05 Jul How to Boost Parishioner Involvement Throughout the Summer
Summer break. What more magical words are there? This is deeply embedded into most adults memories of childhood. The idea of breaking out of the school routine for a couple months, where you can direct your own time and play. Many teachers also vocally count down the days until they go into their warm-weather sabbatical. It seems the only people who aren’t happy are the parents in households where both parents have jobs outside the home. They miss the extra childcare help that the school provides. There is another group. These people wring their hands silently worrying, stressed by the bleak prospects of summer with empty halls and low participation, these people are your church leaders.
The behavior patterns of most churches echo the public school year. People are conditioned to disengage from corporate activities and go into a season of travel, sports, play and rest. Many churches see a huge drop in congregational attendance during the summer months. This hurts the church financially and also is an emotional blow to the church leaders who go on doing the good work and caring for the community.
It isn’t hopeless. Many churches take advantage of this change of the shift in behavior among their members with exciting and engaging activities. This is a time when some members have a lot of extra time on their hands. You just have to stay flexible and communicate clearly what is going on.
Reaching out to the community
The first and most appropriate direction church effort can be directed during the summer is out into the community. People come out of their homes and visit with their neighbors. Parents are always looking for things to do as a family so their kids aren’t spending the whole summer playing video games.
Summer events like Fairs, Festivals, Picnics and BBQ’s are a great way to build good relations with the people your church serves. These can also be tied to holiday celebrations for memorial day weekend, fourth of july, labor day weekend. If your church is near a community fireworks display, you can organize a plan to welcome families to use the church campus for nighttime viewing.
If you don’t have a good view, but do have a good parking lot, you can build community relations by hosting a safe place for visitors to park. If parking is in too high demand, like an urban or downtown location to just offer it for free, you can get creative and turn these valuable parking spaces into our next activity… fundraisers.
Fun Fundraisers – Giving often drops off during the summer months. Unless members automate their financial contributions (tithes and offerings) their absence causes the financial contributions to fall victim to out of sight, out of mind.
A church budget should be planned with this slump in giving in mind. Perhaps your congregation is well managed in this way and you aren’t hurting for money. You can still direct unfocused energy and money into God’s work. We mentioned the summer events, those certainly would cost money to put on. Your church can also take on a special mission during the summer. You could help build an orphanage or children’s home around the world. You could help a town dig a well so that a community can have clean water.
Showing others how to care for those outside of their personal sphere is a great step toward internal wellness and maturity.
Strengthen internal church community
Working side-by-side while reaching out to those outside the church has a great benefit of strengthening internal bonds and building new friendships among the congregation. There are other internally focused efforts to further strengthen these bonds so that they continue far into the months ahead.
Church-led mission trips are great in several ways. When a team of adults or youth travel across the globe to meet and help others, it shows people around the world they are loved. There is another benefit that is known by church leaders but often not spoken, people who go on mission trips are affected deeply by the experience.
Even those who don’t go get to participate by helping to raise money or to prepare for the send-off and homecoming events. You can keep those who aren’t traveling involved by sharing social media updates during trip.
It is common to hear among participants of a mission trip that they feel like the trip did more for them that for the people they traveled to help. It is true. Trips like these build a lifelong passion for helping others and caring for missions around the world.
You don’t always have to travel far to help. Doing a project for local members who need help and attention. The elderly may need some yard clean-up. A single mom may need a respite to get out for a break. You can organize a youth activity for the children of these mom’s where they can get out and have fun and not have to worry about their kids for a couple hours.
Summer youth activities
Kids can grow at church camps and other summer programs. Getting kids to come to VBS (vacation bible school) is one of the ways to get nearby families to visit your church. The kids have fun and often bring their parents back on Sunday!
Summer activities like these are good ways for reluctant adults to begin working in the church. Teachers can put their skills to work in these programs. Others who may have down-time but prefer a behind-the-scenes role can get involved by driving a bus, preparing a snack or a craft or even building a fun set for the stage. People who give their time and energy, tend to participate more because of the feeling they are a part of something exciting.
Parishioners or church members can and should be invited to help church staff brainstorm or create goals to be reached by end of summer. Here is a list of activities and achievements that The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston did to encourage a boost in participation at their churches and in their communities.
Choosing a couple events and communicating and coordinating them well, can go a long way to boosting summer participation. Often the change of pace and new mix of faces can have an energizing effect on the upcoming Fall through Christmas season.