Summer is a great time to try something different and fun with sermons and lessons. The extra interest you generate may counter the tendency toward leaner attendance. Here are several ideas to keep things fresh this summer.
1. Summer Reading
Many churches do a "Summer Blockbuster" lesson series that pulls clips from popular movies. Why not take this idea in a new direction? This summer, choose a couple of current literary bestsellers and draw inspiration from their pages to enliven your teaching.
If you have authors in your community, select their books and invite them as guest speakers to kick off this fun summer teaching series. If you don't have a local author, consider choosing some of the famous books set in your state.
2. Heaven on Earth
We say it every time we say the Lord's Prayer: "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Many say the words without giving them much thought, but those few words have immense power, especially when we understand that God wants to use us to bring God's kingdom more fully on earth.
This summer, identify four to six small, specific ways every member of your congregation can make earth look more like heaven. Then offer lessons that call them to the action you have planned.
For example, if you want to encourage people be good stewards of creation and, specifically, to treat animals kindly, you might include Proverbs 12:10 in your message. At the end, invite people to sign up to walk animals that week for a local animal-rescue organization or animal shelter. There are other ideas at UM Creation Care or in the discussion starter on creation care at UMC.org. Look at your church's outreach ministries or the local missions you support. Identify one or two simple ways people can be involved for an hour or two to assist -- and also get acquainted with the work. Then, as appropriate, invite them to participate as a response to your sermon or lesson.
3. Adventures of Jesus of Nazareth: the Gospel of Mark
Many scholars agree that Mark's Gospel was originally written to be delivered orally. The text is action-packed. Read it with that mindset, and you quickly see how its pace and excitement are much like a modern-day action movie. Each week of this series, pull out another incredible scene and develop its application for today.
As a different way to engage with the story, ask a couple of actors in your church to take sections of the Gospel and memorize them as monologues. Take it a step further and have a Gospel of Mark dinner-theater night where the audience experiences several passages in one evening.
4. Beautiful Things: Exploring God through Art
The ability to create art is one of the most wonderful gifts God has given humanity. We find art and artists spoken of throughout Scripture. Among them are potters, dancers, artisans working with gold and other precious metals and, of course, musicians. Spend several weeks focusing on these beautiful art forms and how God can be seen through them.
Taking this to the next level can be something special. Use a Facebook post to ask people to connect you with local dancers, painters, potters, cellists and others you could invite to be part of worship. Schedule a different artist each week to support the text of your message. Invite a potter to create pottery during your lesson on Jeremiah 18 or a dancer to perform before you talk about David bringing the Ark into Jerusalem in 2 Samuel 6. The connections you make could be the beginning of creating an artisan community in your church.
Whatever you choose to do, take a lighter approach and create interesting sermons or lessons that encourage members to invite friends.