10 Ways Pastors Can Thrive, Not Just Survive, Through the Summer Slump

My favorite time of year is spring. Aside from pollen, which is unquestionably a product of the Fall, spring brings color and light.

Spring is about growth and life, hope and excitement.

But spring isn’t possible without winter. Winter isn’t possible without fall. You get the idea. Every season matters. They complement one another and together form a rhythm for our world that ensures order and sustainability.

Summer is here. If you’re a pastor, you know what this means. Attendance decreases. Finances drop.

It’s the “summer slump.” What should we make of this time? Here are a few suggestions.

1. Embrace the “summer slump.”

The “summer slump” is a necessary part of the church’s rhythm. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t fight it. If you fight this season, you will expend an enormous amount of energy with little to no results.

Why? You’re pushing against the church’s natural rhythm.

This isn’t healthy for you or your church.

2. Take an extended vacation with your family.

Use the summer months to spend time with your family. Go on an extended vacation. Unwind from the grind of full-time ministry.

Healthy families create healthy churches. And because organizational health flows from the top-down, the health of your family shapes the health of your church.

3. Read books you wouldn’t normally read.

As a pastor, you’re reading and studying every week. Summer gives you an opportunity to explore a few books you wouldn’t normally read.

Maybe you refine your leadership some John Maxwell classics or lose yourself in a few fictional works. Regardless, this will renew your mind and make you a better leader.

4. Build relationships with other pastors in your community.

In the grind of everyday ministry, you don’t have many opportunities to connect with other pastors. But, as partners in the gospel, these connections can be game-changers for your city. You never know what you might learn from a different perspective. You never know what opportunities God might awaken through your conversations.

5. Take a break from preaching and teaching.

Many churches do this, but bring in different speakers. Depending on the size of your church, it might give someone else on staff or a member an opportunity to develop their gift of communication. Your church gets to hear a different voice. And depending on who speaks, your church might realize how gifted you are as a preacher and teacher.

6. Evaluate the direction and vision of your church.

Sometimes leaders need to work on the church rather than in the church. I’m not sure doing both is possible concurrently.

It’s hard to step back and look at the overall direction of your church or ministry during fall and spring months. This takes time and thought.

Maybe you pull your staff (or the leaders in your church) together for thoughts and input.

7. Invest time in your staff.

Fall and spring are busy times, not just for you, but also for your staff and volunteers. Use the summer months to invest in your staff, especially the ones you don’t know well or don’t often cross paths with.

Invite your staff and their families over for dinner and maybe some corn hole. Grab coffee with a different staff member each week.

8. Recharge your batteries.

Yes, family vacations and reading books are part of this. But I’m talking specifically about spiritual batteries here.

Use the summer to take a prayer retreat. Take an extended sabbath. Spend a few days without your phone and away from electronics. You would need to plan this ahead of time. But it could be an important reminder that neither your church nor your God need you. The world will run with or without you. God’s in control, and nothing could be more foundational to your effectiveness.

9. Make resources available for people to connect with God and others even if they are traveling.

As a pastor and leader, you want to equip people for ministry. Remind them they are bearers of the gospel whether on a baseball field or a condo on the beach. Give them resources to engage and grow where ever life takes them. Here are a few examples:

Send out a Bible verse daily with a question for thought. You can do this via email. You could also do this by creating a Facebook page. This will give everyone a sense of togetherness and keep their hearts and minds focused on Scripture.

If your church has live stream, encourage your church to worship wherever they are. If you don’t have live stream, use Facebook Live (it’s easy to use, here’s an article to get you started) or Periscope.

Put together of list of summer reading books. Working in full-time ministry and blogging, people often ask for books I recommend. Make this list available on your church website.

10. Plan ahead for the fall.

Get a head start on the sermons and teachings for the fall. This gives your mind several months to stir around ideas and thoughts. The longer your topics marinate in life experiences, the more impactful they will be.

The “summer slump” isn’t a waste of two months. You can thrive during this season. Your church can do the same. If you embrace this time, you will grow, your family will be healthier, and your church will be stronger. Then, as summer gives way to fall, the ground will be ready for a large harvest.

May you and your church thrive this summer.

I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!

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Frank Powell
Frank lives in Jackson, TN with his amazing wife and two boys. He loves black coffee and doing stuff outside like golf and running.