This past Monday I had lunch with a pastor friend of mine. We talked about a variety of topics and one of them was the “summer slump.” I doubt there is a pastor alive who doesn’t know that term. It refers to the decrease in church attendance that hits every year during June and July.
Disciples Road Church is certainly no exception to this rule, and since our church is small the summer slump looks especially bad on us. Vacations, family reunions, camps, etc., they all take their toll. Pastors try everything to keep folks coming during the summer. We’ll start a series on marriage or prophecy, two subjects which are always popular. Some pastors swap pulpits with each other for one Sunday morning. Others bring in guest speakers. These are all attempts to keep the flock interested in coming to church rather than going to the lake, the ocean, the campground, the ball field, or wherever.
Mind you now that I’m not saying that all such trips are wrong or sinful. As a matter of fact, I missed a couple of Sundays myself in July as I got away and did some things with my family. But, as is so often the case, there should be moderation and balance when it comes to missing church. Yes, I missed two Sundays last month and had a preacher friend of mine fill my pulpit, but those were the first two Sundays I had taken off since we started the church four-and-a-half years ago. Do you see my point? God doesn’t mind you missing a church service every now and then if He approves of the reason, but far too many churchgoers don’t ask for His approval before they make their plans, plans that cause them to miss church.
During our lunch my pastor friend and I talked especially about how people could do their summer stuff and yet still attend church if they put just the slightest effort into it. For example, instead of heading out on Sunday, they could do so on Monday. Or instead of checking out and driving back on Sunday, they could check out and drive back on Saturday. Rather than schedule the reunion or the family get-together on Sunday, they could schedule it on Saturday. And if they attend a church that offers Sunday night or Wednesday night services, they could attend those even if they had to miss the Sunday morning service. You see, with just a small amount of planning and effort, the amount of church services that people miss in summer could be greatly reduced.
Of course the world and all that it has to offer gives us absolutely no help in this area. For an example, I’ll use my son Ryan’s basketball camp this summer. He is a rising high school freshman, and the high school basketball coach likes for his players to attend the Clemson Tigers basketball camp in Clemson, South Carolina. And what were the dates for that camp? They were June 17th (Friday), 18th (Saturday), and 19th (Sunday). My question is, why couldn’t those dates have been June 16th (Thursday), 17th (Friday), and 18th (Saturday)? After all, it’s summer and the kids are out of school. It would have been easy for them to have showed up on Thursday. You see, whoever set up that camp seemed to go out of his way to ensure that the kids were there on Sunday rather than in church.
This same kind of thing plays out time and time again in baseball tournaments for so-called “travel teams.” I assure you that if tournament directors scheduled their tournaments for Friday and Saturday rather than Saturday and Sunday, the teams would still be there. So why do they schedule them for Saturday and Sunday? All I can figure is that the schedulers are lost people who don’t give a rip about church.
But I don’t mean to lay all the blame for the annual summer slump at the door of lost people. Let me tell you the dirty little secret that we Christians don’t want to acknowledge: The average church-goer actually likes missing church every now and then. People will bend over backwards and move mountains to get to a place where they truly want to be, right? I mean, if a destination becomes a priority, the masses will be there. As the old saying goes, “Hell or high water couldn’t keep them away.” This shows us, then, that church isn’t truly a priority with most people. Even the ones who regularly attend can be knocked out by just the slightest problem or misalignment of the stars.
On this subject, I’ll admit that church has become its own worst enemy. It is now so much a part of the fabric of our lives that we take it for granted, It’s so easy to think, “What’s the big deal if I miss a service? There will be another one next week.” Well, I suppose there will be, if you live another week to see it. But who’s to say what blessings you will miss at church if you skip for a reason that doesn’t pass God’s test of approval? You might miss the sermon that would change your life. You might miss the song that would carry you through the rest of your week. You might miss the prayer request for which you could make a major difference. You might be the source of encouragement that helps keep your tired, frustrated, out-of-heart pastor going. You might be the reason that some visitors decide to become a part of your church. I’m telling you, you just never know.
So, in closing, I plead with you to consider these things any time you are planning to miss church. This goes for the summer months as well as all the other months. I guess what I’m trying to do with this post is get you to think deeper and more spiritually about your church attendance. It’s certainly not a subject about which you should be blase or flippant. Remember that Hebrews 10:24-25 is still in the Bible:
And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (N.K.J.V.)