Avoiding “Summer Death”

My church is dead, and summer killed it.

Seriously.  This happens every year, at every church I have attended, in every congregation.  June hits and it seems like the entire church dies.  No, I don’t mean VBS and cookouts and retreats and the “fun” summer events: I mean all the rest of it.  The regular services, the regular Bible studies, the regular life of the church – poof.  Gone till fall.

In the same way that school lets out when the sun climbs high in the sky, it feels like church lets out, too.  Most churches I know suspend small groups and Bible studies in the summer.  Sometimes the choir takes the season off.  Children’s ministry reshuffles and refocuses on the big events: VBS, sports leagues, youth retreats.  The pastors start dressing in summer casual.  And attendance on Sundays drops precipitously, to the degree that I’m often startled by the empty pews when I walk in.

I understand the reasons for this.  Summer time is travel and vacation time, and congregants are always popping up and then disappearing as a result; that’s normal.  Plus, VBS and the church sports leagues are important places of outreach and ministry that suck up a lot of energy and effort; I can’t blame ministry leaders for wanting to funnel their resources into those.  I’m also in favor of anything that allows people to dress as casually as they like.

At the same time, though, I always find summer to be…well, sort of depressing, church-wise.  After the oomph of Easter and Christmas, the warm weather starts to feel like a spiritual dry season to me – as though we’re all taking a break from the serious God business until the fall starts.  And that’s a shame.

Proverbs tells us that in summer “ants store up their food” (30:25) and that we ought to consider the ways of the ant and be equally as wise (6:6-8).  Summer was a time of harvest and storing: a surprising amount of work, but work that would also benefit later on during the darker, colder months.  There’s really no Biblical precedent for “taking a break” from spiritual labor; after all, why would we want to press pause on our intimacy with God?

So as the summer heads into full swing, by all means enjoy your vacations and your travels.  I intend to enjoy mine!  Throw yourself into VBS and barbeques and retreats and, if your small group or Bible study has suspended itself, enjoy the extra night or two that you get free.  At the same time, don’t give in to the temptation to treat this season as time “off”: consider it a time of reflection and inspiration and preparation for whatever waits in the fall and the winter.

To everything there is a season, after all, and summer has a spiritual purpose, too – even if it’s bereft of the heavy hitters of Easter and Christmas.  Let’s take advantage of it while it’s here in the same way that we take advantage of the warm weather and longer days.

I hope your summer is rich in love and learning.

 

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