Fend off the summer attendance slump by
intentionally connecting families to your
It's almost here -- that glorious season when the sun's warmth
descends like a heavy blanket, the heat waves ripple the air, and
the only thing audible is the hum of the air conditioner.
But wait a just minute...If the only sound in your ministry is
the occasional whir of air conditioners kicking on, you're missing
the excited buzz of connecting families -- and strengthening their
ties to your ministry and church.
Summer attendance at most churches inevitably wanes. Families
vacation and enjoy the warm weather. Kids play summer sports, go to
camp, and savor a break from school. Churches feel the squeeze when
pews sit empty and kids don't show up.
Some churches counteract summer downtime with drastic measures.
One California church went to a monthly Sunday service and
suspended all ministries until fall. Others cope by creating more
programs in the hope of drawing kids and families to maintain
Ministry experts conclude that summer is a high-risk time for
churched families because they're busy with seasonal activities and
the temptation to skip church is strong. Spotty attendance may even
remind families of what they're "missing" outside of church and
eventually result in them skipping church altogether.
Even if your summer attendance is down, you can create
opportunities to keep families tied closely to your church. Offer
family-specific experiences that intentionally draw families back
to your church and ministry. Here are four proven ideas from
children's ministers across the country.
1 AMEN Program
We wanted to give families a reason to keep coming back to our
small church over the summer, so we asked people to share their
hobbies with kids from our children's ministry and their families.
We called it the AMEN Program: Action
Ministry with Educational
Networking. The primary goal of the program was to
increase interaction between older and younger members of our
church and families. The AMEN sessions lasted one hour weekly for
We asked people to describe their special crafts or skills, and
then we contacted people such as woodworkers, quilters, candle
makers, choir and band members, bakers, and others to create
options for kids and their families. Families got a list of
available hobbies and ranked their top three choices. Some wanted
to spend two weeks on one hobby and two on another hobby. We asked
the hobby leaders to plan their activities each week. The mixed-age
groups worked well because families could help each other and older
kids helped younger ones with more complex tasks.
Each week, the hobby groups got a Bible passage and prayer
related to the project, and leaders got to talk about their faith
in relation to the hobby. At the end of the four weeks, we showed
off our finished projects and enjoyed a celebration. AMEN!
2 Family Follies
Our children's ministry has had great success sponsoring a Family
Follies show during the summer as a way to keep families connected.
We choose an evening in the summer when families can come together
to perform or just watch the show. The show is basically a variety
show, full of music, comedy skits, crowdbreakers, and audience
participation bits. We publicize the event early in the summer and
ask families to sign up with their "acts." (We provide ideas and
skits for families who want to participate but don't have an idea.)
Then we give families access to our ministry facility to practice,
make props, and plan their part of the show for two weeks prior to
the event. We always have a huge turnout with lots of families in
the show and lots who just love to come watch. It's a blast -- and
a great way to build relationships between families through
3 Summer Reading Club
One of our most popular programs for families over the summer has
been our Summer Reading Program. We open our church library and
encourage families to choose one book every two weeks to read
together. (If your church library isn't well-stocked, simply have
families check out a book at the local library.) At our bimonthly
meetings, families share what they read and learned and whether
they'd give it a thumbs up or thumbs down. The other families ask
questions about the book, and our program leaders inject questions
related to faith. During the second half of each meeting, we play
games and share snacks related to our book topics. This reading
club has consistently drawn families back to our church throughout
the summer -- and it gives them a great reason to spend time
together outside of church, too.
4 VBS Reunion
We get extra mileage out of our VBS program each year by hosting a
late-summer VBS Reunion. We intentionally plan our initial VBS
early in the summer so kids and families are excited to return for
a post-VBS party and see all the friends they made again. For the
reunion, we invite kids, parents, ministry teachers, and all our
VBS volunteers for an evening of fun. We ask them to wear their VBS
T-shirts. We reuse the VBS decorations to create a festive feel,
play VBS music and videos, sing songs, play the games, use any
leftover craft supplies, and enjoy snacks. Kids get to reconnect
with their VBS friends, parents get to experience the fun their
kids had, and we get the opportunity to strengthen families' ties
to our ministry.
For even more family fun event ideas you can use this summer, go