Is your church attendance down 20-30%? Mine is.
That’s the national average right now.
It’s confusing and scary.
What does it mean? Are people coming back? Is our church much smaller now?
I believe we won’t have clear answers until the fall ministry season.
And so, what do we do until then? Quietly freak out?
To protect my sanity and keep my focus, I’ve made some decisions about what I’m going to do and not do this summer.
I’m hoping my decisions might encourage or challenge you as well.
I Will Not Stress Over Attendance
My church is in West Michigan.
The thing about summer in Michigan is people go to their cottages “up north.”
We always experience reduced attendance through the summer.
Maybe your church experiences something similar.
Maybe your church is “up north” and you see an attendance spike in the summer!
While attendance is always low in the summer, so far this summer, it has been...REALLY LOW.
I had to decide something.
This summer, I will not tie my emotions to our attendance numbers.
I will not stress about this right now.
Why? Because people have been cooped up. They want to travel. They want to enjoy the outdoors this summer, and that’s great!
If attendance numbers don’t rebound this fall, then yeah, I’ll likely start to get concerned, but not this summer. There’s no point.
Maybe you need to decide to detach your emotions from your summer attendance.
Let’s not freak out just yet.
I Will Not Neglect Online Church
Now that most churches can meet in person again, you may be thinking, “Can we be done with online church?”
The short answer is...no.
I’ve decided this summer I will not neglect online church.
There are still a lot of people who aren’t comfortable gathering in person.
There are a lot of people who tune in while they are traveling.
And, digital church is the new visitor experience. People check out your church online before they show up in person.
I don’t think we can ever go back to an ONLY in-person church mindset.
Going forward, each of us will have to determine our specific strategy for online church, but for this summer, I believe we still need to invest significant resources into online church services.
I Will Not Assume Everyone is Coming Back
I already mentioned that 20-30% of our pre-COVID people are not attending right now.
Will they come back?
I’ve decided not to assume they will.
I believe there is danger in assuming if we do what we used to do, we will experience the same level of engagement as before.
Things have changed.
In some cases, people have moved on.
In addition, people have developed new habits.
Sleeping in on Sunday and watching church in their PJs with coffee and pancakes is comfortable.
What I’m saying is, habits are hard to break and people have developed new habits around church attendance.
We can’t assume people are going to come back because it’s legal or safe.
To assume everyone will come back when the conditions are right feels a little lazy.
I believe this is a season for initiative and innovation.
How will we reconnect with the disconnected?
How will we reach out to those who are not in relationship with Jesus or His church?
I wonder if you might need to hear this challenge.
I Will Not be Sidetracked with Good Stuff
While I’ve decided not to stress about the attendance numbers this summer, I still recognize this is a critical time for my church.
I believe many churches will not recover from the COVID experience.
They will not regain momentum, and they will slowly decline.
I DO NOT want to be one of those churches.
I want to see growth.
I want to see people come to know Christ and have their lives transformed by Him.
And so, I’ve decided not to be sidetracked with good stuff.
What I mean is, this is the time to be on mission and to say no to everything else.
If it isn’t directly related to our core strategy, it’s probably a “no” right now.
If it’s not related to relaunching our core ministries, it’s probably not the right time to invest.
I’ve decided to say no to everything that isn’t core to our mission right now…even if it is good stuff.
I Will Not Neglect Rest
With all the pressure we are feeling in this season, there is a temptation we must resist—overworking.
While we need to work hard to rebuild our churches, we can’t go so hard after these goals that we neglect resting.
This fall will be a grueling season of ministry.
We simply cannot limp into the fall burned out and needing a sabbatical.
We need to pursue rest and appropriate work boundaries.
This will not come naturally. It must be intentional.
I will choose to rest this summer. I will not work 60 hours a week. I will trust that this church belongs to Jesus and not me.
I invite you to choose to rest this summer.
We’re gonna need it to bring our best to the crucial season of ministry ahead of us.
I hope my decisions for this summer have been encouraging and challenging for you.
In what ways is God challenging you in this season?
Feel free to share in the comments below.
We’d love to be praying for you.