Attendance is a big deal. Churches depend on it and pastor’s egos are often tied to it. That said, the attendance trap can be psychologically discouraging (for pastors) and a poor measure of the spiritual health of a church.
While all of the above is true, attendance is still an important aspect of church life. Attendance, however, might look different than it used to. And other factors may help the body of Christ to “connect” in ways other than the Sunday morning worship service.
Here are some quick notes about attendance before I throw out some ideas on how to “Thrive During the Summer Slump.”
Summer Looks Different
In a journal article titled, “Never on Sunny Days,” Laurence Iannaccone and Sean Everton analyzed weekly attendance records from churches and argued that people are less likely to attend church when the weather outside is just right. Jon Acuff has a less scholarly but equally interesting article about taking church off for the summer. His humorous assessment on why people are less likely to attend church during the summer comes down to there being more guest speakers, personal vacations, outdoor activities (the “God is in nature” card), and people needing to recover from volunteering for VBS. I am smiling about the last one in particular.
It’s a good thing for us to think about why summer attendance looks different. A good article for you to read is What Sociologists Have Learned About Church Attendance, by R. Stephen Warner.
I am tempted toward discouragement given the evidence that Summers Slump. But beating discouragement might be as simple as looking for the opportunities summer presents.
Here are some ideas to explore for the summer.
- Focus on relationships.
- Promote personal, spiritual growth in the lives of individuals.
- Emphasize service opportunities that are doable, short in duration, and can involve the whole family.
- Encourage family based discipleship.
- Prepare for a strong fall initiative.
- Design one time, simple events that bring people together around our common bond in Christ.
- Utilize communication tools to connect the body of Christ in other ways. Communication tools that work: social media (Facebook, Pinterest, etc…), email, online newsletters, physical postcards, snail mail, texting and everything else that works in your environment.
- Don’t give up on vacation bible schools, summer camps, and father-son, and mother-daughter events. They are often the tried, true, and tested events that help people grow spiritually. Yes, they are exhausting. And they may affect attendance in other ways. However, the spiritual growth that often comes from these kinds of events are hard to replicate in any other way.