7 Ways Your Church Can Beat The Summer Slump

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I have my good friend and partner, Jerry Lawson, on the line with me, and we are about to dive into a pretty relevant topic for this time of year and it's called 7 Ways Your Church Can Beat the Summer Slump. You guys know as well as we do summer's coming, and there is not a lot you can do about it. The heat is here, and it is time to get your church ready to be able to survive those lean weekends and those lean collection plates. Jerry, first of all, just wanted to say thanks again for taking the time to do this and really enjoy doing these with you.

Absolutely. It's been fun and being able to just speak to some great pastors is a joy of mine. Let me say this too Richard, you may have planned on mentioning this, but all the great testimonies of Easter with our churches that are involved in 24toDouble have been amazing. I know a lot of you guys are listening right now, and it really pumps me and Richard up whenever we hear about the great results, all the people who came, how many gave their life to Christ, and it's been amazing. Keep those good testimonies coming for sure.

Yes, I should have mentioned that off the top. That has been a huge encouragement to me as I sit here and try to find ways to serve you guys and get more churches involved. Man, that's like fuel for us over here. Diving right into this, hey, Jerry, I talked to a pastor this morning, and one of the things that we got talking about was just how difficult this season can be, and this guy's already having a pretty rough time. Before we dive into the seven things, let me ask you this. What's the worst summer you've ever had with your church?

What's the worst season for church growth?

Wow. I don't know. I'd have to say it was the time we were building our existing facility. I was making decisions every day based on finances back then. It's only been about five years ago, but there wasn't a whole lot of electronic giving going on, and so when the summer came and our finances took a dip and I'm spending money like crazy because I'm building a new big building, the attendance took a dip. I'm building a bigger building with twice the seating, and I'm hearing the enemy scream in my ear, "You've lost your mind, you know. You're putting more seats in when, you know, you got a lower attendance. You're spending more money when you've got lesser deposits each weekend."

If you don't get your head around the season, where you are, what's happening, you don't learn how to flow with the cycles of a church, then it'll mess with your head, for sure, and I've been there.

That's big church problems. It is and the interesting thing, with my background in building churches, sometimes I would go into interview with the church or something and they would talk about "Hey well our previous building has had such a good experience" and all this kind of stuff, and I'd always respond and say "You didn't have anything to do with it did you?" Because, if you have a good experience building a building you did it wrong. You weren't involved enough or something like that.

I tell you, I know for me, if I would say one of the most challenging seasons I've had in either ministry or serving ministries was probably last summer, and the only reason I mention that is because we were starting out 24toDouble, trying to get our arms around this thing. I'd committed to some stuff with you and Lance and walked away thinking do I really know what I'm doing with this thing? The point I want to make is, it can consume your entire being when you're having a difficulty in the thing that you're called to do. It seeps into every area of your life, and if you're in that season right now I would just tell you this, that often times before you're gonna have the breakthrough, you gotta have a breakdown. Maybe that's where you are right now and we're heading into summer, and we're about to do this webinar and you're already feeling the weight of everything that's going on and then here summer's coming. So i just want to tell you that if you're struggling, you're still heading in the right direction, okay?

Is this it?

I would definitely say there have been many times where I realized that what I signed up for is not what I thought it was going to be. For sure. It's been a very humbling experience, the challenges ... I've just had lunch today with a great man, you know him, Malcolm Carter, Pastor of Temple Baptist Church, one of the top 100 fastest growing churches in America, and he was one of our first 24toDouble churches. He and I were just talking about how the larger the church gets, the more humbling it is because the challenges just get bigger and you have to rely on God more. I remember when the finances were low early on at Daystar. If we couldn't pay the bills, I could just not take my salary that week and we could pay the bills. Today, if I don't take my salary it doesn't make any difference. That's not gonna fix the bill problem at Daystar. There are many times you go "Wow, I really thought having a larger church was going to be different than it is," and I can remember when the church was smaller. There's a lot of things about that I just didn't expect it to be the way that it was.

Through it all I just knew that it was about the people. There's always people showing up. They need encouragement, they need love, they need their life to be changed, they need salvation, and to meet Jesus, and that is what I signed up for. Through all the challenges of ups and downs, there's always people showing up. Not always as many as I want, but there's always people showing up and that was why I got in it. I'm sure every pastor listening to this right now, you didn't get in it to be on TBN, you didn't get in it to make a lot of money, you got in it for the people. Somebody's gonna show up this weekend, and you get the great honor of telling them the greatest story ever told and that's why you signed up, so I never lose sight of that fact.

