(Dr. Jeremy Pridgeon) - What would a simple phone call to the members of your church do to ensure the "summer slide" doesn't become a "fall flop?" As I have traveled the district this summer, many of you have mentioned a much higher degree of absenteeism among the congregations you serve. I have thought about this and it may be a positive indicator that people are traveling a bit more, meaning that perhaps the economic conditions have leveled off or are improving. But it does create a challenge to ensure that those who have not been in the habit of coming to church over the past couple of months return to worship.
An idea I have used (and would offer) is a "Back to School, Back to Church" calling program. Using leaders of the church - Church Council and other committee members, as well as volunteers who have great skills on the phone - set aside two or three evenings to call the entire membership of your church. This is a great way to share with them about upcoming fall events, such as Bible studies, concerts, new worship services, etc.; to update the church records in the database by getting correct physical and email addresses, telephone numbers or learn if your membership is on Facebook, Twitter or other social media; to find out if they have any questions about the church, such as the children's ministry, youth ministry, senior adult ministry, missions, etc.; and to learn whether there is anything that the church may need to know about, such as a pastoral care situation in the family.
A five-minute phone call opens the door for the person to return to pre-summer attendance habits and lets them know they have been missed by their congregation. The information collected by the callers can be directed to the clergy or other staff for follow up, creating an additional opportunity to contact the member. One caveat: The entire membership must be contacted, including those who have attended every week during the summer, so as to ensure that the church understands that ALL members are receiving calls and you are not singling out a certain segment of the congregation. I made sure even Abigail and I were called each year.
An additional opportunity is to create an email e-letter that can be sent to members and prospective members sharing about the upcoming fall at your church. This allows for persons, in their own time, to learn about your church and perhaps visit in the near future.
If you have additional ideas that you would share with your brothers and sisters about how to combat the summer slide, please feel free to pass them along. We can collect our "best practices" to share across the district and ensure that as we wrap up a great summer 2012 we prepare for an even greater fall season.