“Last day of school!!!
Ours is Friday; I bet yours is soon or you’ve already had it. The official start to summer is here. Summer vacation means sleeping in, sunny days, water sports, sandy beaches, campfires, parades, and plenty of time with family and friends.
It also means that church attendance in the United States plummets.
Like seriously takes a nosedive. Attendance becomes sporadic and spotty. When school lets out for the summer, it seems like church does too. The response of the church has been to cut programming (no Wednesday nights for the summer anyone?) and plan “fun events” like picnics and Vacation Bible School.
As a parent, I get it. All year long our calendar is held captive by the school calendar that informs when we can go away and for how long. Seeing extended family is difficult when you have two days to travel. And spending quality time together can suffer. So planning vacations and day trips during the summer months makes sense.
As a minister, I’ve dreaded it. It’s hard. You develop relationships with kids and you have really cool things going like small groups and prayer teams and discipleship, and then, you don’t see them but off and on for weeks. And then there is Vacation Bible School; don’t even get me started on that. The sheer amount of time and effort that is put into pulling off a “successful” VBS event takes all the energy you have, so the regular programming starts to suffer.
I’ve seen so many posts recently from children’s pastors around the country utterly discouraged by this attendance reality and frustrated and what seems like a lack of commitment and concern. On the other hand, I’ve seen equally as many posts from parents excited about the cool things they have planned this summer to do as a family and the memories they are looking forward to making.
So who’s right? What’s more important? Family or church?
And therein, I believe, lies the problem. Because of the “way” we do church (Sunday morning, Wednesday night and/or separate ministries for the family members), if someone misses one of these times, it leaves a gap; a sizable gap. But families who want to spend these summer months together don’t want to come to a place where once again they are separated and unable to be with each other. So it becomes a choice – do I want to be with my family OR do I want to go to church?”
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