In praise of a summer slowdown

I wonder how you have spent the summer?

Some of us plough on with all our usual activities. Everything we usually run continues without pause. You won’t see any difference between what has happened over the last month and what would be happening in, say, February or May.

Others of us run everything by the school holidays. As soon as the holidays begin, too many of our people are away for their summer breaks to make running everything viable. So, we close everything down and leave only Sunday services on the go. Whilst you would notice a marked difference between the summer months and other times of year, it’s not different things happening so much as nothing happening at all.

At Bethel, we have routinely run a summer slowdown. It is a bit of a misnomer because, as one of our elders pointed out a just before we mooted it again this summer, last August was one of our busiest months. So, whilst we don’t plough on with all the usual activities of the church over the summer, we equally don’t stop all activity altogether. Instead, we stop the usual activities so that we can build in some informal (and, slightly more formal) times of fellowship together.

So, the pause button is pressed on some of our usual activities and, interspersed throughout the summer, are various social activities to build us together in a less formal way. This year, we have gone on walks together, had a board games night, played some football and volleyball, sat in cafes and will shortly be having our annual church quiz. None of this stuff has any Bible study, epilogue or what have you attached to it. It is just Christian brothers and sisters spending time together. And as Christians spending time together, we inevitably chew over life with each other and – because it’s entirely natural to do so – we talk about the Lord and speak the gospel into each other’s lives.

The break in routine allows us to spend time together as a church in a different way. It is not uncommon for people to feel the pace of church life. There are often many opportunities to serve, many things to be done, activities to be run, formal meetings to attend. All of that may well be to the good. But it has its own price. Every formal meeting squeezes the time and opportunity for informal fellowship. Both are vital to the life of the church and need to be held in some level of balance.

For us, the opportunity over the summer to change things up, build the fellowship in a different way, provides a real springboard to the restarting the work again in September. For us, it feel both like a break, a reinvigoration and a necessary means of building in genuine social time. That’s not to say that there is no social time outside of the summer, or informal fellowship at any point, but the summer gives us a prolonged opportunity to build such things into our yearly calendar. And I think we are the richer as a church for doing it.