An anonymous wit has defined summer as the time of year when the children slam the doors they left open all winter. For the busy minister, summer can be either a season of open doors or slammed doors.
It all depends on our attitude and our planning. If our attitude is negative and we don’t plan our summer ministry, then summer could become a disaster. But if we approach the season with positive enthusiasm and plan our work, well, something great might happen!
Let’s take summer preaching, for instance. When the vacation season arrives, the preacher gradually gets the impression that he’s ministering to a parade. Not only are people going on their annual holidays, but more families than ever are taking off on weekends to enjoy their boats and vans.
Well, there’s no sense in fighting it. Just pray that some pastor near the lake is seeing bigger crowds. (His discouraging Sundays are in the cold months when the vacation crowd is back home!) Some of your people will have guests visiting them during the summer and will bring them to church; so it works both ways…we hope.
Let’s start our summer ministry in the spring by letting the people know that nobody-including the pastor is taking a vacation from Christian responsibility during the summer months. Present your board with a suggested program that will keep the witness bright and active. After all, summer is a time for growing, and that should include God’s church! In fact, that isn’t a bad slogan for the church: “While you’re going – keep growing!” (Suggestion: each spring have a contest for the best summer slogan.)
Encourage the people to keep in touch by sending a card or a letter to the church family. Families that plan to be away for longer periods ought to be sent the church bulletins so they can keep up with the news. (We assume that there is something in the bulletin, other than the order of service.) Perhaps you can put up a map and let the homebodies know where the pilgrims are tenting.
Maintain the “prayer network” as much as possible. Vacationers should take the church and missionary prayer lists with them, and those at home should pray for those who are away.
Be sure to recommend good churches to those who will be traveling.
Some churches display bulletins brought home by vacationers. Why not plan a “Vacation Vision” service and let folks share what the Lord did for them and through them while they were vacationing? (Fish stories allowed? Well, let the board decide.)
By all means encourage your people to maintain their devotional life on the road, and, if necessary, provide the materials to assist them. You may want to develop an all-church summer Bible reading and prayer schedule that will enable the church family to meet at the Throne of Grace.
Summer preaching need not distress you if you plan ahead. Since people are on the move, it’s not the best time to do an exposition of a book; but you ought to consider a series that covers a theme and yet presents each message as a complete study. How many Sundays are available depends on when you start the series and how your own annual vacation fits in.
I always enjoyed doing the Psalms in the summer; they seem to fit the season. For one thing, many people are thinking about the out-of-doors, and there is a lot of “nature” in the Psalms. Read chapter 8 of Reflections on the Psalms by C. S. Lewis, if you need a fresh look at this theme. We don’t say enough these days about the power of God in nature or about the encouragement of God’s providence.
Our Lord often used nature symbols in His sermons and parables, and the use of nature illustrations in the Epistle of James is remarkable. Check 1:6,10,17; 3:3-5,8,11,18;4:14; 5:7,19-20; and see any good critical commentary for more examples.
Or, how about a brief series on some “summer people”? Start with the gardener (parable of the sower), and then use the lazy farmer described in Proverbs 24:30-34. Don’t forget the busy fisherman (plenty of material here). The mountain climbers might want to meet Caleb (see Josh. 14:12, and be sure to check all references to this remarkable man). As for the bird-watchers, use your Bible and your sanctified imagination and you will have more material than you will need. In fact, you could do a whole series on Bible birds and what they teach us.
Just keep in mind that you are not trying to preach a “clever” series. You are ministering the Word so that sinners will trust Christ and God’s people will be nourished and grow. More than one pastor has turned the summer Sundays into one long soul-winning crusade and reaped a harvest for the Lord. It can be done.
Never look upon the summer as a time for doing less. Satan is the author of the idea of “the summer slump.” You may have opportunities for evangelism and nurture that are not available the rest of the year, particularly as visitors come and as other churches cancel their services for the summer.
And the time to start your planning is now.
When you do take your vacation, plan to read at least one good book that will help you in your ministry. Some pastors invest an hour or so each day in sketching out their fall and winter preaching. It’s amazing the ideas that will come to you when the phone is not ringing and you have no hospital visits to make! If you don’t want to be that fanatical, at least carry a 3 x 5 card with you, so you can jot down the many ideas that will come to you when you least expect them. They will be elusive, so grab them immediately!
©2002 WWW Used by permission. This article is copyrighted by the author and is for your individual use. Reproduction for any other purpose is governed by copyright laws and is strictly prohibited. This material originally appeared in Prokope, March-April 1986.
Dr. Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) was an internationally known Bible teacher, author, and conference speaker. He graduated in 1953 from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. While attending seminary, he was ordained as pastor of Central Baptist Church in 1951 and served until 1957. From September 1957 to 1961, Wiersbe served as Director of The Literature Division for Youth for Christ International. From 1961 to 1971 he pastored Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky south of Cincinnati, Ohio. His sermons were broadcast as the “Calvary Hour” on a local Cincinnati radio station. From 1971 to 1978, He served as the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago 1971 to 1978. While at Moody Church he continued in radio ministry. Between August 1979 and March 1982, he wrote bi-weekly for Christianity Today as “Eutychus X”, taught practical theology classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and wrote the course material and taught a Doctor of Ministry course at Trinity and Dallas Seminary. In 1980 he transitioned to Back to the Bible radio broadcasting network where he worked until 1990. Dr. Wiersbe became Writer in Residence at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. In his lifetime, Dr. Wiersbe wrote over 170 books—including the popular Be series, which has sold over four million copies. Dr. Wiersbe was awarded the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).