Health and Wholeness

Summer faith

Reid Lemmon explores the creek at Cedar Crest Camp in Lyles, Tennessee. Cedar Crest has been owned and operated by the Tennessee Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church since 1959. Photo by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications.
Reid Lemmon explores the creek at Cedar Crest Camp in Lyles, Tennessee. Cedar Crest has been owned and operated by the Tennessee Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church since 1959. Photo by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications.

Over the last two and half years, our faith community has been shook, shaken and ultimately turned upside down. Now that things are getting somewhat back to normal, our faith communities are opening up and summer is upon us. Your church is thrilled with options to see one another, worship together, fellowship, and, of course, those who choose to worship from the comfort of home and watch online.

We are in a new normal. Masks on or off, the church as we know it is a hybrid. There is a continual option to be in person or online, and we have had to shift to create this space. Gosh, this seems like even more work, you may be saying. Not really, but it is taking a step back and deciding how we do things as we have always done them, year after year? Or do we take time to have a fresh perspective?

Summertime, in many churches has been the time to slow down, plan for the Fall, focus on youth and children mission trips, Vacation Bible School (VBS), and any other summer programs. In 2022, we are just coming back together, so how do we take care of our mental, physical and emotional selves, and vacay with the kids while creating engaging moments of spiritual formation?

Of course, it is best to plan early, but we have learned to pivot and adjust our lead time in this climate. There is still time to create experiences for this summer. Remember to be creative and think beyond any idea generated. Thinking beyond the idea means to live in the moment to gain a sense of what you want your attendees to experience.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Start simple. Think fun for all ages.

    Review what has been done in the past, as perhaps it’s time to reimagine what is possible for now. Remember simple church picnics where everyone brought their food and hosted their table or section? Create out-of-the-box opportunities or simple spaces to promote fellowship. (See ideas below)

  • Communicate and build momentum.

    Keep in mind that we are not only planning for the members or attendees that we normally see on Sunday morning! Create a space that is welcoming to all. Encourage people to invite a neighbor or a friend, and be sure to invite those that live around your church. So often we worship in a community but never speak to our neighbors.Be sure to share the dates of the upcoming opportunities for engagement and the sermon series. There is nothing like putting a lot of thought and energy into the execution and no one knows about it. Be sure to share not only in worship but also share on social media, email, phone tree, and website.

  • Share the wealth.

    Review your calendars. Look at when you plan vacations and educational leaves. Be intentional with the preachers and leaders you leave in place. Pair the preaching calendar with fun engagement opportunities and include other preachers to take the load off the lead pastor.

  • Don’t forget your online community.

    We have a community that wants to worship virtually, so make sure they feel apart. Be sure to have an online host to engage with the online community and answer questions. Offer prayer requests for the online folks. Think out the box of how you can include them in the experience.

A few ideas for all to participate:

  • Juneteenth Worship – Educate through the arts on the history of Juneteenth. Plan to wear jeans and the colors of the Juneteenth flag (red, white, and blue). Watch the show Blackish on ABC for ideas.
  • Virtual Vestibule – Jump on Zoom to greet the online community. The same way you greet in person attendees at the door, have quick chats with those that choose to jump on Zoom.(30 minutes tops)
  • Decades a Sundays – Choose themes, dress the parts, and incorporate music from the decades. Create prized for the best dressed.
  • Movie or television themed worship series
  • Family Camp Out – Sleep under the stars on the church lawn. Everyone bring your tent and sleeping bags and create a camping trip without going away.
  • Movie on the Lawn – An all-time favorite for all. Rent a movie and a screen, pop lots of popcorn and invite the neighbors
  • VBS – An oldie but goodie! Be sure to incorporate a class for the adults.

Candi C. Cylar currently serves as the project manager and experience director for Strengthening the Black Church of the 21st Century, SBC21, an Ethnic National Plan of the United Methodist Church.