Embrace the Season

First of all you've gotta learn to roll with the seasons. If you're not a 24 month pastor, where you change churches every 24 months, if you're gonna stick around, you're gonna have to learn how to embrace the season of your church, the season that you're in. The summer season, it's a fact, people are gonna go on vacation. About 25% of all vacations happen in the month of June. Now that leaves 75% for all the rest of the year. What that means is, most of your people are gonna be going on vacation. First week of June, first two weeks of June, I'm out of here. I'm gonna embrace the season, that's a good time for me to let someone else preach, and I'm not gonna fight it. I know that there's gonna be some really low days in attendance and some really low deposits, so what I want to do is don't get mad, get prepared.

What I mean by that is I'm gonna prepare. I'm gonna go and take my vacation at that time. I don't want to wait until everybody else is already taking up the calendar and everybody that's gonna take some time away, has taken their time and then I'm left being gone right as the summer is ending and the school year is ramping up. I'm gonna prepare and make sure I'm away at the time that most of my people are away. You can do that by just checking your attendance calendar, your attendance listing over the years. We find that actually our attendance tends to pick back up in July but it's really low in June and it picks up in July, so I get out in June.

Set aside some money

Another thing is I want to set aside some money. I don't want to spend all my money and be real tight without some funds set aside, because I know there are gonna be some really low weekends, so that's really important. Those are a couple of really good pointers.

Don't set big attendance goals

This is not a good time to get out there and say we're gonna break this attendance record. There have been seasons at Daystar where we did break some records in the summer, but by and large, year, after year, after year, that's not time to do that. It's not a time to add new services. If you've been busting at the seams, praise God. Maybe Easter was big for you this year and you're busting at the seams, that's great. That's a momentum builder. Let that stay like that. Keep talking about parking problems, keep talking about attendance problems, and seating problems because you're probably gonna have a little bit of a dip in the summer. Then go ahead and plan for the fall to be when you add new services.

Another thing I say is, if God wakes you up in the night with this burning sermon series, now if you have to preach it right now that's great, maybe God's spoken to you and it's right now, but think about "Can I put this on hold?" Let that be my big fall series, because if that's the one you're the most passionate about, that's when most of the lost people are gonna be there. That's when most of the friends are gonna invite their other friends so that's another thing. Don't put your best sermon series in the summer.

Groom the bullpen

You've got some people who want to preach, and this is your opportunity to let them speak. The attendance is gonna be low, people are looking for you every weekend if you're the senior pastor, and you can't make them happy every weekend, so let this be the weekend that you're not speaking. Just go ahead and attend your church. Just show up. Come late even maybe, come five minutes before service time and figure out what it looks like for a first time guest. Walk into children's church, check out what's going on over there. Sit in the back and just see what it's like. You might find out that there's Grand Central Station at the back door in and out, and you never noticed it. This is a good opportunity to do some of those things like that, that you've been thinking about.

Watch your budget to grow your church

Let me circle back to one thing from earlier about putting money aside for the summer. In my years working with churches doing consulting, when we were getting ready to build, we'd always have to have the conversation about making sure that you are not making decisions that are gonna affect your building budget two years down the road. So if we know we're gonna start to build this building in a year and a half, we've gotta start getting ready now. Then you have to look at all the other decisions that you would normally make in the course of ministry, hiring staff, those kind of things. Big decisions that you're gonna make, those things would impact your ability to fund the building project in a smaller way but in the same vein. In your church right now, if you know summer's coming, a lot of times financial decisions get dispersed across a staff.

So you want to be able to take a look at any expenditures that don't need to happen this time of year, you want to make sure that you're in control of those. Especially if they're larger expenditures to make sure that you're not taking cash from a place or time of year where you don't have it. So it makes sense to spend a little extra time preparing for that. If you're hiring a staff person and you can hold off, say it's a student pastor or something like that, I know there's a lot of summer activities but the real time that ... Summer activities will not grow your church, they just won't. Your church grows in the fall, and it grows in the spring, sometimes at the beginning of the year, but summer activities are at best, an opportunity to make relationships, get contact information that we can promote the big growth season in the fall.

If you're hiring a youth pastor, it might be a good idea to just wait. Hire him in August, let him get his feet on the ground, let him get to know the students a little bit. Then come September, late August, school ramps up, that's a great time for him to really start getting a hold of these kids. If you know the budget's gonna be tight, don't hire him in June, don't hire him in May, wait a couple of months. Make it happen towards the end of the summer when, you know, your givers are getting back in off of vacation and you can handle that. We're gonna talk a little bit more about giving a little bit later on, but that's one thing to think about in terms of what the offering is gonna be like and knowing it's gonna be down a little bit.