by Kathye Hamm
This week is the official start of summer even though there have only been a few really hot days, at least where I live. The weather is not the only sign of the change of season – so many things are happening in the month of June, as it ushers us to summer: schools are closing for the school year and so is Sunday School season, people are traveling for holidays, ice cream stores are packed, BBQ grills are smoking, morning sleep-ins, moving trucks’ business are busy, and more. It is a known fact that summer is one of the common times when church attendance is down. So some take this time as a breather from the busy year. Why not? Everyone needs downtime. On the other hand, we also know that summer has so much mission potential. It is the season of summer camps (my family is registered to attend one of the amazing programs at Mt. Cross), mission trips locally or abroad, the Pride March, Vacation Bible School, picnics at the park, and other adventures. Summer is really a new spiritual season with its own joys and challenges. It is indeed a holy season – a possible new liturgical season (I am not officially recommending it but, just imagine) because of the many possibilities of doing and being in mission in a “hot” fashion. Mission in summer, as always, invites to both receive and give – because as we know it is God’s mission not ours. As I think of congregations continually participating in God’s mission in summer, I would like to share one or two possibilities:
Preparing our worship service as a community of hospitality for those who are seeking belonging and spirituality. There are two thoughts (or more) on this matter. Some believe that summer is the best time to experiment or do new things to learn, and summer might mean new visitors to the community. Others would keep in mind that consistency is always good even in low attendance season. Instead of searching for good advice to congregations, I thought that this article about suggestions to those who are seeking churches will give a different lens on this matter. A Presbyterian church planter and former national United Church of Christ Moderator, Pastor Bruce Chow, wrote this article in 2017 entitled “How to Choose a Church”, giving a glimpse on how visiting our church might look to those on the outside. Even though he advised church seekers not to visit in summer, I wonder how these suggestions might be helpful to our congregational leadership in summer.
A mission trip is a ministry of disciples making disciples. We love going to another place to serve, especially in those places and communities where poverty is present. In our times, we have learned to view thoughtfully and critically the issues of “hand out” mission trips or “mountain top” experience or consumer led mission trips. As summer is sometimes a season of slowing down, it could be the best time for our soul to both be nourished while nurturing others. How could a mission trip be a place for Christians to be able to become apostles – sent out to make disciples of others and grow in discipleship through relationship? Would a mission a trip be a place of learning our own faith stories and sharing it intimately with those with whom we journey? Would a mission trip be an opportunity to witness how God is present, not only in those we serve but in us as we serve, and be able to share this with others in gratitude? Would this be an opportunity to go deeper in our hearts and soul to where God is already at work in and through us – healing, provoking, assuring us – so that we become compelled to share the work of God with those who will become our partners in God’s work of transformation, reconciliation and empowerment?
God’s mission is always at work, even when we rest or slow down in summer. Whether you experiment or not, how would you prepare and gather what you learn in truly welcoming seekers or non-members, not only in worship but also in other summer events like Vacation Bible School, mission trips, or service ministries? I hope to hear what you are up to as you enjoy this Holy Missional Summer.
Director for Evangelical Mission & Assistant to the Bishop
November 12, 2019
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