As the warmer weather approaches, calendars fill up with vacations, sports, and other fun activities to take advantage of the summer sun! If you are a church leader, you have probably seen how this season impacts attendance at your church.
This dip in attendance is commonly referred to as the “summer slump.” Churches see attendance hit an all-time low as the snowbirds return to their summer homes, college students travel back to their home states, and parents are looking for ways to occupy their kids during the break from school.
Even after years of recognizing this as “normal,” this can be a discouraging reality for leaders. We can start to see it as a setback rather than an opportunity. We can focus in on the stark difference from where we may have been a month ago in comparison to where we are now.
While you can’t bypass the summer slowdown/slump altogether, we’ve got a few tips for church leaders to help deal with the summer slump and prioritize your church calendar:
1) Set Realistic Expectations
This is first for a reason. It’s important that you intentionally don’t become discouraged when you see the summer slump start to impact your attendance.
It truly is normal for the large majority of churches to see a dip in attendance, and it is in some ways unavoidable. By setting realistic expectations, you can guard yourself against feeling major disappointment or discouragement when those numbers start to dip.
Your expectations and goals may even need to change over the summer months in comparison to the rest of the year. You may find yourself targeting different types of goals during this season (such as vision clarity, team growth, or digital ministry milestones rather than attendance metrics).
2) Get Creative with Your Ministry
During the summer months, it might be difficult for some people to show up on a Sunday morning consistently. But that doesn’t have to mean they want to be disconnected from their church community during this time.
Look for ways to minister to your members and community outside of your prescribed service times. Look for local festivals, events, and service projects that you can participate in as a church and have a presence at to invest in the community.
This typically requires creativity, and that can be an exciting opportunity for you and your team to problem-solve together. Rather than focusing on the question, Why aren’t our people showing up right now?, we can focus on, What creative opportunities are there to show up for our community in a fresh way right now?
3) Prioritize Digital Ministry
If you haven’t already, this is a great time to consider digital ministry options that people can partake in whenever it fits their schedule. Some questions to ask: How can we add value to people’s spiritual life through a digital ministry? Can we provide resources for a family worship night? Or maybe bite-sized devotionals that can easily be done in 5-10 minutes? The possibilities are endless to provide alternative ways to keep people connected to your church online.
This is a great time to be reminded of the reality that digital ministry is not “second-rate” ministry. When we can show up in meaningful ways in the places that our congregation and community are spending time, we have the opportunity to make a real difference in their day-to-day life. That’s exciting!
4) Make Giving Accessible
Just because people are less likely to be physically at your church every week over the summer doesn’t mean that they don’t want to give regularly. Make sure your giving is accessible to those members with busy schedules.
Online giving is a great way to provide flexible options to your members, whether they want to give once or set up a recurring monthly gift. Make sure your members know online giving is an option before the summer slump is in full swing!
5) Plan Ahead for the Fall
Remember all those times that you’ve wanted to do some strategic planning, but have felt too “in the weeds” of the day-to-day requirements of church leadership?
This might just be your opportunity!
With a decrease in attendance, the summer slowdown is the perfect time to review and plan for the Fall and the vision your church should be pursuing moving forward.
Set aside some time to review any systems you currently have in place and see if there is a way to improve them. When involvement gets more consistent, how will your ministry need to change? What initiatives need to be planned out now to be most effective? What goals and milestones feel important for the church as a whole to pursue and champion together? What major areas of growth do you and your team have?
6) Provide Special Events for the Whole Family
With children out of school and one or both parents working, it can be difficult to find events the whole family can enjoy. Take note of the demographic of your church: Do you have more families, singles, or young couples? Then look around to the demographics of your community: What kinds of events will serve your community best?
Depending on what you find, you might consider offering VBS, movie nights, water park days, or picnics in the park. By offering events that help bring the family together, you can make sure connecting with your church feels beneficial to those you’re trying to reach and doesn’t feel like another obligation to fill-up their busy calendar even more.
The summer slowdown/slump can be discouraging if you aren’t prepared for this season and don’t adjust what your church offers to support your community. If your church needs help setting up online giving or adding systems to be better prepared to get back into your stride in the Fall, now is the perfect time to try out a demo of One Church Software.