For those who lead the local church, summer has finally arrived, bringing with it some challenges and opportunities. The traditional church calendar calls this Ordinary Time, the period between Easter and Christmas when the church is breathing in after an intense season of observing the birth and celebrating the resurrection of Christ. This is the time when churches normally experience waning attendance and marginal enthusiasm. It can be a discouraging time for pastors who fear losing all the momentum gained during the holier seasons of church life.
These warm months don’t have to be dispiriting, though. Summer can actually give us an opportunity to do three critical things we tend to ignore during the frenetic moments of Lent or Advent.
1. Go on a real vacation.
Pastors are notorious for not taking all their vacation days or taking just a few days between Sundays that really do not allow for rest. I think every pastor needs to take consecutive Sundays off to restore themselves. Even if you have a small church with mostly volunteer staff, you can trust them to speak for you on Sundays in July. Unplug yourself and get out of town. Do not look at your emails and assign a trusted person to let you know if there are “real” emergencies that require your attention. Do something fun. Go on long walks. Sleep late on some mornings. Go see a brainless summer movie with your family or just come to Colorado. We know how to do summer here.
2. Read for fun.
Pastors who want to lead well must read well. That means we need to read for fun and not just for sermon prep. Pick up a great novel or some poetry for the summer. Do not read theology texts, unless you read that for fun, which means no one but Dr. Phil can help you at this point. The main thing is to infuse some new life into our cerebrums, restoring our prophetic imaginations and triggering some holy creativity along the way.
3. Plan ahead
The biggest mistake we make as pastors during the sleepy months of summer is not planning for the forthcoming acceleration of the fall. School will start in August, followed by fall retreats, Thanksgiving outreaches, and Christmas Eve services. The crazy spin-cycle of church activity can feel like a tsunami if we do no spend time now planning how we’ll use our time and resources. Pray, plan, discuss, write down goals, create budgets now, during ordinary time, so the busy times can be extraordinary.