This is going to sound unbelievable but I assure you it’s 100% true.
When I was about 10 years old my family attended a little Baptist church in Detroit. It was a while ago but I’m guessing that there were about 100 members.
Like any little church, the dreaded “summer slump” arrived every June, July, and August as church-goers chose to spend their summer time on vacations, traveling, or at the beach on Sunday.
In an effort to drum up attendance the pastor came up with a brilliant idea. The idea was to make a life-sized dummy called, “Mr. Summer Slump.” Someone in the church made him by stuffing old rags into some second-hand clothes, complete with a head, a hat, and a painted on face. Seriously, it was creepy!
Each Sunday School class was made to keep attendance and the teacher with the lowest amount of people was forced to sit next to Mr. Summer Slump in the front row of the church! I guess embarrassing your key volunteers is the best way to provoke them to action.
I’ve been in ministry for many years and I’ve experienced the summer slump regularly each year. Here are some better ways to handle it.
Decrease Your Worship Services
It seems obvious, right? You’d be surprised how many churches don’t consider moving from 3 services to 2 for the summer, or from 2 to 1. The great fear is that you won’t be able to regain attendance in the fall. The opposite is true. In my experience, minimizing services is exciting and allows more people to connect. Plus, it’s a nice break for your volunteers.
I know this doesn’t help you if you already only have one service. However, you might even consider moving your regular service back an hour. A lot of people get used to sleeping later during the summer and that extra hour of sleep is just what they need on Sunday morning.
Rearrange The Chairs
Really? Can you do that? Yes! Is there anything worse than that oh-so-empty feeling in the auditorium? Whenever 70% or less of the chairs are filled on Sunday it sends a subconscious message to the congregation: “Where is everybody? And if they're not here, why am I here?”
Try rearranging your normal chair setup. Okay, this isn’t going to work if you have pews, but if you have movable chairs you can minimize the size of your rows by a chair or two. You can also spread them out a little bit so that whatever space was taken up by 150 chairs is not taken up by 115.
Increase Your Social Media Connections
Many people miss church in the summer simply because they are on vacation. They aren’t really lazy or trying to avoid God, it’s just that they have been planning a family trip in the summer.
Try being really intentional about sharing all of what’s happening in the church family via social media. Obviously, that means uploading the teaching for the week but how about sharing the vision on a regular basis with those who are away? You can also connect by writing to your congregation through email or on a blog. That way it won’t feel like the only way to experience the church family is by attending on a Sunday morning.
And by the way, if you’re worried about breaking people’s routine or stepping on a few toes by changing stuff then good! That’s exactly what the summer slump needs. Something different. In the summer, different is good!