If you’ve been in church for any single calendar year, you know as well the rest of us that the summer season can mean quite the slump in attendance. It’s not uncommon for a church staff to do one hundred backflips on the side of the road to desperately attract attention to their decreased summer services and events. I’ve been there myself.
Sometimes it feels like nothing you do could possibly interest people in coming out to church when they could be at the beach, lake, or water park instead. Then I realized that the solution to low summer attendance wasn’t simply marketing, but instead shifting your state-of-mind.
Instead of spending all summer begging everyone to come to your church, consider this alternative. Spend all summer begging everyone to let your church join them and make their community a better place. It is quite easy to do in the end, and it corroborates with scripture as well. See James 1:27.
Far too often, we’re so concerned about our events and weekend services that we forget about one of the church’s most attractive quality. The ability to change the world. Unsurprisingly, good things come to churches who prioritize loving and sacrificing for their communities before themselves.
So we put together five ways you can meet the human need this summer and inevitably boost lackluster attendance at the same time.
#1 give out water bottles to every single person you see working out in the hot sun
Surely you remember the last time you were unquenchably thirsty on a hot and humid day. The first person to give you an ice cold beverage on a day like that is your hero regardless of who they are. This is the reason our water idea works so well.
There are many ways you can go about doing this, but the idea is that you give out water to people sweating in the sun just because they’re loved. Sounds simple, right? That’s because it is. Ask your church to bring in as many cases of water, ice, and coolers that they can. Pack them into every volunteer vehicle that you possibly can. Then send them on a hunt for sweaty heat exhausted folks working in the sun.
Equip your volunteer with three simple steps:
1. Find someone who could use a cold bottle of water.
2. Give that person a cold bottle of water.
3. If someone asks why you’re doing this, tell them it’s because “Our church loves you, and our God loves you more.”
#2 host a “kids only” movie night so married couples can have a date night without having to pay a babysitter
Families are the lifeblood of our society, so any chance you get to strengthen marriages is also an opportunity to strengthen the church and society itself. A “kids only” movie night can go a long way towards making a difference in relationships while showing the community that you truly care about their family.
Setting this one up is as simple as recruiting enough volunteers to sufficiently wrestle with as many kids as you would expect to attend. Then ask parents in the church and community to sign up for the event, so you have an idea of how many folks are coming and how many “babysitters” you need. Tell parents that there is only one rule for this movie night; no parents are allowed to stay. Tell them you hope they have a great night out on the town with their spouse when they drop their kids off, and that your church is honored to help however it can.
As a bonus, look for some restaurant owners in your community that would be willing to put together a special discount or dinner option just for this occasion.
You can play the video on a rented big screen outside, or your can use the auditorium that you use every Sunday morning for church. Either way, the screen is going to be way bigger than what these kids have at home, and it will feel an awful lot like going to the movies. Also, consider giving the kids popcorn just for fun. It sure is a mess to clean up, but it’s an inexpensive way to build excitement. As for the feature presentation, you can license movies for an event like this for very reasonable rates over at http://cvli.com.
Make sure you’ve got your facility looking snazzy for the kids because it will be the first time many parents have ever seen your church before.
#3 buy a bunch of shirts with your church name on them and clean up a road
Sometimes the old ideas are the best ideas. Cleaning up a dirty local road is a great way to improve your community, while also letting the world know about what God’s doing in the hearts of the people at your church.
Give everyone who attends your planned road clean up a free church branded t-shirt and a trash bag. Then create a little competition. Offer a prize to the volunteer, or volunteer team that can bring back the most full bags of trash. This gives volunteers a chance to represent what your church is all about with the whole town driving by looking at them in their matching shirts. Plus this gives volunteers a chance to enjoy some spirited, friendly competition while making sure that road looks like its brand new again.
Don’t forget; many local municipalities will also put your church name on a permanent sign located on the side of the road you cleaned as a “thank you.” So find out if your municipality participates in this sort of thing before you head out there. Also, sometimes you need a permit to have that many people out on the road like that; so make sure you get permission first. You wouldn’t want the police shutting your party down because you weren’t prepared.
#4 go out teacher caroling (Christmas caroling with a twist)
This may sound like it’s a far out idea, but don’t knock it until you try it. Teachers have one of the most important, difficult, and thankless, jobs in the world. So lets pep them up for the school year by giving them some laughs, and saying thanks with a good old fashioned “teacher carol.” I made that term up, so I guess it’s not all that old fashioned.
Ask your worship leader to gather a group of eight awesome singers in your church. Then hold a practice or two where this group learns some famous back to school themed songs. Once they have three or four under their belt, send them out to every teacher’s house you can find with a shiny red apple and a thank you note attached to the stem. Your note should tell the teacher how thankful the church is for the work they do.
Now let the fun, out of the ordinary, encouraging mayhem begin. Going from house to house, have one person knock on the teachers door and hand them the apple. When they take the apple, start singing your tunes as a caroling group.
Some perfect songs would be:
ABC by the Jackson 5
Don’t Stop Believing by Journey
See You in September by The Happenings
What a Wonderful World by Sam Cooke
You get the point…
#5 give school supplies to families in the community that just can’t afford them
I’m not going to detail this one too much because we did a whole podcast episode about this, which you can listen to here.
School supply drives are great because they give your church a chance to see their giving in action on a small, relatable level. Plus people in the community can see that your church is one they can trust. Also, you make an awesome first impression on people who receive the school supplies. You can even get a little attention from the press when you do something big like a school supply drive.
Whatever you do, make summer fun and love on your community!