It is difficult to look out into your congregation during the summer. Summer services have had a tendency to suck the life out of me. We average about 90 in worship but during the summer it is down to 60. When one third of your congregation is gone, it can be disheartening. I know this is not my personal phenomenon, it is something almost every minister experiences. This summer I have been trying to figure out how to deal with it, positively and not get distraught or disheartened.
UM Communications just sent out ideas on how to promote summer services. Their ideas range from door prizes, costumes, to teddy bears that travel with children so they can come back and share their experience. All of these fell flat though because it seems like stage shows or bribes. I confess I am trying to do something different this summer. I asked people in my congregation and people on Facebook to ask questions they have always wanted to hear discussed from the pulpit. Questions about God, the Bible, United Methodism, whatever. I got some really good questions. For example this week my sermon is on the question, “Why does God love me when he knows who and what I am?” I mean, WOW!
At the end of the UM article Tony Kummer gives some advice that I think is the best.
- Thank God for those who come – regardless of the size of the crowd.
- Pray for those who are absent, even if they are just on vacation. Pray extra for those who are just getting extra sleep.
- Preach with all your might because every churchgoer matters to God.
- Take advantage of the smaller crowd to build relationships.
- Keep working hard and trust God to bring in the numbers.
We are entrusted to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If 20 people show up, they should hear the Gospel. If 2000 people come, they should hear the gospel. This little sermon series has helped me survive the summer [thus far] because I have had to dive into deep questions of faith and God. In doing so I haven’t been so obsessed about the numbers and more concentrated on preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The truth is we shouldn’t feel like we have to compete with the world. We shouldn’t have to make church more exciting than the annual beach vacation through props and shows. Jesus is exciting enough on his own. We should just preach Jesus to whoever is there to hear us and thank God someone showed up!