5 Ways to Keep Ministries Alive in the Summer

In our last blog, we covered the dos and don’ts of changing service times at your church. But what about those churches that cancel almost everything during the summer?

I recently read about a church that shuts down their entire church during the month of July every year. This is to encourage the congregation to spend time connecting with their families. They don’t offer Bible studies, student ministry, or even a Sunday morning service during this time. Similarly, in the summer months, many churches consolidate worship services, shut down discipleship (small groups, bible studies, and student ministry, etc.) because they see a decline in attendance. They also face many of their dedicated volunteers throughout the year wanting to take a break from leading and serving to vacation or spend time with family.

While there are significant benefits to taking a break and being with your family, I would argue that churches may be missing a chance to connect in a deeper way with people who are finally able to start attending a church in the summer months because the busyness of the school year has finally slowed down. When they come, not being able to experience the full ministries of the church could deter them from coming back again. Furthermore, the very action of stopping those ministries sends a message that taking a break from communal worship and faith formation is okay.

Furthermore, the very action of stopping those ministries sends a message that taking a break from communal worship and faith formation is okay.

There are ways to keep your church’s ministries alive in the summer while still creating margin for rest and family time. 

  1. Take a short break. Jeff Moran, Pastor of Students and Missions at Lynwood Baptist Church stated, “I do think it is appropriate to take a short break at the end of the school year…in my opinion, no longer than two weeks.” Having this short break in your ministries gives everyone a chance to rest, but then hopefully will bring people back revitalized and ready to continue ministry. Cutting ministries eliminates an outreach opportunity to those seeking out a church. Keeping ministries going increases your opportunity for reaching more people, especially our youth, who need more positive options to counter the negative ones they are facing daily.

  2. Focus on who came. Right now, you might be thinking that your church cuts summer services because hardly anyone shows up. Does it really matter if only 20 people show up to worship on Sunday morning or to a youth group on Wednesday night? It shouldn’t. Those 20 people obviously want to be there. Remember, Jesus started with a following of only 12 and look how his ministry spread. Rather than focus on who isn’t there, your church can concentrate on who is there. Sometimes it’s nice to have a smaller group of people to worship with, and this can be a time where you create a more intimate service with acoustic worship and time for prayer. A smaller group (assuming it is smaller) also allows you to create more opportunities for connection with others. 

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  1. Know Your Options. In one breath, we are saying don’t cut ministries, but in another, we also need to acknowledge how hard our pastors, church staff, and volunteers work serving throughout the year, and could really use a break. If your regular volunteers need a break, start recruiting early for others to step in and take their place. There are people in your church who may not commit to serving during the school year but are willing to pinch hit during the summer months to give others a break. Summer is also a great time to bring in guest speakers, and sources like RightNow Media offer video-driven studies that your church can participate in together with minimal preparation on the part of your pastor. 
  1. Provide Variety. Maybe it’s important for your church to switch it up and try out a new way of doing things during the summer. Moran had this to say about how he changes up student ministries over the summer: “Providing variety with your summer schedule is a good thing because I think it breaks the monotony of doing the same thing as you do during the school year. I also think it provides some excitement, and when students get excited about something, they are more likely to invite a friend.” Lower pressure events are a great gateway experience that can lead to someone attending your church. 
  1. Be Intentional. When asked about why he chooses to have an ongoing youth ministry in the summer, Moran said, “Students need consistency and encouragement. We continue to meet in the summer to help students be consistent in their relationship with the Lord and in their relationship with other students…Our relationship with God doesn’t stop with the summer, so we do not want to give the impression to students that they should take the summer off.This really goes for everyone, not just students. By keeping your church services and ministries going through the summer months, you set the tone that connecting with God matters all throughout the year not just during the school year.

Our relationship with God doesn’t stop with the summer, so we do not want to give the impression to students that they should take the summer off.

Does your church keep its ministries alive in the summer or have you found an approach that works better? Let us know in the comments.

 

About Faith Perceptions
Faith Perceptions is a market research firm that provides churches and faith-based organizations with research about their target market. We send ‘unchurched’ mystery guests into churches across the country each week to report back to us on what their experiences are like. We use this information to help churches improve the way they welcome and connect with people. Faith Perceptions has been evaluating the first-time guest experience since 2008.

Dear Church: Are you About to Change Service Times? Read This First.

