Fighting The Summer Slump

There are certain things that everyone in church world knows to be true.  Let me give you a few examples.  Nobody actually reads the bulletin but if you stop printing it, there will be a revolt.  Or, live testimonies before baptisms are awesome, except for when they’re a total train wreck.  Or, churches never grow in the summer.

I want to deal with that last one today.  When you find out our church doesn’t have bulletins and usually does live testimonies, it’ll come as no surprise to you that I’m not a fan of writing off the summer either.  I simply don’t believe the Spirit of God is constrained just because it’s warm outside.

Yes, I know it’s vacation season.  Yes, I know I pastor a church in a town that virtually shuts down in the month of August.  Yes, it’s also wedding season.  Yes, our congregation is young, mobile and has some pretty impressive frequent flyer accounts.  Yes, I know the statistics about summer church growth.  So, maybe you should write this whole post off as the adorable naivete of a first year pastor.

But if you’re part of Restoration City, I hope you’ll fight with me against the summer slump.  Here’s some of what we’re already doing as a church:

  • We’ve started sending direct mail pieces to all new residents in our community because we know there are a ton of people who move TO this city every summer.
  • Our first ever summer intern started this week with the specific mission of reaching out to college students and other summer interns.
  • We’re continuing to add new Community Groups, with the newest one starting in Alexandria in mid-June.
  • Our creative team is working hard to make each of our summer gatherings a powerful encounter with Jesus.
  • We’re moving RCC Kids to better serve families with children.

But our churches’ outreach strategy has always been built on us as individuals living as ambassadors of Christ. (2 Cor. 5:20)  God’s work of restoration flows primarily through us and secondarily through the programatic things we do as a church.  So, I want to encourage us to fight the summer slump personally.  Join me in:

  • Praying the Lord will make us effective in reaching the lost in our communities and open doors for us to develop relationships with people who don’t know Jesus.
  • Initiating spiritual conversations with those we meet (particularly people we’ve been building relationships with or those who are new to the area).
  • Inviting people you meet to join you at Restoration City.

I believe God has a lot He wants to accomplish through us this summer.  So, let’s lean in together and see how He wants to use this season for His glory and the good of our city.

The Marriage Gap

IMG_2526Over the weekend, I had the honor of officiating the wedding of a young couple that Laura and I care about very much.  It was a beautiful day celebrating what God has done in bringing them together and praying for all He will do through their now joined lives.  It’s always fun watching people cross the divide from singleness to marriage.

I just wish the divide wasn’t so wide in the church.

Just to make it personal, the greatest segregation I see at Restoration City is between married couples and single adults.  Sometimes it feels like we live in two different worlds.  Married people hang out with other married people and talk about married people things.  Singles hang out with other single people and talk about single people things.  Just like the rest of the world.  And we all miss out.

What if the church became a place that narrowed the divide, not widened it?  We have so much to learn from each other and so many way to bless and encourage one another.  Consider just a few:

  • Single young adults need to be exposed to healthy, Christ centered marriages and families.  In a culture that increasingly tells young singles to avoid or delay marriage and the resulting loss of freedom, we need to create spaces where people see marriage is actually a good and desirable thing.  Married people, you have the ability to bless and serve singles simply by inviting them over for dinner.  Also, the home cooking will be much appreciated!
  • Married couples with children have a huge need for time together to invest in their marriage.  Singles, you have the ability to bless a young family beyond belief by babysitting for a few hours.  Two hours of your time would pour so much life into young parents.
  • Lifelong singles are able to follow the words of Paul and have an undivided focus on the things of the Lord.  Your singleness isn’t a curse from God.  It may be a blessing that allows you to be on the the greatest contributors to the church. (1 Cor. 7:32)  Speak into the lives of the next generation, shape ministries and know that we are all tremendously grateful to have you in our midst.  You aren’t a second class citizen, you are a vital part of the body of Christ.
  • Married people get trapped in a bubble and think only other married people understand their struggles and temptations.  True, to an extent.  But more than empathy, marriages need biblical truth and singles are certainly able to offer that.  Married people could also use a few friends to remind them that life doesn’t have to shut down at 9PM all the time!
  • Married couples, when you’re real about your journey, your struggles, your joys and your disappointments in marriage, you give singles an accurate picture of marriage rather than the silly nonsense flowing from pop culture.

This is one of the primary reasons we are committed to co-ed, multigenerational community groups.  We want marrieds and singles to interact, to form friendships and to encourage one another and to learn from one another.

Are you living exclusively on one side of the divide?  Then break out, reach out and see how much you could learn from the wonderful people on the other side.

Reimagining Starting Point

Sometimes it feels like the whole process of connecting with a church is more like buying a timeshare than joining a family.  You’re invited to come check out how awesome it is, everyone treats you well and then you’re brought in for a very “low pressure” meeting to close the deal.  If you sign on the dotted line, you’re treated like royalty.  If you don’t, you’re ushered out with respectful pity.  After all, if you really loved your family, you would do whatever it takes to invest in time together and memories that never fade.

Sound familiar?  Hey, come check out our church, we think it’s pretty awesome.  Once you attend for a couple of weeks, we’ll have a meeting to tell you about us, answer your questions and get you bought in.  If this is the church for you, we love you!  If not, well, maybe one day you’ll decide you love Jesus and come join us.

Perhaps that’s a bit of an overstatement.  Or it might hit closer to home than any of us would like to admit.

For the record, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong or manipulative with that process.  It’s simple, clean, efficient and very logical.  It’s just not the way you welcome new members to a family.  When Aidan was born, we didn’t invite him to a meeting.  We had a party.

When someone is thinking about joining the spiritual family of Restoration City Church, we don’t want to invite them to a meeting.  We want to welcome them with a party.  That’s why we’re reimagining Starting Point.  We’re shifting it from a meeting after our gathering to a dinner at my house.  Yes, we’ll still communicate some basic information about the church and give people the chance to ask questions.  But the real point of the night is to build relationships and acclimate people to our family’s culture.

Ephesians 2:19 tells us, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,”  We really are a spiritual family and Restoration City is one little outpost of God’s household.  We want to welcome people to the household with a party, not a meeting.  Granted, it’s a small shift.  But I think it communicates something important about our culture.  Families have parties.

So, are you new to Restoration City?  Want to meet some of the people you see on Sunday morning?  Want to learn a little bit more of our story and share some of yours?  Then, let’s have dinner!  We’re hosting our first reimagined Starting Point this Sunday from 4.30 – 6.30 at our house (sorry for the early time but we’re working around bedtimes for little kids!).  You can find out more and RSVP here.

Laura and I would love to hang out with you on Sunday!