Summertime can make your church feel like a haunted house.
Key members disappear.
The volunteer pool dries up.
You run into a summer giving slump.
Most importantly, for you, as a pastor—church engagement drops.
If it is the job of the church to disciple its members, then what does summer disengagement mean for their discipleship?
It puts it in a vulnerable state.
Summer often brings an abundance of free time, an absence at church, and a disengagement from community and routine.
Anyone who’s been a Christian for more than five seconds knows that this opportunity for rest often brings with it a dearth of opportunities for struggle:
As the Scottish proverb states: “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”
Here’s the thing:
You don’t have to surrender to the summer lull.
You don’t have to let your church members drift off into disengagement for three months—even if they are vacationing, interning, working, or summering in another location.
Here’s the truth:
You need a church app.
People don’t want to read emails on vacation.
People don’t want to get phone calls from their pastor while on vacation (like you have the time).
They want simple reminders that keep them connected to the life of the church during an irregular season.
In other words:
People want push notifications.
Therefore, you need a church app (for other important reasons, too)
You might think it’s hard to get a custom app for your church, but it’s not.
Tithe.ly will easily build you one.
Or you can pay your resident 20-something software engineer major in Ramen and coffee to build you one.
Either way, if you really want to keep your church engaged over the summer, get a church app, and use these eight push notifications to keep them hearing the word, praying for the needs of the church, giving to the needs of the church, and making it a priority to remain an active member in the body of Christ this summer.
1. Sermon updates
Content is king.
And as a church, you have weekly content to keep your audience engaged:
The weekly sermon.
Make the most of this sermon.
You should be video recording, livestreaming, and podcasting the audio from this sermon.
Here are four push notifications you can send to every phone every week during the summer:
- Saturday (7 p.m.): “Don’t miss church tomorrow (even if you’re on vaca)! Stream it tomorrow at 10 a.m. Just click this link to beam yourself in and reserve your seat: www.xyz.com/123”
- Sunday (8 a.m.): “See you in an hour! Livestream today’s service it at 10 a.m. at this link: www.xyz.com/123”
- Sunday (10 a.m.): “Church is starting! Can’t wait to have you. Take your seat here: www.xyz.com/123”
- Monday (6 a.m.): “In case you missed the church service yesterday, you can listen to the whole thing on your drive to work (or the beach): www.xyz.com/123”
2. Prayer requests
Church isn’t just for consuming content.
It’s about serving the community.
People know that.
Anybody can podcast a sermon series from a celebrity pastor.
The reason people join churches is to be a part of something local.
When they’re away on vacation, one easy way to keep members connected the needs of other members is to send prayer requests twice per week to members who express interest.
Take two urgent needs from the prayer request list on the Sunday service and schedule them to be sent out throughout the week. Or you can pray for them during your prayer meeting.
- Tuesday (6 p.m.): “Please pray for [PERSON] [NEED][DAY] at [TIME]. Pray for [THOSE INVOLVED], [DESIRED OUTCOME], and [SPIRITUAL VIRTUE] during [HARDSHIP].”
- Thursday (9 a.m.): “Please pray for [PERSON's RELATIVE]. She [UNDESIRABLE CIRCUMSTANCE], and her family could use [NEEDS]. Send [SOLUTION] through this link: [INSERT LINK]."
Praises counterbalance prayer requests with a positive note.
It shows the people of God the faithfulness of God.
It gives people on vacation a sense of accomplishment, fulfillment, and organic connection to the needs of the church.
It shows them evidence of God’s working in the world, and a further incentive to keep praying.
4. VBS signup
While many churches do experience a summer slump that threatens disengagement, a few churches have the best opportunity of the year to get new members:
Vacation Bible School.
Do not underestimate the importance of getting committed registrants for this event.
It’s important for you to have an established sign-up link where parents pay to register their children so that they don’t just “commit” and then fail to show up.
A paid registrant is a real registrant.
And the Lord knows that parents are looking for any opportunity they can for free babysitting.
So make sure that you send out push notifications weekly to parents to (1) register their kids for VBS, and (2) send the registration link to their friends with children as well.
- [DATE] [TIME]: “Don’t forget to register your kids for VBS ([DATES]) today. Free babysitting. Lots of games, fun, food, Jesus, and tired kids. Spaces limited. Register here: [INSERT LINK]”
- [DATE] [TIME]: “Invite your friends to register their kids for VBS ([DATES]). A great opportunity to introduce families to Jesus. Plus, we’ll tire out the kids for free :) Register here: [INSERT LINK]”
5. Big events (relevant to everyone)
Big church events, such as a church-wide picnic, movie night, or special dinner, are appropriate to announce through push notifications.
Especially during the summer, people might not be at church on Sunday to hear big events announced.
This is why it’s important to schedule push notifications about these bigger events—namely, so that they don’t become smaller events due to poor marketing.
Push notifications are the best way to keep everybody in your church “in the loop” so that they can attend every big event they desire.
6. Small events (relevant to specific people)
Since you should segment your church (understand how different groups have different needs), you will be able to easily send push notifications to certain groups of users about smaller events.
For example, if Small Group #2 needs to relocate to the bowling alley next week, you can send that as a push notification to a select group of users who may not have the information on-hand, or who aren’t checking emails because they’re on vacation.
Other examples include sub-groups of volunteers, church leadership meetings, staff teams, and age groups.
You can use push notifications to inform each of these different sub-groups of relevant information related to the events in which they would likely be interested to participate.
7. Missions trips
Summer is missions season.
Many churches (maybe yours?) is even planning a summer missions conference.
This means—prayer, giving, mobilization, volunteers, support, event management, training, and fundraising.
You should have a specific campaign that packages together all of these features so that you send the right information to the right smaller groups, as well as strategically inform and ask the entire church to participate.
For example, you could use push notifications to keep your team training sessions packed with every person who is going on the trip, and the same week ask the church to give to the trip because two youth members still haven’t raised all their funds.
8. Fundraising campaigns
Fundraising through push notifications is a fantastic way to combat the summer giving slump.
You may not get 100% of the people who receive the push notification to give, but that’s not the goal.
The goal is to raise a certain dollar amount to meet a certain need so that the church can continue operating to fulfill the mission of God’s kingdom in your community.
When you ask for fundraising donations during the summer through push notifications, make sure that donors know their gift is going toward a specific need.
Assume that you have already set up recurring giving through the app so that tithes are already automated.
Don’t say, “Give to us!” which communicates that their gift is going toward the “General Fund.”
Say: “We have a need that we need to meet in the next 3 days. Give today to help us meet that goal and make a strong showing at the July 4th parade this year.”
Over to you
With the right church management system channeled through the right app, maintaining your church’s engagement is just a matter of putting the right processes in place and scheduling the notifications to be published at the right time.
Someone at your church should be fulfilling a “content manager” position that’s in charge of administrating livestreaming, scheduled push notifications, email updates, and podcast uploading so that your media production system is streamlined and effective.If you can achieve this, you will keep your members engaged and discipled during a time when Christians can easily get distracted from the hard work of community engagement, which is crucial to discipleship.
Remember to schedule these eight push notifications:
- Sermon updates
- Prayer requests
- VBS signup
- Big events (relevant to everyone)
- Small events (relevant to specific people)
- Missions trips
- Fundraising campaigns
With these eight kinds of push notifications strategically scheduled, delivered to the right people at the right time, you’ll safely carry your church on the current of engagement through the dry season of summer disconnection.