It is an ugly, awful, terribly misguided myth that churches can’t grow during the summer. Don’t listen to it. Don’t buy into it. Don’t settle for it. Summer is the perfect time to try new things, change up each week, and be so invitational it makes your hospitality team wonder where you came from.

It’s not just about VBS week, but the weekend after and every day until fall programming starts. I know of too many churches offering amazing Vacation Bible Schools as ‘outreaches’ yet plan nothing special to offer afterward to continue to build relationships, connections, and faith-formation experiences beyond a laid-back Sunday morning. We put in all that work, all those resources, and we’ve dropped the ball. We take a summer break. We think since most people are gone during the summer, we just can’t pull it off. I’m not gone. Are you gone?

Think about it. Reserving space is easier in the summer. Using shared space is easier in the summer since preschool, recreation leagues, and even some Sunday school classes take the summer off. Smaller groups of kids thrive in relationship-building during the summer. Summer is a great time to teach and lead new volunteers and leaders into a glimpse of how your Sunday morning team works and its logistical systems. Summer is the perfect time to get to know your volunteers better, hang out by the Gaga Ball pit, playground, and make friends with folks new to the church and community.

This is why we use incentives to recruit our summer Sunday morning volunteers who take over so the regular school-year servant leaders rest and refresh with ‘first 10 to signup get a logo-ed tervis tumbler’ and ‘free ticket to the ice cream truck coming on campus after services on National Ice Cream Day (July 21).’ This is why we offer Faith Field Trips for small groups of students to learn about Jesus, share in an outdoor experience with other kids their ages, and partner with other local churches in our districts. This is why we offered summer events like Nerf Wars and the upcoming Paint & Praise Party which helps us ‘fuel a warm community’ (from Growing Young, by Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin). This is why we celebrate each Sunday as a special Sunday in June and July.

Flipping Church is a book of amazing stories of Wesleyan church planters who have collaboratively broken the rules and fought the battle of church myths, struggles and successes for the called to share the gospel in multiple contexts. In it, Rev. Olu Brown, pastor of Atlanta’s Impact Church, affirms this challenge to the local church to ‘become known as the church of summer excellence.’

How do we pull that off? Rev. Brown writes, “In order to grow during the summer months, each church must PLAN FOR SUCCESS in the summer.” (emphasis mine) He continues, “Truly, if you don’t do something unique and creative over the summer, the likelihood is that your congregation will go into decline in both people and money.”

Rev. Brown invites the reader to consider the following:

  • Variety and innovation inspire worshipers to attend during the summer because the local church actively works to engage their attention. People have a ‘need for novelty and desire to have fun during the summer.’
  • Offer incentives to encourage attendees to be more consistent and invite others to join you during the summer. It’s not about watering down the mission of the church, but rather ‘good evangelism in the 21st century.’

School begins in the Atlanta area in August. Plan for summer success in January to be the church of summer Children’s Ministry excellence. What is your local church known for in the summer?

“But those who plan what is good show love and faithfulness.” Proverbs 14:22b