In our church, average Sunday morning worship attendance drops by 23 percent in June and 34 percent in July, compared with August and December, our months of highest attendance. Similar drops in attendance occur in our preschool, kids, and student ministry departments as well. It's easy to allow such numbers to lead to discouragement.
But you don't have to let numbers like this get you down. The "summer slump" is a well-known phenomenon in the church year as families head out for vacation, mission trips, and other events. Instead of fighting against this trend, consider making changes to your church schedule and overall ministry approach that capitalize on lower attendance.
Here are ten keys to leading your church during the summer months
1. Use good data to gauge progress
To get a better picture of your growth or decline in attendance, compare your current week's figures to one week prior and to the same week one year ago. For example, this is how you might track your Sunday morning worship attendance.
In this case, while your attendance June 9, 2013 was 8 percent lower than the prior Sunday, it was up 8 percent over the second Sunday in June a year ago. Looking at your numbers this way gives you a better perspective.
2. Modify the Sunday schedule in June and July
You may choose to offer one worship service instead of two during part of the summer. We keep our usual schedule on Sunday mornings, but cancel all activities on Wednesday nights during the month of July. We also give the choir a break on Sunday mornings in July.
3. Consider rearranging or removing seating
We remove the back two rows of chairs in June and July, and then bring them back in the first Sunday in August. This makes our room feel fuller during leaner summer months.
4. Support Vacation Bible School and other summer programming
Vacation Bible School (VBS) is a great way to reach young families in your community and share the good news of Jesus Christ with many children. Get behind your VBS team by promoting, resourcing, and attending it. Work with your team for effective follow-up activities that will connect new families with your church.
5. Spend time planning for a strong August kick-off
Our "Back-to-School" bash and small-groups launch event take place during the first two weeks of August. We use some of our down time in the summer to prepare for these events.
6. Preach a "summer" sermon series
Consider a message series focused on your "home folks." This may be a series on the purposes of the church, a restating of your vision and mission, a doctrinal series, or a focus on the family. The messages in the following series may help you get started.
- Five Spiritual Disciplines
- Foundations of the Faith (Sermons on the Baptist Faith & Message)
- When the Church Prays
- Browse all available sermon series
7. Choose and host guest speakers well
A great guest speaker will encourage and inspire your congregation. A poorly chosen speaker may cause conflict and headaches. Choose speakers strategically for your church's size, culture, and situation. Assign a responsible person to host the guest speaker while they are on your campus, cover all expenses, and provide an appropriate honorarium.
8. Plan family vacations strategically
It is critical for your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health that you regularly take significant time off with your family. Schedule this time when no major church events are planned. Leave clear instructions on who will handle pastoral care, regular administration, and even crises while you are away. Keep in mind that your absence from the church may be an opportunity for church conflict. See: Top Ten Predictable Times for Conflict in the Church.
9. Spend additional time reading, praying, and studying
Set aside one day a week during the summer to spend time in the Scriptures, in prayer, and reading various types of books (devotional, fiction, non-fiction, preaching, leadership, etc.).
10. Repair and renovate your facilities
Late June (after Father's Day and VBS) and July are good months to have the floors and windows cleaned. This is also a great time to spruce up your public areas with updated paint, signage, and furnishings.