Summer is a slow, low period for many churches. After all, summer is vacation time, and the pastor himself is often missing from his pulpit. He must attend the camp meeting and help at summer camp. Then there is his three- or four-week vacation. So with the pastor's absences, as well as those of vacationing members, the church can easily catch the "ho hum" spirit.
This condition is unfortunate and in many instances unnecessary. A good businessman tries his best to keep his business going full speed ahead at all times. If he sees that the business is beginning to slow down he immediately tries to identify the cause and find a remedy. Why should he stand by and watch his business lose customers, its good image, or any of its potential to serve? Similarly, the good pastor should not unnecessarily allow his church to lose the momentum it has been building for the nine months before summer.
Recently a group of ministers gave considerable thought and study to the question, How can we avoid the summer slump? Here are some of the suggestions that were made:
1. Make up your ministerial mind that with God's help there will be a summer jump instead of a slump—that your church will be growing instead of slowing. Ask God for guidance.
2. Take your vacation, or at least part of it, at another time of the year. If you must take part of it during the summer, plan that it be taken close enough to home so that you can be in your pulpit on Sabbath.
3. Unless your church is in the far north, initiate a plan for installing an air-conditioning system. Some members might think such a system an extravagance. Remind them that the. church is a center for winning souls and its effectiveness as such can be enhanced by air conditioning. A short time ago a pastor informed me he had just discovered that several interested persons were attending his church instead of another one down the street simply be cause his church was air conditioned.
4. About the third week in May (after planning with the proper committees) begin your "Up With Summer" campaign. Preach a sermon on "Summer: a Time of Harvest" or "What Will You Do This Summer?" Proverbs 10:5 could serve as the key text. Point out the fact that in the summer months some are tempted to break the good habit of regular church attendance and become spiritually lazy. Emphasize the fact that the summer offers many opportunities for reaping a harvest of souls. It is a time when one can develop his talents as a worker in God's vineyard.
Share with the congregation some of the concrete plans that will be implemented for church growth, spiritual development, and evangelistic outreach during the approaching summer.
Before the next Sabbath rolls around send out a church letter reflecting the same ideas and plans mentioned the previous Sabbath. Encourage the elders to speak positively of these great summer plans as they systematically visit the other members. Of course, you will be making the same emphasis in your visitation program.
5. The youth activities committee should plan some kind of summer-witness pro gram. It could take the form of "singins" at the local park. This should be preceded by some practice sessions in which not only the musical aspects could be worked out but also the spiritual. The participating youth must be shown how to lead a person to Christ as Lord and Saviour. At the close of the sing-in one of the musicians could very simply state that he and the others leading out would like to "get acquainted with you, and if some of you have hang-ups with drugs, parents, or what have you, maybe we can help. Anyway, before we leave let's rap a little." As they meet and talk individually to those who remain, there will be opportunities to point some to Christ as the way to real living, and as the answer to guilt, purposelessness, and powerlessness.
It would be well to take some appropriate gospel tracts along dealing with basic issues such as God, sin, salvation, victorious living, health, and the future. These should have the name, address, and telephone numbers of the local church stamped on them along with the hours services are held. Such tracts would leave the recipient with a concrete reminder of the conversation he has had with the Christian he met at the sing-in and it would also give him additional information and encouragement.
6. Hold an evangelistic series of meetings. Make it different. Use a different technique. If necessary, invite a nearby pastor to do the speaking, or use an unusual means of illustrating our messages. These meetings could begin in the second half of the summer and should be preceded with a preparatory visitation pro gram carried out by willing members. The sing-in group will by this time have some interested persons ready to attend. Letters of invitation should be sent to interests found through other channels such as the Voice of Prophecy, Faith for Today, et cetera.
7. Summer brings opportunities to use the out-of-doors for the benefit of the en tire church. Church picnics can be a welcome variation from the indoor activities of the cooler part of the year. Such picnics should be promoted not only as a time to develop the togetherness of families and of the church membership as a whole but also as an appropriate time to invite neighbors and friends. Many have found their first interest in the church and in Christ at a church picnic.
This list of suggestions for an "Up With Summer" campaign could be extended, but the main idea is simply to constructively anticipate the summer. Use your imagination. Have a plan and do your best to implement it. Up with summer for the glory of God!