With the 4th of July holiday weekend in full swing (if you took the vacation days), summer has truly arrived. While the day-to-day life of the parish office might slow down at many parishes, major events tend to pick up! Parish picnics. Mission trips. Vacation Bible School. Summer conferences. Building projects. School may be out, but parish life is in! Here are a few tips to maximize summer events and build your vibrant parish.
Plan something fun
This may seem obvious, but is it on your parish’s radar? Most events at churches have a purpose beyond simply socializing, typically formational or fundraising. During the summer, people have rest and relaxation on the brain. What about bringing the parish together just to have fun? If you’re looking for ideas, check out our blog offering tips for a smart summer.
Commission Your Volunteers at mass
Your parish may commission your youth volunteers before they head out to build houses in the Appalachian Mountains, but what about those who serve close to home? Many summer events are youth programs. These programs have a set ratio of chaperones to minors … which means plenty of volunteers! Before major summer programs, invite your volunteers to a commissioning liturgy. Show your appreciation to those who give their time and talent to your parish. A commissioning is also a great opportunity to show other parishioners — those who may not be as active — that your church is alive and well. Maybe next year you’ll find a few more VBS group leaders!
Capture the moment on camera
As your summer events unfold, document them! Share the photos on your parish website or in the bulletin. For parishioners who cannot attend, photos can make them feel part of it all. They’re also a great tool to enhance your numbers for the coming year. Did a child not want to attend the summer youth conferences? Images of his friends having a great time might perk his interest next year! If you’re unsure how to best capture the moment, take a look at our article on taking good parish photos.
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but quotes don’t hurt! Programs like summer volunteer opportunities or youth faith camps have great power to transform hearts and change lives. Outside of the participant’s immediate circle of friends and family, parishioners may have no idea the great work God is doing. Tell them! Ask your event organizers to be on the lookout for people having a meaningful experience. They can follow up later that day or after the event. “It seems like that experience was powerful for you. Can you tell me more about it?” If the person encountered God, say to them, “What a beautiful story! I think our parish could really benefit from hearing what God did in your life. Would you be open to sharing it with them?” Once they give the okay, conduct a simple interview. Here are tips for gathering a powerful faith testimony. Organize it in a way that works for your bulletin format, and get the word out next Sunday!
offer warm welcomes to visitors
Some parishes see declining numbers in the summer as regular Mass-goers vacation and visit family. Other parishes see a swell of visitors stopping by their interesting town, beautiful natural setting, or quirky tourist destination (there are two Catholic churches within three miles of South Dakota’s Corn Palace). If your parish is in the midst of a vacation destination, embrace the opportunity! While there’s little likelihood the vacationing families will become parishioners, you have an opportunity to offer warmth, welcome, and inspiration to take back home. Enhance your bulletin, offer coffee after Mass, and make sure your regular parishioners are primed to say hello to new faces. And make sure your parish can be found on Google!