Now that we’re getting close to those relaxing days of summer, it’s natural that some parishes begin to prepare for that dip in member engagement. School is over, vacations have been planned, and barbeques are in full swing. As a church, it’s our responsibility to remind our parishioners that summer shouldn’t just be about recharging our bodies, but it should also (and most importantly!) be about focusing on our spiritual life.
Just as parish office hours may need to be adjusted during summer months, so, too, might the requirements of the faithful need some adjusting. Whether that be moving Eucharistic adoration to a different afternoon so as to not compete with a popular community event, scheduling extra confession times for those who can’t make it at the usual time, or adding in a Sunday night Mass, we need to start adjusting our parish schedule to better meet those of our members.
1.Encourage Them to Stay
Keeping the faith at the forefront of your parishioners’ minds can be challenging for parishes, especially when summer rolls around. That’s why so many choose to think outside the box with new ways to get the faith community together, such as summer festivals and family picnics. However, there are even more ways to get both the parish and the community at large together.
A lot of parishes schedule group outings around community events, such as outdoor music concerts or family-friendly movies. Not only is it a great opportunity to come together in a setting outside of the church, but it allows the church to become even more visible to “outsiders.”
Another way to get people more involved in parish life during the summer is to accommodate to some specific demographics. With school being out, a lot of parents are in need of childcare during the summer, and one way parishes can help is by offering Vacation Bible School. Not only does it allow formation for our littlest members, but also gives parents some much needed help with childcare. And teens going through the confirmation process can also get their volunteer hours taken care of by volunteering their time.
2. Give Them a Reason & an Opportunity to Participate
Oftentimes, parishioners don’t volunteer their talents unless you make it known that you need their help. Summer is the perfect time to take inventory of what can be improved on the parish level and to actively seek people out to help with the process. Whether that be researching ways to be more efficient at stuffing the weekly bulletin, contacting companies for the best deal for online giving software, or just weeding the garden outside, summer is the time to ask for assistance.
Place a help wanted ad in the next bulletin, announce that a sign-up sheet will be in the back of church for the upcoming meal program, or talk about the many needs of the church during an upcoming homily. Put together some activities that can be done as a group, such as painting or cleaning, and invite members to stop by for an hour or two to lend a hand.
3. Encourage Them to Stay in Touch with Christ
Just because members go on vacation doesn’t mean they have an excuse to miss Mass. Even though they may not plan to attend your parish throughout the summer, encourage them to visit one while on vacation. This can be done in a number of ways.
Make a list of suggested “destination parishes” or parishes that are near well-known attractions throughout the country. Some parishes hold a parish bulletin contest, where parishioners are encouraged to bring back a bulletin from a church they attended while on vacation. The person with the farthest destination wins the contest!
4. Keep Them in Touch with Parish Life
Finally, no matter where they go, or how often they attend Mass at your specific parish, make sure you keep them up to date on the latest happenings. Does your parish publish the weekly bulletin online? Be sure to link it to your website so anyone at any time or place can access to find the latest information. If your faith community has a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account, make sure everyone with a social media account is connected and following along.
5. Keep the Giving Consistent
Consistent parish giving also tends to dip a little when summer comes around. Parishioners might choose to attend a parish with a Mass time that better meets their schedule that week, or perhaps they travel and end up going to a parish that is in their vacation area. Whatever the reason, you need to ensure that your members have zero reason to not give.
Does your parish offer online giving? If so, make sure everyone is signed up for recurring donations. Just a few extra steps that allows them to “set it and forget it,” this option allows them to contribute whether they’re in the pews or not.
Maintaining an engaging parish during the summer months can be challenging. What is your parish doing to bridge the gap?