"They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper." - Psalm 1:3
Summer for Churches: Staying Connected
Summer brings vacations, outdoor events, and travel. As a result, many churches see a decline in their Sunday worship attendance. But this doesn’t have to translate into a decline in connections between the church and its members, or between members themselves. Here are 9 suggestions to help your church stay connected with parishioners over the summer.
1. Stress attendance at weekly worship
Communicate your worship schedule clearly and often. Invite people to dress casually. Offer something for children whether it be a special program, a children’s quiet play area in the church itself, a special bulletin, or bags of quiet activities.
2. Utilize social media to stay in touch
Folks may be in church less, but they are still on social media a lot! Make frequent, and interesting, posts on your church’s Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms, including your website. Use pictures lavishly. Make some of your posts about people – we all like to read about others and ourselves! As always, it's good to review your church and your denomination's policies on use of social media. If your congregation doesn't have a policy, The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania provides an excellent downloadable resource.
3. Encourage people to stay in touch 'the old fashioned way'
Ask congregants to write cards, notes, or make phone calls. Consider challenging them to do a certain number per week. If possible, provide the note cards. You can also give people a list, with addresses, of people to write to.
4. Provide summer activities for households
Children and families can 'be the church' at home, while in the car, or even on vacation. Candle Press has some great resources for this. 'Take Out Church' boxes provide another way for families to practice the Christian faith at home and while away.
5. Offer a summer hospitality time after church
If the weather is nice, you can even hold hospitality outside! Invite groups of families, or the youth group, to host hospitality times. If you have Vacation Bible School, invite the entire parish to the closing celebration, or make it into a parish picnic.
6. Encourage people to bring back worship bulletins from churches they visit
You could feature these on a bulletin board; write a short paragraph for your newsletter or your social media sites.
7. Use your weekly communications email
Your weekly church news email is a great summer contact tool. If you don't have one, consider starting one. Include information on people, such as where people have traveled or special things they have done over the summer.
8. Schedule a social event once a month
This might be a church picnic or evening potluck. Having such events at a member’s home will increase attendance. Other ideas are a movie night, events for teens, worship at retirement communities, and hikes.
9. Schedule a day of service that is family friendly
Consider partnering with a community organization and helping them with a project. Keep it simple and lasting just a few hours. If your church has service ministries, such as a soup kitchen, invite people – teens and families with children too – to participate. You might invite several families so that they get to know each other as they work.
Carolyn Moomaw Chilton writes and blogs as a spiritual discipline and an invitation to conversation with others. You can follow her on Twitter @episcoevangel and Facebook as EpiscopalEvangelist. She is currently on staff at Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia as the Assistant for Evangelism and Stewardship.
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