fall ministry season

How to Use Summer to Ensure a Successful Fall

It’s summer, but fall will be here before you know it. 

For church leaders who have experienced ministry during the fall, they understand the difficulty of planning during fall months. Late planning can result in much frustration. The summer months can be a strategic time of ministry preparation for the fall. Taking advantage of summer month lulls can set church leaders up for the hectic pace of fall months.

Here are four ways to prepare for the fall:

1. Know where you are going.

Where do you sense God leading your church?  What do you envision your church looking like in one year, five years, or ten years? The fall months can either speed up or slow down a vision becoming reality. The fall month’s plan should be part of the church’s larger vision. Preparation for the fall begins with a vision for the church’s future. It is not uncommon for church leaders to struggle with their church’s vision. If you are unable to articulate a vision for the church, think about taking time this summer to focus on the future. 

The fall months can either speed up or slow down a vision becoming reality.

Consider the following approaches for identifying your church’s vision—seek out God through prayer and reading Scripture, visit other churches, and meet with other church leaders to hear their church’s vision. If you’re feeling stuck clarifying your vision, this previous blog post may help. Clarifying the church’s vision can be the most important part of fall preparation. The vision will direct ministry efforts and instruct planning. This summer, develop a vision for your church. 

2. Determine the emphasis for the fall.

Churches engage in numerous important activities and ministries. Serving the community is important. Ministering to the homeless is important. Encouraging members to volunteer is important. Motivating church members to reach their neighbors for Christ is important. The list of important activities and teachings in a church are almost endless. Often, church leaders feel they must emphasize each of these important activities and ministries on the same level. 

Attempting to emphasize all things all the time can sometimes prevent a church from taking important steps toward the vision.

However, attempting to emphasize all things all the time can sometimes prevent a church from taking important steps toward the vision. While certain ministries and activities are not necessarily more or less important, there are seasons when pushing some ministries and activities more than others makes sense. As an example, if the church’s vision includes reaching families, emphasizing the children’s ministry more than the homeless ministry for a season may be wise. This summer, determine what needs emphasizing for the fall.

3. Ensure church staff understands the fall emphases.

What happens when the director of the homeless ministry notices the children’s ministry receives more attention than the homeless ministry? The director could get frustrated. He or she could begin to feel other church leaders view the homeless ministry as insignificant. But what if the director understood the church’s vision and how emphasizing certain ministries for a season helps the church get closer to the vision? The lack of comparative attention becomes understandable and explainable to others.

The church staff should understand the fall emphases. When the fall emphases are communicated, other decisions, like stage time, make more sense. Church staff no longer see the lesser attention as neglect or a sign their ministry area is deemed inessential. Staff begin to view increased seasonal emphases as a means for accomplishing a bigger mission. When a church staff is informed, they are more likely to be on board.

When a church staff is informed, they are more likely to be on board.

There are several communication strategies a church leader may employ to inform staff members. For many church leaders, having individual communication prior to a group meeting may be a wise approach. Individual meetings allow leaders to address concerns and answer questions they may not have considered. Individual meetings can also help reduce the likelihood a staff member is caught off guard in a future group meeting. This summer, ensure the church staff understands the fall emphases. 

4. Align the church budget with the fall emphases. 

I have seen several church budgets over the years. One of the most common mistakes I come across is a mismatch between the church’s vision and the budget. In these situations, the church leaders have clearly articulated an envisioned future for the church. Maybe they desire to be a church that regularly sends missionaries around the world and church planters across the nation. Maybe they desire to be a church that actively engages with the local community. Maybe they desire to be a church that reaches and disciples families. The vision is clear.

But there is a problem. While the vision is clear, the budget doesn’t reflect the vision. The budget’s structure was crafted ten, fifteen, or even twenty years ago. The budget’s design fit a former vision. Over time, the budget’s structure and emphases were never questioned. Year after year, some line items were increased, a few were decreased, but the budget’s general structure remained the same. 

A church’s budget is a blueprint for mission.

When this occurs, church leaders articulate a vision that lacks the funding mechanism to push the vision forward. A church’s budget is a blueprint for mission. The budget is not a necessary evil but an essential ministry tool. Misaligned budgets, often unknowingly, create frustration as they impede movement. If the fall’s emphases include children’s ministry, the budget should reflect that focus.  Leaders should work diligently to ensure the church’s budget mirrors the church’s mission. This summer, align the church budget with the fall emphases. 

Preparing for the fall begins with understanding the church’s vision. Everything else flows from the vision.

The summer provides an excellent opportunity to prepare for the fall. Preparing for the fall begins with understanding the church’s vision. Everything else flows from the vision. Once the vision is established, fall emphases should be determined. These emphases move the church closer to the established vision. To have everyone on the same page, emphasis must be communicated to staff. Finally, the church’s budget should reflect the church’s vision, including all emphases. Targeted resources will fuel the emphases for the season. Treat the church budget as a blueprint for mission. 

Leverage summer lulls to prepare for fall busyness. 

 

Art Rainer
Art Rainer

Art Rainer is the Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He writes and speaks widely about issues related to finance, wealth, and generosity, and is the author of The Money Challenge: 30 Days of Discovering God’s Design for You and Your Money. Art lives in Wake Forest, North Carolina with his wife, Sarah, and their three children.

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