During the summer months and holidays throughout the year, churches change service times. Some do it to accommodate an increase in attendance. Most though, do it to accommodate the needs of the church and a decrease in attendance, especially during the summer months. While both have different reasons, what they typically have in common is failing to let people outside of the church know about it.  We can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen a church change service times or combine a service, and the only people that know about it are the ones who regularly attend the church.

“I arrived at the church for the second service only to learn that they had a combined service that day and it was half over.”

If your church is considering changing things up over the summer, here are some things you can do to make it go smoothly and avoid confusion:

Decide Early. If your church is considering combining your services for the summer or maybe you’re going to cancel your evening service over the summer, make that decision now and start talking about it. That also includes any other program you are discontinuing over the summer months.

 Prepare Your Teams. Any changes like this should be clearly communicated to your staff and volunteers BEFORE you start announcing it to everyone else. This will ready those that work or serve at the church to prepare for the change before it happens.

Get the Word Out. Start advertising a change in service times 4-6 weeks prior. You’ll want to communicate the reason for the change so everyone understands. Announce it during your services (using a video can make it more memorable), include a reminder in the bulletin, update your website with a banner ad and information, and put it on your social media profiles. The week before the change, be sure your outside signs reflect those new times as well.

Summer Schedule

“As a guest, I was a bit disappointed to find out the service had already started. This was my first church service that I had ever attended voluntarily.”

Check and Check Again. This point is one of the main reasons we decided to write about this. It’s interesting how often we find discrepancies in the available information about a church’s service times. We often research this type of information for our clients and, not surprisingly, we find that different sources of communication all show different information. For example, the social media pages and home page on the website list the service times differently than the calendar page on the website. We’ve even called a church’s voicemail and found the service times listed inaccurately. Regularly check across all communication methods to make sure that you are being consistent in your communication.

“I checked the church’s website and found incorrect information that led me to the church at the wrong time. I visited thinking I was attending the 9:30 service only to find that they switched to their Fall schedule and now had two services.”

Be Creative. During the holidays or any other highly attended service throughout the year where there will be an increase in attendance, consider adding more seating and ask your regular attenders to go to a service where guests are less likely to attend (hint: later services are usually more popular among church visitors). For those holidays where you know that adding more seating won’t accommodate the increase in attendance, try keeping your main service times the same and adding an earlier or later service to the schedule. This will cut down on confusion with any changes.

 Don’t. Consistency is best and every time we see a church make a change, there is usually confusion. Not to mention that it causes everyone to have to get used to doing something new. If you don’t have a really good reason for changing service times, just don’t do it.

What has your church done to successfully create a smooth transition in schedule change?

 

About Faith Perceptions
Faith Perceptions is a market research firm that provides churches and faith-based organizations with research about their target market. We send mystery guests into churches across the country each week to report back to us on what their experiences are like. We use this information to help churches improve the way they welcome and connect with guests. Faith Perceptions has been evaluating the first-time guest experience since 2008.

 

6 Ways a Church Can Really Honor Moms on Mother’s Day

After Christmas and Easter, Mother’s Day is the third highest attended Sunday of the year. Not only will you see lots of moms on Mother’s Day, you’ll also see the people they care about…the ones who don’t usually come any other time of the year.

Moms have no shame in playing the “All I want for Mother’s Day is for my family to come to church with me” card. And since moms work really hard all year, often without any thanks, and don’t get paid for their mom duties, that card usually works.

While you may have already planned what you are going to do this weekend to honor moms, here are six things that you should be thinking about:

