How Pastors In College Towns Get Ready For The Summer

Are you ready for summer?

I have been pastoring in a college town for more than a decade. Summers in Athens are much slower than the fall when everything seems to revolve around Georgia football. Once we hit Easter, momentum shifts to the opportunities and challenges of watching a large portion of our church leave for the summer.

As I was planning for our church's transition over the next few weeks, I wrote down six things that we need to do so we are ready for the summer. If you're pastoring in a college town like me, this will help you. 

1. Commission The Church

Take the time to recognize anyone who is leaving for the summer and those who are moving away. Include your short-term mission teams and commission everyone who is going to take the gospel outside of your city. That message can also serve as a reminder for everyone who is staying for the summer that remaining in town is not a second-class assignment. 

You can do this recognition as a lunch or special event. We have chosen to do this during the last gathering of the spring semester. We have everyone who is leaving town come to the stage where I pray for them and all of us staying in town. It takes five minutes and is a significant moment in our life together as a church. 

2. Make A Push For Mobile Giving  

Give people a reason and an opportunity to give online consistently during the summer. Tell them how their money will make a difference. Provide an easy way for them to invest in your church through online or mobile platforms (I recommend eChurchGiving by Pushpay).

College students give financially, but they don't give a lot - yet. Families give, but their dollar is stretched thin, particularly during the summer with vacations and swim lessons and other activities for kids. By asking everyone to make a decision now about their money and providing an avenue for them to automate that decision consistently, you make giving easy for people and profitable for your church. 

3. Develop A Communications Plan

Not only are a significant number of people in your church away for the summer,  but also attendance with people in town is more scattered because of vacations. If you depend on weekly gatherings to communicate with your church, you will lose momentum. You need a plan for how your church will stay on the same page when you're not in the same room.

Develop a simple and sustainable communications plan. Use the tools that your church already has (email, blog, social media). Plan the information you need to send, the stories you want to tell, the medium you want to use, and the persons responsible for pushing that content. Once that's on paper, make sure there is someone accountable for executing that plan. 

4. Recruit Summer Volunteers

Oh, that reminds me. Don't get into the middle of June and realize that you don't have enough volunteers because people are out of town. Invite people who do not serve during the school year to serve during the summer. Not only does this help the church run effectively, but it also provides a way for people to make a difference and not be tied down to a long-term commitment. 

5. Make Summer Awesome

I know it feels like nobody will be in town this summer. And there is a temptation to go through the motions in all of your environments. The counter to that perspective is to ensure that you add value to the lives of everyone who will be in town.

Here are a few ideas to consider. Shorten your gatherings by 10 minutes - maybe one less song and five fewer minutes of preaching. Encourage your groups to get outside and play. Create monthly events that are easy to pull off where your church can connect relationally with each other. Invite people to regular prayer gatherings for the mission of your church and the needs of your city and the world. 

6. Slow Down

College towns slow down during the summer and so should you and your leadership team. Take vacations. Work fewer hours. Take longer lunches. Shut the office down one additional day during the week. 

Working at a slower pace is not the path of laziness. You should still hustle and kill it and crush it during the summer. You cannot afford for today to just be another day. 

What the summer provides is a lesson in focus. Working fewer hours demands that you focus on work that gives you the greatest return on your investment. This is counter-intuitive but if you work ten fewer hours a week this summer with greater focus, then you'll be stunned by how much you get done. 

Do The Next Right Thing

Take the next ten minutes and create an action plan. Which of these are you responsible for in your church? Who else in leadership needs to see this list? When can you sit down with your team and create a plan for the summer?

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