On the one hand, I love summer: the weather is hot, the water is cool, and shoes are optional.
On the other hand, I hate summer. Why?
Because ever since my first full summer in ministry (1991), I’ve been haunted by the comment of a member of Mt. Carmel Church — “attendance will be up and down this summer. Up in the mountains and down at the beach.”
His prediction proved to be accurate, not only in 1991 but for every year that has followed as well.
So what’s a preacher to do? Prepare second rate sermons and save all the good ones for January when people have no choice but to come to church?
Grow in bitterness every time someone mentions in passing that they’ll be “at the beach” this weekend? Especially since you (the preacher) can’t go as you have to work on the weekends?
Or take six weeks off and let others fill in?
I’ve been tempted to do all three, for sure. My most common reaction is #2 — bitterness. And then I step back from the situation, look at it objectively, and realize how sad it is that I begrudge other people’s leisure time. I should actually rejoice at the weekends people get to spend with one another, enjoying God’s creation.
On those occasions when my better nature shows through, I approach summer worship the same way I approach worship at any other time of the year: there will always be people there who are desperately hungry for a touch from God. And we’re there to help facilitate exactly that.
For the last several years at Good Shepherd, we’ve devoted summer months to some longer sermon series that have more of a teaching element to them. Royal Pains, which wrapped up last week, is a good example of what I’m talking about.
Because there will always be new people checking out church during the summer months. Attendance may not be “up,” but the church can still be growing as it enfolds new people into its midst by teaching them clearly and loving them well. That process is pretty much the same whether it’s July or January.
So in the meantime, I’ll try to cure my own summertime blues by throwing everything I have and everything we are into this next series from the book of Hebrews. More on that tomorrow.