person jumping into waterSitting in a less than full auditorium on Sunday reminded me how much I hated holidays as a church planter.  Every Sunday brought the inevitable fear, “will anyone be there today?”  Four day 4th of July weekends left me asking, “can we just skip this Sunday and go to the next one?”  If you’re a church planter, you’ve probably had similar fears and questions.  As we head into the dog days of summer (at least here in the Northern Hemisphere) how do you make the most of this season?

First of all, relax. Remember Paul planted, Appollos watered, and God caused the growth.  You can’t make people grow and trying will only leave you frustrated.  Give God your best and then relax in confidence that He will faithfully do his part as well.

Once you you’ve got your feet up, think creatively about how to get in sync with the season. Every culture and context has seasons.  In most western cultures, summer is a season for vacation, family and generally a slower pace of life.  Fighting that natural rhythm of life is both exhausting and unfruitful.  Learn instead how to leverage the unique opportunities summer brings.

  • Go where the people are.  Most communities fill summer calendars with all kinds of outdoor events – everything from concerts to farmers markets.  These are great opportunities to be part of the city you’ve been called to reach and begin meeting and building relationship with people you don’t know.   One of the church planters I’m coaching bought an Ice Cream truck.  Some Finnish friends joked about towing a portable sauna to the lake.  Be creative and be present in the places people are already gathering.
  • Throw great parties.  Parties aren’t unique to summer, but somehow it just seems easier to throw a great party during summer.  Don’t just throw parties for the church.  Empower and resource people to throw parties for their friends and neighbors.  One new church I know created a block party kit to help people connect with their neighbors.  Another new church planned parties in neighborhood parks, giving people who lived in those neighborhoods a place to connect.  The party possibilities are endless so turn your party planners loose and see what they come up with.
  • Give your leaders and volunteers a break.  Most new churches are stretching a few highly committed volunteers thin.  Even highly committed people get tired and need a break.  Think about how you can make it easy for them.  If you have weekly gatherings, plan a family Sunday that gives you’re whole children’s team a break, or a guest artist that gives your musicians a week off.  Most importantly, avoid the guilt trip.  Do everything you can to celebrate and honor people for taking time for family and rest.

A summer season done well may not have any right now rewards – which is tough for the typical results oriented church planter.  It will, however, bear fruit when summer is over.  Well rested and renewed leaders will re-engage with passion and energy and time invested in relationships will bring new people and deeper relationships as momentum returns in the fall.