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    Quarterly Unstuck Church Report

As a parent of four kids, I know busy. As much as we try to set boundaries for our kids, busy is part of the business. This time of year, of course, it gets even busier. School activities kick into full swing. Fall sports practices and games hit the schedule. The miles on the minivan stack up quickly when the calendar flips to August and then September.

With that in mind, I’ve never thought to myself: “I can’t wait until fall hits so that things will finally slow down.”

The irony, though, is that this is routinely how I see churches operating. The summers are stacked with multiple students and kids camps. There are all kinds of special events. The pace, particularly for young families with students and kids, picks up. For some reason the maxim appears to be the busier the better.

As all that busyness is happening during the summer, you can see it in the eyes of the church staff and volunteers. In the back of their minds they’re thinking: “I can’t wait until fall hits so that things will finally slow down and we can catch our breath.”

Invest your resources in the seasons that are most likely to lead to growth and life change.

Think about it. If you are a church trying to reach people who don’t normally attend a church service, when do you see your weekend services grow? When are the people you’re trying to reach most likely to show up and then stick around for several months? If you’re like most churches, it’s the fall. This is a key growth season. A second key growth season likely occurs in the months following Christmas.

In the season when we’re most likely to reach the most new people, our key resource–our staff and volunteer leaders–are ready to take a break. Even worse, so much focus was poured into pulling off summer activities and then squeezing in vacations that little intentional planning happened leading up to fall.

In other words, churches are not prepared for growth when growth is most likely to occur. This is compounded by the fact that in many parts of the country, schools are starting at the beginning of August. If you’re reading this the week after Labor Day in the United States, you already missed five weeks of potential growth.

This is a stewardship principle.

Why would we invest our limited resources during the seasons when we’re least likely to reach people outside the church? You may not realize this, but normal people don’t go to church during the summer–only church people do. Consider this:

“But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’” (Luke 14:28, NLT)

If you invested a lot of staff and volunteer leadership energy this summer, your teams are likely worn out and not prepared for this potential season of growth. If that’s you, know that on the inside I’m laughing at you. You didn’t count the cost.

This is how growing churches think.

They prepare during the times when they are least likely to reach new people. They take breaks. They slow down. Then, they invest their focus, energy and resources in the seasons when they’re most likely to experience growth. Plateaued and declining churches try to keep people busy all the time. They believe that busy is better. They’re measuring activity rather than results.

If busy isn’t getting you growth–numerical and spiritual growth–then you need a new strategy. By the way, research has shown getting people more involved in more activities does not produce spiritual growth.

Are you tired and worn out? Then I apologize for my lack of mercy, because I’m still laughing at you on the inside.

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