These are the days of the summer worship dip — when it seems that half the congregation is off taking a dip in the pool at the time of worship on Sunday mornings. I know that this happens every year. I know that a couple of months ago I was feeling encouraged by the energy in worship and the life of the congregation. I know that it’s not about the numbers. And I know that it takes a greater commitment in a small congregation to maintain that critical mass in worship than in a large congregation. I know all these things and yet I am frustrated. Unfortunately the summer slump has a more significant effect on a small congregation. Just a few regular worshipers absent each Sunday can significantly alter the experience of the community for others, especially for visitors and those looking for a church home.
In these recent weeks we have had quite a number of first time worshipers — some we met at PrideFest who are looking for an Open and Affirming Congregation — some who have been invited by others — some who have found us through our website. Yet when they arrive I feel that they do not experience the strength and wholeness of the congregation.
There are several challenges for me as pastor:
1. To remain focused on what really matters: on proclaiming the life-giving love of God and reaching out to nurture the congregation and those beyond.
2. To encourage the congregation to worship together when they are in town in the summer, without being negative about those who are taking vacation time away.
3. To find creative ways to celebrate and worship together in the summer so that worship is full and complete for those who are present.
4. To affirm that we all need time away and that those who give so much year round can benefit by spending time with family and finding time for rest.
5. To love those who are present and let go of that pastor’s desire to control the congregation or even to believe I can control people’s experience of the congregation.
6. To remember that we need only to be faithful and joyful; to live the ministry of Jesus Christ.
If others have insights or suggestions, I welcome them. This is remains one of my growing edges.