As Memorial Day flew past us here in Florida it reminded us that summer is here. School is now out and the attendance on Sunday really showed :-) This is only our second summer as a church and I was thinking about some tips for surviving the summer as a church plant. Things are just different so I hope no matter what the size of your church these might fuel some creative thought:
Tip #1 - Put out fewer seats
Most of you meet in rented facilities or in ones that you can control the number of seats. If that is you then try putting out 25% fewer seats. Obviously, you want to keep some back ups ready to go at a moments notice, but put out fewer chairs. This does a couple things. It gives the illusion that you are still full and it is exciting when you have to take out chairs. One of the worst feelings in being in a room that is 1/2 full. Don't kill the feeling of momentum by having too many chairs in the summer. It also says something to your people when they see the ushers scrambling to set out more chairs. It says, "Wow! We have a big crowd today." I can't even tell you how many times we have had people comment on the crowd when it is no where near our high attendance. All because we first set out fewer chairs.
Tip #2 - Watch your bottom end
No, I am not talking about your butt. I'm talking about where the bottom of your attendance is. For us our bottom end has steadily grown from 30, 50, 70, and now about 90. In the summer you are not going to break any attendance barriers. But, if your bottom end is higher that means you have actually grown!
Tip #3 - Stress personal invites
Most of the time you don't do a lot of promotion in the summer. So make it a weekly habit of stressing to your people from the stage and in e-mail to BRING SOMEONE with them each week. Summer is a great time to connect people, but it takes the invites. Raise that bar in the summer at your church.
Tip #4 - Have a 4th of July picnic
Take advantage of the family and fun feel of Independence Day weekend. Last year our highest attendance day in the summer was July 4th weekend. Why? We had a picnic right on the grounds after the service. We got one of those inflatable games for the kids and just had fun being a church.
Tip #5 - Cast the vision
Summer is a great time to re-cast the vision of your church. It is a time to rally the troops around a common cause in the fall. Maybe it's a second service. Maybe it's a new children's environment. Maybe it's new small groups. Maybe it's moving to a new location in the fall. Find something and rally people around the cause.
Tip #6 - Relax your service
We do a lot of creative stuff at Church of the Suncoast in our services. We use a lot of media. In the summer relax a little and maybe do a little less. Allow yourself to just breathe. Keep the excellence there, but maybe scale back the creative stuff. Creative thinking is the most draining!
Tip #7 - Don't let camp happen on a Sunday
We are doing our first MS & HS camp this summer and I made it clear we can't have it overlap with the weekend service. It's all about Sunday and you need those young people there. Schedule camp during the week. For us that is another 15-20 butt's in seats.
Tip #8 - Take a Sunday off
I know as a church plant this seems like an impossibility, but this summer I am going to do just that. I'm just not going to show up one Sunday. AND, DON'T ANNOUNCE IT the week before. That is stupid. Just don't show up. Find a guy from a friends church that maybe does the student ministry or the college ministry or is a teaching pastor and give them a shot at your church. Make sure they fit the vision and values of your place, but do it. Use your volunteers and trust them with things. Take some time off.
I hope these tips have fueled some thoughts of your own. Summer doesn't have to be death for your church. Just step back and ask yourself, "What can I do the maximize the circumstances?" Let me know what you come up with. Have a great summer.