A ministry taking a break or scaling back during the summer is pretty common here. MOPS groups meeting during the school year, but take the summers off since the kids are home. Bible Study groups take a break since people are busy traveling. Women’s Ministries do not plan much for the summer, due to unpredictable attendance.
I’ve watched this happen for over twenty years, various denominations, and assorted cities in which we have lived. I thought it was a regional thing due to our hot Florida summers, but I’ve learned it is pretty common throughout the country. How did this happen?
Over the course of twenty years, I’ve noticed something … people’s vacations, life interruptions, and crisis don’t wait for summer. In fact, if I had to point out what I see as the busiest time of the year, with the most interruptions it would fall one week before Thanksgiving and through the week of New Years. Why?
Ahead of Thanksgiving you have two things happening, either you are preparing to travel for the holiday or you are preparing to host the holiday. Then once Thanksgiving has passed, you enter the Christmas season. Just like Thanksgiving, people are preparing for the holiday travel or to host guests at their home. However, unlike Thanksgiving, this season is also peppered with holiday parties thrown by friends, family, co-workers, and companies. Schools will have some sort of winter presentation (band concert, choir performance, etc.) and class parties that require shopping for supplies, dropping them off, or even attending the event with your children. In your free time, you may find yourself in the mall or local stores shopping til you drop. Even if you are shopping online, you still need to locate the gifts, receive them, and wrapping won’t elude you (unless you pay for the store to gift wrap for you). All of these holidays impact the majority of your church members. In the holiday season, we do not see a decrease in church service attendance.
Because of this, I try to make sure that our ministry events and studies wrap up prior to Thanksgiving week. Then we will have some sort of a kick off in January that will introduce our next study group topics and calendar for the coming months.
The summer, however, doesn’t have that same rush and chaos as the holiday season does. We are not feeling as stretched thin, schedule wise. Not only do we see the ministries take a break or cut back, but even Sunday service attendance decreases. In some states you might be tempted to blame good weather, especially if you are prone to long cold winters or rain filled falls & springs. However, in Florida, we almost always have good weather. In fact, our summer is so hot that many of us will do less just to avoid the heat. We relish the cooler months when they come.
Unless your kids are in certain travel sports teams, their sports have also taken a break for summer. Yes, you might have cheer camp, band camp, or a sports camp for a week or two, but typically you have the majority of the summer off.
I wonder if this is the reason we take summers off? Have we jam packed our mid Aug – May (or early June) with so much stuff that by the time summer comes it serves as a respite. We are not rushing around doing school tasks/errands and events for our kids? The concert/performance/team seasons have ended. Less kids birthday parties fall during the summer. There are no holiday parties, shy of 4th of July which may be the most low key holiday when it comes to preparation. Vacations are not accompanying a holiday, so they don’t have as much preparation or pressure.
We are just doing less during the summer, and perhaps that led to us seeing summer break like a sabbath season from the year. In addition, we are all collectively doing less. And, we enjoy the break.
The problem with summer breaks from ministry and studies is the result of having to restart the attendance habit each coming fall. It takes a while to get back into the swing of things, after a two or three months break. I also believe that as a result of the ministries and studies taking a break, people also break from Sunday services… particularly now that they can watch online from their home.
Yes, it is good for our leaders to get a break and recuperate. Rest is something that is mentioned quite often in the Bible as a good thing. It is good for all of us to get a break to stop & be still for a bit. However, we must be careful that it isn’t too long. Further, if we are actually scheduling in the breaks throughout the year then a summer break may not be necessary. For example, instead of teaching a study without a break Aug-May… intentionally scheduling a two week break between study topics/books may be enough to re-energize the leader through the next session. If you could get a short reprieve periodically throughout the year then teaching through the summer wouldn’t be as daunting. Plus, your study members would also get a break and perhaps attending throughout the summer would be more appealing.
To Recap: A possible reason for a summer break, is that we are so busy throughout the year that when summer comes, we are just done and ready to rest.
To Resolve: Schedule short breaks throughout the rest of the years, so that a summer break is not necessary.