It’s not a secret that church attendance significantly drops in the summer months. After all, it’s vacation season. School is out, the weather is warm, and the beach is calling.
Welcome to what has become known as the “summer slump.”
As humidity is rising and attendance is dropping, we might be tempted to give only a half-hearted effort to children's ministry. After all, isn't summer meant to be a time for rest and relaxation?
While summer certainly should be a time to renew your strength and refresh your spirit, that’s not all that it can or should be.
“By God’s design, summer is a season of growth and fruitfulness. And summer can be a time of tremendous creativity and growth in our churches, if we are willing to make the effort.” - Ann Michel
Consider these often overlooked sides of summer and see how each one presents you with a rare opportunity to engage your community, serve your families and perhaps, as a by-product, boost your summer attendance.
Summer is a season of searching
Many new people are moving into your community and are looking for a new church home.
What would it look like for you to be at the top of your game to receive the visitors God may bring your way this summer: families who send their kids to your vacation Bible school, people who move to your neighborhood, or people just passing through?
Make sure your website is both accurate and accessible. Before someone steps their foot into your church building, they will first go to your website or Facebook page. Most of the people will have this question on their mind, "What does this church have to offer my children?" In many cases, they will choose to come or not come to your church based on how you answered that question.
Have a trained hospitality team in place, ready to welcome visiting families, guide them through the check-in process, help them find their way around your building and answer their questions. Parents will forget what the pastor preached about that Sunday and their children will forget the Bible lesson that was taught, but they will not forget how they felt while visiting your church. Make sure that visiting families feel genuinely welcomed every single Sunday.
Send fun mail*. Make yourself unforgettable by mailing each new child that visited your church a surprise package. It can be a bouncy ball, a Frisbee or a spinner with your children’s ministry logo and a card with a handwritten message from one of the class leaders. (Did you know that you don’t need to wrap a Frisbee or a ball? Just stick the stamp and address label and brighten a child’s day.) Be sure to include information about upcoming events like VBS, day camp, movie night, etc. This will make a great impression on families and give them a reason to come back.
*HERE is a list of 21 fun things you can send in the mail without wrapping them. Being unforgettable can really be this easy and fun!
Summer is a season of boredom
Children have all the time in the world and no idea what to do with it. Parents feel like they will lose their mind if they hear their children say, “I am bored!” one more time.
Can you think of any ways your church could provide families with some fun and affordable cures for their summertime, stuck-at-home blues?
You know that the first thing many children will ask their parents in the morning is, “Are we doing anything fun today?”
What can you do to be part of the answer?
Sponsor a Summer Family Challenge where families tackle various missions and earn points. With this challenge you can take the most dreadful tasks like going 3 days without sugary snacks and drinks, giving up all screens for X number of days, raising money for a missionary, writing a letter to grandparent, reading a book and so on, and turn them into exciting assignments each one earning points and bringing the families closer to the desirable prize. Click HERE to DOWNLOAD the Summer Family Challenge you can use right away.
Offer special events that entire families can participate in. You can pick one day in a week and give it a fun name like Terrific Tuesdays, Wacky Wednesdays, Fun Day Sundays and so on. Each time do something different. Your options are limitless. LEGO® day, Nerf® wars, paint night, movie night, cookie bake off, wild water day (get out the hoses, the sprinklers, bubble machines, some inflatable pools, and don’t forget the water balloons; water slide would be a bonus), board games night, nature or photo scavenger hunt, talent show, lawn party, slime party, and on, and on, and on.
Summer is a season of stress
As soon as the school is out, many parents are faced with grueling questions like: "Who will look after my kids?" "How do I go about making meals for kids?" "How can I give them a memorable summer without breaking the bank?" "What can I do to make sure they’re safe?" Summer season is an especially tricky and stressful time for single parents and children of divorce.
How could you extend care and support to these families and help them beat the summer stress?
Offer exciting day trips for parents and children. Be mindful of expenses, make stipends available. Such group outings will provide a great way for parents and children to have shared experiences and build fun memories without the pressure of planning and figuring out many stressful details.
Offer childcare. Single parents often work many hours per week and do not want to ask for help. They may even work a second or third job, or be attending a local college, too. Babysitting can be expensive. By providing occasional childcare, you will bless them with a much needed breathing room.
Summer is a season of loneliness
Most children will tell you that the hardest part of the summer months is not getting to see their friends as often as they do in school. TV shows and video games are more than happy to fill in the space created by the lack of human interaction, but perhaps your church could offer something much more wholesome and memorable then all of the Youtube channels put together?
Any ideas what it might be?
Host a day camp where kids can have fun, learn new skills and make new friends. Consider the following three directions for a day camp:
1. Sports Camp (baseball, soccer, flag football, dance, etc.)
2. Creative Camp (reading, writing, painting, acting, singing, playing an instrument, clay modelling, photography, journalism, sculpting, quilting, knitting, scrapbooking, stamping, gift-card making, etc.)
3. Life Skills Camp (cooking, sewing, entrepreneurship, housekeeping, woodworking, gardening, cake making, etc.)
Look at your church, and no doubt you will find built-in coaches, tutors and mentors who’ll be thrilled at the invitation to pass on their knowledge and skill set to the new generation.
Equip the families in your church to host a one day backyard VBS. Family-driven VBS is easy to implement, it doesn’t involve a lot of expenses, it’s fun and it makes it possible for parents and children to be on the mission together. If you’re interested to learn about this model of ministry, click HERE.
Host play dates in the park or on the church grounds. This is a great way to let moms with young children get some interaction with other adults while their children play together.
Take a moment to look at these four challenges. Better yet, gather your team and go over this list together.
Do these questions reflect experiences of the families in your church? How about your wider community? Is there a way your church could address some of these challenges in creative and practical ways?
Have you noticed that these challenges actually offer you a gift—numerous opportunities to put God’s love on display by serving the families in your community in a very meaningful way? Will you accept this gift or will you let another summer pass you by?
DON'T SETTLE FOR MEDIOCRE.
DON'T EMBRACE THE EASY.
You may not be able to solve all summer-related challenges, but you can tackle some of them, and as a result, your children's ministry will explode with new excitement. What could have been a period of stagnation will become a season of growth.
There is no universal plan of action that will work for every single church, but there is one thing that all of us can and should do—pray and ask for God’s input on the best use of this summer. God did not call you to be a copycat. He wants you to be an original. Just because a certain idea works for the church across the road, doesn’t mean it will work for you.
Give God a chance to guide. Give this summer your best shot. Give your community the best of you and watch what a difference it will make!
I would love to hear how your church beats the summer slump. Let me know in the comments.