September, for many of our churches, is a month of ministry startups for the school year. Some of our congregations close for part of the summer. Many of our youth and children’s programs stop during July and August. Probably most of our committees and groups also take a break.
So there is the challenge of calling people back into our activities and programs. Anecdotal evidence and personal observation lead me to believe that many of us experience greater difficulty year by year in getting people back and engaged during early September.
Notwithstanding various events like “Rally Sundays” and special startup services and programs, the return of many folks has drifted later and later into October. Many churches have their “normal” attendance delayed until November.
There are some who don’t return. They move away, they get involved in other things, they lose interest or they just drift away. For many congregations, this can be a significant loss as each family and each person has such importance in small churches.
There can be a loss of momentum because volunteers draw back from their previous commitments for health reasons, burnout or outside involvements. Unfortunately this sometimes has a domino effect.
I hope I can encourage us by trying to imagine all this from God’s perspective. If He was to hold a “Rally Sunday” to what would He be calling us back? I believe that the renewal and revival of Christ’s church is more about the Lord calling us back to His priorities than the church calling us back to its programs.
I believe God would call us back to prayer. I think a lot of us would admit that during summer activities and vacations, our prayer life is diminished or even nonexistent. Making prayer a priority as we restart so many things in September will allow God to direct us and empower us to be the people He calls us to be.
I believe God would call us back to His written word. Bible engagement slips during the summer and doesn’t automatically return in September. Having an emphasis on daily Bible reading could make a great difference. Might I suggest each congregation commit to one of the many reading plans available. Start with something not too daunting. If you need a resource I would suggest the excellent E100 Challenge idea that Scripture Union developed. Not only is the reading plan well done, the supporting resources will make it fun and doable.
I believe that God would call us back to the Living Word: Jesus Christ the Son. The fall is a great time to remind us all who Jesus is and what he has done. If you have the opportunity to experience sermon series in your congregation, one of the most meaningful I have heard about lately is one based on the “I am” statements of Jesus. If Jesus is who he says he is, our faith and practice will both be inspired.
Of no less importance, I believe God would call us back to His mission in the world. How can we, the church, work for peace and justice and strive to reduce suffering and poverty in our neighbourhoods and our world? How can we involve all of our congregants in being Christ to all and Christ – like in all things?