Communicating as a church throughout the summer has its challenges. With nice weather and time off from school, many families take vacations. In some areas, it’s common to head to the lake for the weekend when work wraps up on Friday and not return home until Sunday evening. Those in “destination” locations may see an uptick in visitors. For these and other reasons, summer church attendance can be sporadic, throwing a wrench in more traditional church communication methods.
But, summer church communications also present great opportunities for creativity and connection. Over the last year or so, we’ve learned how adaptable and creative we can be when facing new situations and constraints. Now is a good time to continue strengthening those communication muscles! Check out the list below for helpful ideas to try with your congregation this summer.
1. Find different ways to say the same thing
Recognizing that connection and engagement with the local congregation heavily fluctuates between Memorial Day and Labor Day, we can say that in-person and bulletin announcements are not the most reliable avenue for church communication. The more laidback nature of summertime allows for some experimentation to find what works for your community.
Think through the target audience of whatever it is you’re communicating about or promoting and select communication pathways that will reach them. If the goal of a block party is to meet the people who live in your community, in-house communications don’t fit the bill, but hand-delivering invitations to your neighbors might. A well-designed, inviting, and engaging postcard usually gets my attention.
The same goes for reconnecting with members who have been away. Reaching out digitally or via snail mail is more likely to be seen than a blurb in the bulletin.
Highlight important events with widespread advertising (website, email, social media, outdoor signs, etc.) and personal invitations. Recruit a small team to make phone calls or write notes (a great way to engage individuals with strong connecting skills!) and assign the names of specific individuals or families who you hope to see involved.
2. Equip members while they're away
Many churches have increased their online presence, and summer is a great time to lean into those digital tools and resources! Remind members that they can stay connected to their congregation all summer through online services, sermon recordings, Bible studies, and digital giving options. Share resources and links on your church website, social media channels, digital newsletters, and in printed bulletins or handouts. Say something like, “On the road this summer? Stay connected and nurtured in your faith! Check out these resources: [insert short and valuable bulleted list]”!
You can also encourage individuals and families to find a local church near their vacation destination using the LCMS “Find a Church” search feature.
3. Communicate early and often
It’s never too early to start talking about things and sharing calendar details for events happening throughout the summer months and even early fall. Succinctly communicate why folks should be interested and carve out time to be part of Vacation Bible School, service events, youth or family retreats, community block parties, parenting classes, ministry kickoffs, etc.
In both print and digital spaces, it may be helpful to have a simple “Save the Date” column with calendar items for the upcoming quarter.
4. Personally reach out
As leaders (both staff and laity), we often look for communication avenues that are time efficient and find ourselves frustrated when they’re not effective — I know I do, anyway! In a world of mass communication, it’s easy to gloss right over the option of a personal call or note. Yet, these individual points of connection are the best for letting someone know you care and that they’re an important part of your church family.
Try setting a goal of contacting five families or individuals who have been away each week, whether for a few weeks or the last year. Write a note or make a phone call. Keep the focus on how they’re doing and ask how their church family can be praying for them. If appropriate, include a simple “looking forward to seeing you again soon!” along with summer service times or an invitation to an event on the church’s “Save the Date” list (see above).
A personal follow up or “Thanks for worshiping with us!” goes a long way in making visitors feel welcome, so don’t be afraid to give that a try as well.
5. Avoid insider language
We all have ministry names and shorthand that prompt a “Huh?” from visitors, new members, and even some folks who have been around for years. As we have an eye and ear to the experience of visitors, decoding and eliminating insider language is key. Be clear and use plain language whenever possible. Include simple, concise explanations when more formal language is necessary. Read all materials through the lens of someone outside of your congregation (or find someone who is able to help with this task) and make edits based on confusing language or explanations.
6. Clearly communicate safety precautions and expectations
With COVID-19 concern and practices varying by state, region, city, and congregation, it’s important to clearly and kindly communicate any safety precautions being taken and what is expected of those attending or participating in services or other events held by your congregation. This is helpful for visitors and for those who may be returning to in-person worship for the first time.
At the end of the day, we want our communications to point to Jesus and opportunities to be nurtured and grow in His love. Our efforts will always be a work in progress, but His promises are certain and sure.
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