend? Small group members can volunteer to run it, and it could be a great venue to provide live music and give your church community exposure.
In the end, there are numerous things that can be done to avoid the summer slump.
I think that focused prayer heading into the summer is the best way to find out what your course of action should be at your church.
Like everything else, if we willingly give the issue to God I think we will be amazed with how he turns the summer slump into something that brings Him glory.