5 Strategies for Summer Services

I’ve been peppered in recent weeks with questions about how to address the summer slump in attendance. Folks have been asking about service times, numbers of services, series planning, etc. Let me share some thoughts, but I’d love to have your input as well.

Should we consider reducing the number of services during the summer?

If you have multiple services where your attendance is dropping below 50% of your seating capacity, I think that’s an option you should strongly consider. The risk of losing critical mass and having empty services with little energy is far worse than the challenge of adding back services in the fall when attendance rebounds.

Should we consider changing service times?

If you’re trying to hold services anytime before 9, I’d encourage you to use the summer to test-drive new service times. You’ll likely find more success moving closer to noon rather than starting before 9…unless you’re reaching older folks. If that’s your focus, ignore this advice.

By the way, we get really hung up on changing service times. It’s not that hard. Take a week to let your leaders know. Have your leaders communicate with the volunteers. Then tell your church. It should only take a couple of weeks to shift services. For those that don’t get the word, it’ll only take one visit for them to learn the new time. It’s not that big a deal. And, changing service times is actually a healthy way for your church to remain open to the changes needed to reach people outside the faith and outside the church.

Should we shut down for a portion of the summer?

Believe it or not, I was working with a church recently that has made it a tradition to shut down for the month of July. You heard me right. There are no services and no ministry gatherings during the month. Folks are encouraged to embrace family time and connect in the community. I’m not ready to try that one, but, since someone else has done it, you now have permission to try something outside the box.

By the way, one side benefit is that some folks go visit other churches. That means only the folks that really love your mission, vision and values will be back in August. Honestly, if someone finds a church that’s a better fit for who they are, I think that’s a win for everyone.

Should we adjust our seating?

If your attendance begins to drop well below 80% of your seating capacity and you have flexible seating, I’d encourage you to remove seats during the summer. A couple of things might happen. First, if your normal summer crowd shows up, folks will be sitting closer together and closer to the front and that will encourage more engagement in the worship and teaching. That’s a good thing. Secondly, more people might show up than you expected. If so, you can pull out extra chairs at the last second. If that happens, it’ll help build excitement because folks will recognize the larger crowd was unexpected. That’s also a good thing.

Should we resign ourselves to low attendance in the summer and wait to promote a series until fall?

Absolutely not. Think about it. Most churches are slowing down in the summer. If you do a big series in the summer, you’ll be doing the unexpected. You’ll be differentiating yourselves from the rest of the crowd. It’s a great opportunity to catch people’s attention. LifeChurch is the perfect example of this. They’ve established traction with a couple of big series each summer. First, they offer their One Prayer series. Then they follow that up with their “At the Movies” series.

Don’t assume people won’t show up in the summer. They will if you’re intentional about how you approach what you offer.

Those are my thoughts based on my experiences. What would you add?  

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Tony Morgan
Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He's written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and Pastors.com.