Summertime and the Living is Easy
It is interesting that Unitarian Universalist congregations have historically slowed down during the summer months of July and August. Do you know why that is? Before 1940 the majority of people in the United States lived in rural areas. Most were farming families or were involved in supporting those farm families. Schools closed to allow the children to help out in growing and harvesting the crops that sustained the communities. Most of the food grown was consumed within a short radius around where it was grown.
Today, we import and export food around the world and a small percentage of the population manages to produce, harvest, and ship that food. I get produce from California and Florida as well as South America. The meat might come from the southwest. Grains come from Iowa and Nebraska.
Our churches were also small with a rural flavor outside of the larger cities. Being farmers, they also needed to work more during the growing season. The urban churches had people who would seek cooler climates during the hottest part of the year so they would head to the mountains or the seashore. The ministers would do the same. Many churches would close their doors for two to three months and open again when the weather turned more pleasant. This was before the wide spread use of air conditioning in buildings.
But today we are a more mobile society. Many people relocate in August to get settled before the school year begins for their children. They also seek out new religious homes for themselves during this time. As a result, many churches have started having a more full program of worship and religious education during the summer months. When I served a parish in Florida, we used to only meet every other week for a light program. I urged them to go to a full schedule of services and also preached at least three or four Sundays during the summer. This allowed us to be more welcoming to those seeking new communities of faith.
So while this issue is focused on self-care, I am also telling you to not forget the new folk who will be seeking a new church home. So how do you do both?
You plan for the time away but make sure that someone is minding the store during that time. You plan for people to take vacation and you plan for keeping the programs vital and vibrant. You don’t allow the “B” team to do all the worship. You train them to be substitute “A” team members who keep the quality of worship and other programs as high as possible. If you plan accordingly, then leaders can take care of themselves and get the needed rest to recharge the batteries. They leave knowing that they have people who will continue to offer meaningful worship and religious education for those who are still in the community.