Summer is coming… and with it, there go your regular Sunday morning attendees.
Schedules go wonky over the summer. People travel, kids go to camps, family comes to visit, and either we’re out of town on Sunday, or traveling, or it’s the one day we have to breathe between one trip and the next camp. So, church attendance is not as regular as it could be—not because people don’t care or don’t want to go to church, but because… you know, schedules.
So what can you do? A lot!
“Church To Go” Boxes
If you know people will be traveling, pack a little care package for them!
Church is not a building: “where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (No, not you the pastor… but Jesus, which, you know, also works). Help your traveling parishioners take church with them, so they can worship wherever they go.
You can get as cutesy as you want with the box: ask a local eatery to donate (clean, unused) pizza boxes, or find a place to order those fold-up takeout Chinese food containers; or you can just get a plain ol’ brown paper bag—it’s what’s in the inside that counts! (Also, the plain bag is way cooler because families* can decorate it as they wish!)
And then you fill the container with items and ideas to have a “mini-worship service” at home: printouts of that week’s readings, a few questions (that can be specific to that week’s texts, or more general, “What did this make you think of? Which words stood out to you in the reading?”), prayers the family can say together.
Want some more ideas? Check out Take Out Church: A Summer Tool for Home and Traveling from Building Faith.
*please note: “families” is not code for “small children.” You can make age-leveled boxes for families with younger kids, but grown-ups (singles, couples without kids, “empty-nesters”) need these boxes, too! (And they also like to color and decorate.)
And, of course, what box would be complete without a Flat Jesus, to take with you on your summertime adventures?
I assume you’re familiar with Flat Stanley book series (if you’re not, click that link). Instead of taking Stanley with you on vacation, give families a Flat Jesus to color, cut out, and take with them on vacation. take photos of Flat Jesus enjoying vacation with them, and have them post the photos to your congregation’s Facebook page or post them on Instagram with the hashtag #FlatJesus and your congregation’s hashtag (if your congregation doesn’t have a hashtag, create one! Make it short and unique—try your congregation’s abbreviated name and city).
Where I Worship
Again, “church” is not a building; “worship” doesn’t have requirements for a location or space. Some of your parishioners will be traveling to beautiful locations: beaches, mountains, lakes… communing with nature is a wonderful form of worship, no?
As for me and my household… we had hoped to go to Wyoming this summer, but those plans fell through. Instead, I’ll be visiting my mom’s house, where my five-year-old loves to “play the piano” with her and then runs upstairs to bang away at her drum set. Talk about making a joyful noise! Lala’s mosquito-infested backyard (in humid Texas heat) may be a far cry from the cool mountains of Wyoming, but we worship in that muggy, mosquitoed yard.
I also visit my old congregation, where I attended when I was in high school. The buildings have been completely remodeled since my days as youth group president, but there are special memories there for me anyway (you know why? Because it’s not really about a building… it’s more about the people…)
Ask your parishioners, both those staying close to home and those traveling, to snap photos of the places where they worship. What is your favorite spot in the sanctuary? A special decoration or item at a family member’s house, that brings special memories? A breathtaking view, a special moment of loved ones gathered together. Snap those photos and tag them #whereiworship.
Jesus (Flat or otherwise) doesn’t live in a building. He’s all over the place! Let’s start noticing that, and sharing it!
That sounds scary.
Take a deep breath (breathe in, breathe out). Okay.
It doesn’t have to be scary.
You probably write your sermon down at some point, right? You can share that sermon by posting it online, as a blog.
Look, you spent all week thinking about that sermon. Stressing over it. Overthinking it. Second-guessing it. I know you did, even if you pretend you didn’t. Why would you do all of that work, just to say it once or twice?
If you’re worried about the technical hullabaloo, post the text of your sermon on a blog. (Trust me, even those who were in worship on Sunday will appreciate this. Especially if they are parents of your children, and had to spend half the time either answering questions or finding the Goldfish cracker that fell under the pew.)
If you or someone in your congregation is more technically minded (those high school youth are out of school, and some may be bored at home looking for something to do. Ask them to help with this project!), and you have the equipment, you can try something fancier, like audio or video of the sermons. (We’ll talk about this more later.)
What are some activities you have done to connect with people over the summer? How do you engage guests who come visit your congregation in the summer?