I’ll be honest…I get a little tired of pastors whining about the “summer slump”. First off…unless you pastor in Central Florida…you really have no clue what a slump is. Churches around here are an hour’s drive from beaches on the Atlantic Ocean, beaches on the Gulf of Mexico, Disney World, Animal Kingdom, MGM Studios, Epcot, Universal Studios, Wet N’ WIld, Busch Garden, NASA Visitor’s Center, NASCAR Experience Museum, Islands of Adventure, Richard Petty Driving Experience, two zoos and a place where a butt load of alligators jump out of the water for food. When we talk about a summer slump around here…for most of us Central Florida pastors…it means that about 50% of our people are missing on any given Sunday.
Secondly, the only thing slumping is the Sunday attendance…that’s not the entire church. However, some of the pastors I know get all down and depressed because their egos can’t handle the fact that they are preaching to some empty chairs. They start complaining, lash out at the people that do show up and generally just make a complete ass of themselves. Good grief, get over it…there are more important things in life than whether the church is full on Sunday!!!
A slump in attendance doesn’t mean that the church as a whole has to be in a slump. As pastors it is our choice whether we let the church slump or not during the summer. At Compass Point we know our people are going to go off on some Sundays and play. We build that into our thinking and planning…and work within that box…instead of trying to fight it. The following are a few things we do in order to not let our church slump…while our summer attendance is.
1. Encourage “spying”. Every year I know it’s coming…the dreaded “summer slump” in attendance. It starts around the middle of May and runs through the first week of August. I also know our people work hard to reach people far from God all school year…and they need a break. It’s not personal…it’s not because of me…or my preaching…or their lack of Bible knowledge. It’s that families need some time…to be families. We don’t get pissed or hurt about it. We encourage our folks to visit a church in the area where they are vacationing…rip off a few ideas for Compass Point…take some digital pictures (with tiny James Bond-like cameras) and shoot us an email telling us what they liked about the other church.
2. Dial down the special events. Most church pastors I know try to use costly special events to keep attendance up. You are just trying to push the snowball uphill with that…a lot of work with very little results. Push the snowball down hill and stop fighting it…embrace it. Use it as a time to give some ministries or programs a break. Let your leaders take a few weeks off to recharge their spiritual and physical batteries. Us pastors need a break every now and then…so do our volunteer leaders and staff.
3. Regroup, restrategy and restructure. This is the main thing we do in the summer at Compass Point. If we are going to make sweeping changes in structure, staffing or strategy…we try our best to wait until summer. Right now we are making BIG changes in the way we do small groups, our preaching focus for the Fall and staffing/leadership structure. Some we have shared with the church…most will be shared a little at a time over the next few months.
4. Focus on the vision. At Compass Point we know we see less guests during the summer than any other time of the year…it’s mainly home folks or new active folks we picked up throughout the year. Due to that fact I always use June and July to preach about our vision in relation to the folks that call Compass Point home. Sometimes it’s subtle…other times it’s in-your-face…but there is always something specifically focused on during the summer sermons about reaching people far from God. It doesn’t mean we don’t talk about the vision other times of the year (we get it in some way every Sunday)…but summer is a time to be a little more detailed and cast definitive goals.
5. Do something for someone else. So many times we get so caught up in the excitement and growth during the school year that we get pretty insulated as leaders. Summer is a great time to get out from behind the desk…close the office for a day…and have the staff go out to set the example for the church by serving somebody else. We have several thousand water bottles just waiting for us to pass out around Lakeland this summer. I love doing it…it’s hot…it’s muggy…it’s a lot of work…but it gets our people pumped up…and helps show Lakeland that someone cares…with no strings attached.
I’m sure there are other cool things to do around church to avoid letting the “summer slump” set it. Feel free to drop a comment or two and share your ideas. Oh yeah…take heart…the summer doesn’t last forever. 🙂