Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Church Health: Catching the Summertime Blues

It seems to be fairly common practice for churches to cancel or limit services during the summer, the most common victim of this summer sacrifice being the Sunday evening service (for those churches that still have one).

I suppose the theory is that summer is the time when most church members are vacationing and attendance will be down.

But this cause/effect relationship leaves us with compelling questions. First, if lower attendance means eliminating services, then we should also cut the Sunday morning service and the Wednesday night supper/prayer meeting. After all, very few vacationers stick around for the Sunday morning service, and none come back from the beach for Wednesday's pot luck supper or for a progress report on Aunt Matilda's bunion.

If lower attendance is not the reason for cutting summer services, then perhaps it is too avoid offending the consciences of vacationers. One cannot feel guilty about missing church if there is no church to miss. But, alas, this also leads to other problems. If cutting evening services eases the beach-bound member's conscience, then why cut only one service? The conscience would be eased three times as much if all three weekly services were cut. Furthermore, if easing the conscience is the goal, why ease it only in summer? Why not cut Sunday morning services during hunting season? Why not cut them when a big golf tournament is going?

So, if neither low attendance nor easing the conscience is the goal, perhaps it is something as yet unconsidered. Perhaps we cut services during the summer because members need them less. Perhaps we've worshiped God enough during the previous nine months: we've built up a "worship credit" against which to draw while we absorb the rays. Or, perhaps we've fellowshiped enough with believers and need to spread joy among the unchurched on the beach.

Or, perhaps there is less need to feed the sheep and guard the flock during the summer months. Spiritual ignorance, indwelling sin, and spiritual warfare are, perhaps, inversely proportional to the number of vacations the congregation takes.

So, if our spiritual leaders are concerned about their members' collective conscience, unused 'worship credit', fellowshiping with the unchurched, and spiritual vitality, there is, really, only one conclusion to reach: more vacations means more spiritual vitality, and the deacon board should mandate that members stay away from church year-round, so that piety and church health can reach new levels.

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