Every year it’s the same summertime forecast in church. Attendance is lower, giving is off, and activities slow down. Families vacation or simply skip out to enjoy the outdoors. It can be a season where discipleship hits a wall or is refreshed, depending on the intensity of your weekly small groups and the preaching schedule.
7 Ideas to Engage a Distracted Summertime Audience
How can we keep our congregations engaged? What are some easy things we can do even now, especially if we haven’t planned the summertime schedule to be less of a lull this year? Here are 10 ways to consider as you consider the next several months and plan for next year.
Be A Church Concierge
Help families in their travel plans. Be a church concierge and help them organize for Sunday worship wherever they are traveling. We all have connections through pastors we know or know about. Often families skip church while traveling because they don’t know the area or where to look. It’s simple to make an announcement and framing it as “church concierge” will make it more endearing and less forced. However, let’s be honest: it’s serious. We want our families to keep growing and keeping being shaped. Who knows? They may return with a report and a few pointers for us to grow as well.
On Vacation: Listen Online
In an effort to make vacation more a retreat than simply abandoning life (read Is Summer Vacation Biblical), invite families to listen anew online if they’re traveling. We all know that Sharefaith has an awesome church mobile app builder that makes this easy for your congregation.
Target Online Listening With Your Archives
If you podcast your sermons, remember that your audience is not going to naturally go your archives unless they are looking for something very specific. Look at your back catalog and formulate a series for the summer. It might be pulled together from topical sermons of various kinds under a banner called “Righteous Living” or “The Way of the Cross.” Keep it lose to include about 8-12 sermons. A book study also works nicely. Create some inspiring graphic for the series and push it out as your summer series.
Create A Special Series Just Online
This may sound daunting, but consider recording a few reflections for summer. They don’t need to be long, perhaps five minutes per episode. Make it easy and read your favorite “My Utmost for His Highest” devotions or long quotes from C.S. Lewis to reflect on. It’s a way to make a summer series inviting and a beginning point to listening online.
Summer Reading Anyone?
Do you have 10 great books to suggest for summertime reading? These can be of various lengths and levels. You can even narrow it further and pick three. Perhaps you can use it as a teaser for your fall small groups or even a Sunday night series after Labor Day. A few that I’d pick include Miracles by C.S. Lewis, Smoke on the Mountain by Joy Davidman, Creation and Fall by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Joshua by Jospeh Girzone, The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, and The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer.
Host a Beach Sunday!
If you’re near a beach, even better. Take church outside one weekend. If you’re landlocked, then bring the beach to church. Perhaps it becomes more like a picnic outside or beach-themed inside. There are great stories that involve the beach in the Bible, from Jonah’s unfortunate encounter with the big fish to Jesus cooking up fish at the end of John’s Gospel. You can bring in Psalm 33:1-7 as a reading. It says, “He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses.” Psalm 65:7-8 is a good one too. It says that God, “stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples, so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs.”
Summer In The Bible
You might be surprised at the number of references to summer in the Bible, like Luke 21:30, “As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near”, and Proverbs 26:1, “Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, so honor is not fitting for a fool.” This is a great Instagram series or simply a good starter for a series of sermons on summer and how God communicates with us during this time between Trinity Sunday and Advent, the next major period in the church calendar.
Whatever you plan this summer, it’s important for us to find ways that engage our parishioners so they can grow in personal discipleship and in community together. Summer offers a time to slow down on some activities, but that makes it a ripe time to be more diligent about pursuing God and loving our neighbor.
Zach Kincaid is a part of the Sharefaith Editorial Team. He manages workoutyourfaith.com and has written on C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, and general Christian thought for more than 15 years. He is a husband, father, and collaborator on a variety of Christian outreach projects, including films and educational resources.