  1. Know What Matters Most. Moms know that getting their family to come to church this Sunday is only one part of their plan. Inside, they are praying and hoping that aside from being acknowledged and appreciated, something even more important will happen – something meaningful that will influence those they care about to come back again. Plan your services knowing that just like Easter and Christmas, you will have people visiting that aren’t connected to a church community and may not be connected to any faith whatsoever. If you really want to honor moms, make it a point to also connect with the people they care about.Picture1
  2. Remember Moms. This is probably obvious, but I’ve actually attended a service on Mother’s Day where moms were barely even acknowledged. Moms get that they aren’t going to be the main attraction (and shouldn’t be), but it is nice when they are at least remembered on a day that’s supposed to be dedicated to them. Take time to sincerely thank and encourage mothers, including those women who have been “spiritual mothers” to others.
  3. Encourage Other Mothers. At one church service I attended, the pastor invited three women in different stages of motherhood to join him at the front of the church for a short interview. One mother had preschool aged children, one had teenaged children, and one was an empty-nester. Even though this was a very short portion of the service, it was significant and gave them an opportunity to encourage other moms. Testimonials are powerful and who better to encourage a mom than another mom?
  4. Make them Laugh. Even on Mother’s Day, moms don’t get a break from the daily routine of getting kids ready and getting everyone out the door. Why not start your service out with a funny video like this that will make them laugh and acknowledges the everyday challenges of being a mom.lightstock_90290_full_kate
  5. Be Sensitive. Remember that there will be mothers of all kinds attending your service on Mother’s Day. This includes those moms who may have lost a child (or a child who lost their mom), those that are estranged from their kids, foster moms, those who struggle with infertility, or those waiting on the adoption papers to come through, stepmothers, etc. You’ll want to be sensitive to those situations and provide encouragement to them as well.
  6. Be Hospitable. For some, this is the only invitation to church they will agree to all year. There are a plethora of ideas and ways you can connect and make a positive first impression with people, and we’ve already written about them here.

Whatever your church decides to do for Mother’s Day, honoring moms should be a focus. A key way to do that is by not just remembering them, but by reaching out to those they have brought with them. How is your church honoring moms this Mother’s Day?

 

 

About Faith Perceptions
Faith Perceptions is a market research firm that provides churches and faith-based organizations with research about church visitors. We send unchurched people into churches across the country each week to report back to us on what their experiences are like. We use this information to help churches improve the way they welcome and connect with guests. Faith Perceptions has been helping churches gain an outside perspective of their church since 2008.

Church Outreach and Why It’s Not Working

What is outreach? The word itself literally means “to reach out” and “to reach further than,” but the definition doesn’t tell you to whom you should be reaching out and how to do it. What does that mean for your church?


Outreach literally means “to reach out,” and “to reach farther than,” but to whom?
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I want to define what we consider outreach to be. There are (in our opinion) two primary types of outreach we see happening within the churches we work with:

Transactional Outreach: Much like it sounds – a transaction. This type of outreach usually centers on partnerships with other charities or organizations to meet a monetary or other specific need. For example, a canned food or clothing drive, a special offering for a charity or local service organization, hosting a holiday meal or providing a meal for a family in need. This type of outreach is necessary and needed, but typically churches don’t go beyond meeting the need to engaging and building a relationship with the actual people they are helping.

Missional Outreach: This type of outreach moves from transactional to transformational. It involves a church’s time and presence. It is often coupled with some form of transactional outreach, but has a relational component to it. Examples of missional outreach involve a school tutoring program where the church is serving the same kids and families weekly; or a prison ministry where people go in week after week to walk alongside those people and minister to them; or instead of just providing a meal for a family in need, people from the church are having dinner with that family and building a relationship with them. The point of missional outreach is to build relationships and commit to the long haul.


Missional outreach is a mission to build relationships and a commitment to the long haul.
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Most churches we work with lean more toward doing transactional outreach and have very few outreaches that are missional or transformational. Other churches try to do so much and spread themselves so thin with lots of busy work that their efforts bear little fruit because they aren’t deeply committed in any one area.

Outreach Audit: Your church may already be doing some things that could easily become more missional. Start by making a list of the outreach your church is doing. Then ask the following questions:

  1. What is the purpose of this outreach?
  2. How is this helping us live out our mission as a church?
  3. Is the outreach is bearing fruit? We’re not just talking church growth here. Some outreach efforts won’t increase attendance at your church, but it should be measurable and missional.
  4. If the outreach is primarily transactional how can it become transformational?
  5. What is God doing? In other words, where is God leading you to focus your outreach and what is he asking you to stop doing?

If you are looking for ways to improve your missional outreach consider reading Missional Moves. This book dives deeper into helping your church take what you are already doing and align your efforts to your church’s mission.

What kind of outreach is your church doing that is missional?

 

About Faith Perceptions
Faith Perceptions is a market research firm that provides churches and faith-based organizations with research about their target market. We send mystery guests into churches across the country each week to report back to us on what their experiences are like. We use this information to help churches improve the way they welcome and connect with guests. Faith Perceptions has been evaluating the first-time guest experience since 2008.