A Vow for Next Summer

Bill Easum


Most established churches lose most, if not all, of their momentum in the summer.  They experience what is called a “summer slump.”  This article explains why and what church leaders can do about it. I know it is too late for this summer, but it’s the right time to implement the actions plans that will make next summer a “summer hump.”

The Assumption

The thought is that everyone takes a vacation in the summer so attendance at church should go down. While there is some validity to this thinking, it is no where close to reality.  Not everyone takes their vacation in the summer. So why should the church act as if they do.

Why the Fuss Over the Summer Slump

Maybe you’re wondering why so much fuss over a summer slump? After all, it’s nothing but a temporary drop in worship attendance and income. I can give you three huge reasons.

First, one of the biggest months for visitors in most churches across the U.S. is August. The bread winner assumes a new position and moves in January. The spouse and children arrive in June after school lets out.  And about six weeks later they begin to look for a church. And what do they find in the vast majority of churches? The choir is on vacation, the service times are either changed or reduced, and the overall quality of everything has nosedived. And we wonder why visitors don’t return.

Second, after a three months hiatus from worship everyone has to gear up all over again and do a Hail Mary to get everyone to return to worship. So, we took three months off, spend one month winding down (May), and one month trying to get everyone back to worship.  Do the math – that makes most churches a seven month operation.

Third, during summer some of the people on the fringe, who abandoned worship during the summer, now are out of the habit of going to church.  But no one followed up on them during the summer, because after all, everyone takes a vacation in the summer. Now it’s too late to reactivate them.


The Culprits


The biggest culprits that cause the summer slump are: The summer slump attitude of pastors; the vacationing choir; the discontinuation of Sunday School or small groups; the combining of worship services and/or the changing of worship times.  Lets look into these

The Summer Slump Attitude of Pastors

Pastors who assume a summer slump is inevitable are the biggest culprit of all.  This assumption leads to all of the other culprits. If I assume everyone is going to take a vacation in the summer then I don’t get upset when the choir takes off or when worship times are changed and so on. I just let it happen without a whimper. This kind of attitude kills any kind of radical passion during the rest of the year. It is a very bad attitude to have if you are trying to follow the Great Commission.

The Vacationing Choir

My first summer at the church I pastored for twenty-four years I learned the church had a habit of the choir taking off the entire summer.  My first week there I told the choir I couldn’t preach without them and if they weren’t going to sing, I wasn’t going to preach. That’s how important they were to the mission of the church. They sang all summer, all four of them

You see, in a world where music is one of the driving forces of society, not having the choir or praise team singing at every service makes a great sermon mediocre. None of us are good enough to preach the Gospel today with great music.

The Canceled Sunday School

What does it say to our children when Sunday School is cancelled in the summer? Even if it is only the Adult Sunday School that is cancelled, to the children it says that Sunday School isn’t important. Sunday School is like school; it is something from which they will soon graduate. Is that what we want to teach our children?

The When Does It Meet Church?

Play the role of a new person in town.  The person drives by your church and sees your sign that says you have two worship services, 8:30 and 11:00. The next Sunday that person shows up at 11:00, but the month before you combined the two services and changed the time to 10:00. What does that say to the visitor who gets there and finds the service is half-over? The person leaves rather than disturb everyone and no one gets to know them.

So Make the Vow

So, why not now vow not to buy into the summer slump next year. Instead, make a promise you will look for ways to increase the attendance next summer. That means convincing your leaders that things at least continue on as they do during the year and that if anything is changed it something that you add.

My first summer I was told that the church was too small to have Vacation Bible School.  I went on and had it anyway.  The result was 98 children showed up. A few years later we started having VBS every week during the summer.  Our attendance didn’t drop near as much as it does in most established churches.

See how much the attitude of the pastor has to do with the summer slump or hump?

What’s your attitude going to be next summer?