Summer slump hits churches

lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comJuly 7, 2012 

Church pastors refer to it as the summer slump.

Attendance drops and so often do donations.

Pastor Frank Parr of Wynnton United Methodist Church in Columbus said there are a few members of his congregation who will bring him church bulletins from other areas to show they were in church on Sunday even when they were not in the pews in Columbus.

"They really don't have to do that," he said.

While pastors in many churches plan special events to try and keep people coming such as movie nights, guest speakers, a sermon series and projects with other congregations, pastors spoken to recently in this area do not go to any extraordinary measures.

"It's just part of summer," Parr said of the slump.

At his church, students and some adults are involved in camps in North Carolina and come back to tell the congregation of their experiences.

"Our people seem to be interested in hearing about that," Parr said.

In August, there will be a Sunday school promotion ceremony for the kids.

While some of the church's regulars take a break, often going away to visit relatives, Parr said he sees members of his congregation bring their visitors to services.

"We also see people who come visit who are interested in joining," he said.

Vacation Bible schools and often community service projects keep members engaged at many churches.

Brandon Isome, pastor at Nazareth Baptist Church, calls June and July "challenging."

"We have to be a little creative with the budget," he said.

But he knows in advance what to expect.

He said the summer is time to do a little more with the youth. He mentioned a Nazareth Baptist outing to Six Flags Over Georgia.

The slower pace of summer gives Parr more time to prepare for the fall.

Thomas Carstens at Faith Outreach Church in Phenix City said it is not just vacations but heat that plays a role in the dropoff. He said people don't want to get out if they don't have to.

"We have a healing service on the first Sunday of the month," he said of one event that gets a good turnout.

He said he understands people getting away.

"I don't begrudge a vacation," he said. "We all need one."

He said some do not seem to think of church as important in the summer, but he has a loyal disciplined core of members he knows will always be there.

Jerry Speer of Northside Baptist Church in Columbus said he does not plan any special services.

"All of our services are special," he said. "The task has not changed. The thrust has not changed."

There was one special occasion the Sunday before the Fourth of July. It was a casual dress Sunday and a cookout.

"We had a lot of people," he said. "It was not like an Easter Sunday but it was a good turnout."

He said vacation Bible school is going well and youth are on important missions.

"It is business as usual here," Speer said.

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