Are you too busy for God?
Have you made all your summer plans yet? I have to shake my head when I think of all the activities that we have been cramming into our schedules for this summer. We have vacations to fit in, family to visit, church and community activities to attend, church camp, scout camp, band camp, cross country camp, soccer practice, church Annual Conference to attend and other summer activities all added to our regular work schedule, doctor visits and other year ‘round activities. The problem is that our family is not all that unusual. Most people we know are planning equally busy schedules and sometimes more. But amid all this hubbub and frenetic activity, where does God fit in?
It is well known that most churches see a slump in attendance over the summer. There is a summer slump despite the fact that many people have been using the winter snow and spring rains as an excuse for not attending church. I have come to believe that our summer attendance falls off not because church is unimportant. Neither is it really because people are too busy. Instead, attendance falls because most of us never stop long enough to really think about what we are doing.
Most rational people understand how important it is to save for retirement and yet many of us arrive at our golden years with little to show for it. It isn’t that we couldn’t have afforded to pass up a few lottery tickets or a second Big Mac once in a while so we could set aside a few bucks a week, it’s just that we never stopped long enough to think about it and to plan for the future. For many, our track record for church attendance is pretty similar. We believe that church attendance is important but we think that we’re too busy to add church attendance to our plans for the summer. Because we don’t plan, Sunday sort of sneaks up on us and we arrive at the first day of the week tired and over-scheduled and grasp at one more free day to sleep in or to cram one more thing into our busy schedule.
In our last church there was a family (I won’t use their names) who were leaders in our church. They loved the church, they liked the pastor (at least they said they did) and their extended family attended our church. They disappeared every summer. At some point they bought expensive recreation equipment and felt that in order to justify the expense of their new toy, they should use it. And so, during the spring, summer and fall, whenever the weather wasn’t particularly horrible, they would be gone nearly every weekend.
They probably knew that someone in our church took attendance each Sunday. What they probably didn’t know is that I kept those attendance sheets and looked at them at the end of the year. Even though these were good people (and our friends) who loved the church and held leadership positions in it, at the end of the year their overall attendance fell well below 50 percent and probably below 30 percent. I’m not certain that they would have believed me even if I had told them.
Our friends didn’t miss church because they didn’t like it and they didn’t contribute to our summer slump because church wasn’t important. They would be first in line to tell you different. Instead, they, like many of us, never took the time to include church attendance as a part of their plan. Each year we plan how many days that we will miss work. We even try to calculate how many days we might be sick. Sadly, even though many of us would say that church attendance is nearly as important, almost none of us have planned how many Sundays that we will miss. The end result is that Sunday sort of sneaks up on us and at the end of the year we discover that we’ve missed far more days than we ever expected.
As you make your summer plans I challenge you to do something unusual. I challenge you to plan how many Sundays you will miss this year. Decide, in advance, how important church attendance is to you. Choose how many days you will be absent, and then put it on your calendar and commit to it.
We all know that your summer will be busy.
Please don’t be too busy for God.