Oh, it’s warm to hot and our energy is not. Summertime means everyone kicks back a bit and takes life easy. Slip in a few weeks of vacation. Get to work a bit later and sidle out just a bit early. Most committees have fewer members as folk take vacations from church or actually go out of town. It’s a great time to throttle back and wait for the cooler climate of fall before we get excited about stuff we need to do.
But if we wait, the grass gets too tall, the weeds choke the garden, the lettuce goes to seed, and one day we wake up and discover there are a whole lot of things that need our attention.
The same is certainly true in the church. The wise pastor knows summer is a great time to take vacation; but, when you are on the clock, there is a whole passel of summer chores to do.
If you are having trouble remembering where you put the metaphorical lawn mower, here is a short list of things to get done when the sun is high and the thermometer is too.
There are several key things that need to be planned in the summer to make sure they come off well and at the right time in the fall and even early winter.
Call your worship leaders together and plan out the fall schedule. By the time school starts in your community you should know all the worship events that will happen at your church through New Year’s.
Special musical offerings
Non-Sunday worship events
Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Watch Night, etc.
Your financial team needs to come together to plan the Stewardship Campaign. What are the dates of the campaign? Are those dates on the church calendar? What parts need to take place in worship, necessitating coordination with the worship team?
What materials need to be:
Distributed in worship
Followed up on
You should also spend some time on your end of the year financial projections. You know how the first half of the year went, so how do you expect the second half to go? How did the second half go last year? What adjustments need to be made to the budget? If you need more money, how will you go about getting it? Do you need a special fund-raising event? Do you need a special appeal for funds? Just how dry is the well?
Spend some time going over the Leadership Report — nominations for church officers and committee members from your last Church Conference.
What committees, groups, work areas or task forces are working with diminished resources? Have people stopped attending meetings, moved away, died, or become disabled? What new people have come into the church who need to find a place to be in ministry so they can develop stronger connections to the church and community?
Are there people you need to elevate into some new ministry? Are some people poorly placed with consideration to their skills?
Would it be wise to call a Leadership Development meeting to address some of your concerns before we get deep into fall and the deficiencies become more glaring?
Assuming fall is going to be very busy, are all the troops organized and ready to march?
Are all the key leaders on board with all the ministries and activities that are coming up?
Not only is summer the perfect time to fire up the grill and devour copious amounts of burgers, dogs, and sweet summer corn on the cob and juicy watermelon, it is also the perfect time to feed your volunteers, leaders and staff.
Most pastors do not fully understand nor appreciate the care and feeding of church volunteers, leaders and staff. You can’t go down to the feed store and pick up a bag of Volunteer Chow – though I am sure Ralston Purina must make it.
Summer is the perfect time, when we do have a bit of extra space in our schedules, to grab lunch or snack with those people who make the machinery of the church work all year long. It’s like lubricating the machinery before the harvest. Meet with people one-on-one, so they feel they have your undivided attention. That alone tells them how special they are to you. Then tell them how much you appreciate the things they did this past year – be prepared to be very specific about the things they did for the church. Share with them your hopes and excitement about the great fall programs coming up. Everything will work better if you have built strong relationships with all your key people. They will be a whole lot more eager to get started in the fall if they know you know how special they are.
Remember those lonely cowboys riding the fences all across the prairies looking for holes to mend? When they find them, they get out the barbed wire, the heavy gloves and big pliers and set to making the fence whole again. There is no more onerous task than mending fences; it is lonely and no one can do it but you. But it must be done or the herd will find that hole in the fence and drift away. Even if only a few head wandered off, it is better to mend the fence first before attempting to round them up.
You remember that meeting last February when you and Bob got into it about some issue that you can’t remember now. Bob stopped attending, his wife stopped singing in the choir, too. And you just thought, “Well, good riddance! They’ve been nothing but trouble for me for years. I’m glad they’ve gone.”
Maybe it was a good thing, but just maybe it was a simple misunderstanding on both parts that really needs to be healed and put to rest.
The thing to know here is that the rest of the herd is watching you. You need to do two things: fix the fence and go look for Bob.
How to Fix the Fences:
I tell couples when they come in for counseling, “All breakups are 50/50. You may be sure that the other person is more at fault; but, I guarantee you, if you look hard enough, you will discover ways in which both parties are complicit in this.”
Broken fences come in two basic types people to people relationships, pastor to people relationships. With people to people relationships you may need to initiate some mediation between to church members. Several phone calls and personal meetings may need to take place to get people to tip-toe back to a working relationship.
With broken pastor to people fences, you, pastor, need to understand that just maybe something you did contributed to what happened to break that fence. Perhaps you just reacted badly? Perhaps you did not fully understand the history of the issue? Perhaps their reaction confused you and you don’t fully understand why they did or said what they did? If you had known more, you might have reacted differently.
To be sure, the other person knows full well what it was you did to them; and, likely as not, you do not fully understand their position.
Summer is a perfect time to show up on the door step and say, “Help me understand what happened between us? I need to know because I don’t want it to continue. I would like to make the effort to find a way to mend our relationship, will you help me?”
It is possible your most sincere efforts will fall on deaf ears. But it is also possible that after this time of separation, they are just as eager to love you again as you are to love them. You won’t know unless you make the effort. No matter how sure you are that it is all their fault, you are the pastor, you are the healer, you are the messenger of the most high, you must make the first effort and it must be earnest and sincere.
If you make the effort, even if it fails, it will mend the fence for the rest of the congregation. They will know that you made the effort and they will be less likely to test the fence.
If you make the effort and it succeeds, the rest of the flock will know that you are not Little Bo Peep, you are the Good Shepherd, and you can’t buy that perception. It is priceless.
Making the effort to plan, feed and mend over the summer will put your church at full strength to hit the ground running in the fall.
Plus, it shows the positive traits of a good leader. People will follow a good leader.
© 2016 – Steve Petty